Fashion trends promote luxury brands, create a sense of belonging

With students on campus wearing popular high-end clothing like Canada Goose jackets, Doc Martens shoes or lululemon flared yoga pants, it’s clear that the Northeast community isn’t immune to fashion trends. While fashion can be a unique tool for self-expression, when it comes to trendy brands, students often buy certain types of clothing simply because they see others wearing them.

Adriana Alvarez, a freshman in Cellular and Molecular Biology and a minor in Global Fashion Studies, says she sees a lot of golden goose, Veja and New Balance sneakers around campus. Wearing designer clothes can show wealth, but Alvarez said it also shows how far people will go to establish a sense of belonging through fashion.

“These are all trends because [students] have all seen it somewhere online,” Alvarez said, “it’s about the brand name.

According to experts, looking to others for fashion inspiration allows individuals to associate with a certain style or demographic.

“I think it’s easy to take the easy way out and brand yourself,” says Frances McSherry, the professor who created the global fashion studies minor in 2017.

Impressionable individuals stick to the fashion they are comfortable with or change their style according to current trends. The nature of a trend can reflect someone’s personal life or current events, McSherry said.

“[Fashion trends have] a lot to do with what’s going on in the world,” McSherry said. “When you go through phases of real wrestling, you usually go back in clothing styles, anyway, to something that’s been there before.”

Connect the cyclical nature of a fashion trend to external factors, whether environmental, political or social, explain the evolution of fashion over time. Environments that promote sustainable fashion basics allow fashionable clothing to become more accessible. This can apply to basic and versatile pieces during a recession or bold, statement pieces for a period of evolutionary expression.

Fashion is another aspect of daily life that the pandemic continues to influence. Megan Ball, fashion retail lecturer at Northeastern, said the pandemic has created fashion trends that favor utilitarian styles. As fashion returned to its basics, trends emphasized wearing what you needed to survive: t-shirts, shorts, sweatshirts, sweatpants, leggings, sneakers, and underwear.

“[The pandemic] brought people back to basics for a while,” Ball said. “Shopping kind of stopped. There wasn’t a lot of fashionable shopping. Everyone went to athleisure, which is pretty laid back.

Athleisure and street clothing have grown in popularity since the 1990s, but found real footing when individuals spent more time at home during lockdown. Zoom meetings were limited to showing a portrait view on camera, giving people the freedom to dress in the size that suited them best.

Now, as individuals return to school and in-person work, they can decide how they want mark themselves in the aftermath of the pandemic’s broad shift towards athleisure and streetwear.

The fashion choices made by those who have adapted to the relaxed trends of the pandemic will largely predict the next rapid trend cycles in the fashion industry. New trends that push the boundaries of the industry, Ball said, may emerge when this period of leisure fashion ends.

“People follow fashion because they just want to fit in,” Ball said.

Making bold fashion statements is risky for those who prefer to blend in. McSherry explained that many believe following fashion trends is a safe option that makes an individual feel like an accepted member of a community.

“We’re really, really good at identifying who other people are by the clothes they’re wearing,” McSherry said. “As we negotiate how we want to present ourselves, we find comfort in dressing the same way.”

Trends like athleisure and streetwear from big brands seem they are here to stay. But as the fashion industry revitalizes after a long plateau, the long-term effects of the pandemic on fashion trends remain unclear.

“Yes [a trend is] something that pops up just because it’s pretty cool right now, [it] will go away very quickly,” McSherry said, “if it doesn’t make sense, it’s just going to be a short phase.

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