I had spent another Sunday pillaging the stacks of endless clothes, jewelry, art, and homegoods that come weekly to flood the parking lot of Fairfax High School on Melrose, one of the seemingly infinite flea markets held in Los Angeles. Since 1997, the rummage through endless, overpriced antiques and vintage Levis in the hopes of finding the perfect first edition novel or handcrafted rug (at the rare unbeatable price) has proven a near religious experience for Angelenos. 

Hands full of one dollar books and a record I hoped still played, I found a worn t-shirt, fraying at the collar, with the Von Dutch logo plastered across its chest. The saleswoman detailed her hunt for it in her neverending escapade through west coast thrift stores, ending each week at her designated Trading Post stand. A self-proclaimed trend forecaster, she was deliriously grateful for the post Covid return of the market and bragged about finding the Y2K staple for only five dollars somewhere in Arizona. (She was selling it for a crisp hundred.)

The saleswoman, it seemed, understood the (now incredibly popular) profit to be reaped in upcharging thrift store goods. The backbone of from-your-bedroom reselling, popular on sites like Depop, masquerading fast fashion as sustainable. The quick consumerism that drives such a desire has always been at home in Los Angeles, the world of celebrities and influencers.

Hulu’sThe Curse of Von Dutchdetailed this phenomenon in reference to the Von Dutch brand I eyed at the Trading Post, following its association from illegal deeds and nefarious business dealings to Paris Hilton, the original influencer. Its return, the recent wave in Y2K fashion, now quickly moving to passé and tacky, speaks to the rapid nature with which the internet breeds and subsequently kills emerging trends. 

While, since its inception, the immediacy of social media has promoted this, the rise of platforms like Tik Tok have exacerbated it, taking trend turnover rates to a newly heightened level. The app’s infamous algorithm hyperbolizes the insularity of content associated with various social media platforms, catering videos specific to each user’s interests through their “For You Page.”

The exposure to content independent of who one follows has revitalized the myth of social media as an egalitarian space, in which each person has equal opportunity at fame and notoriety. Any user of the app can hope their video will gain viral attention, should only their content make it onto the right For You Pages (even if it does not ensure the continued success of their page).

Despite the speculations around which creators and content the algorithm favors, the app continues to boom in popularity. The ensuing insularity of its structure, masquerading as more expansive exposure than provided through similar social media platforms, crafts an (admittedly endlessly entertaining) breeding ground for rapid trend expansion, a new one always outphasing the last.

Thus, aesthetic microtrends take insurmountable control, flooding the feeds of TikToks many microcosms, self proclaimed divisions of interest (from “BookTok” to “WitchTok”). The various subcultures that permeate the app have crafted community spaces, ripe for consumerism and profit. According aesthetic indicators of said interests have traced the (now parodied) rise of e-boy/e-girl culture to the aforementioned rise and fall of the Y2K style resurgence. 

Certainly, the influence and speed with which social media permeated fashion has been present since its very inception. However, as social media progresses, the sheer density of trends seems to continue to grow exponentially, while their duration inevitably shrinks. This creates a space ripe for over consumption and fast fashion. 

TikTok’s utilization of the immediacy and insularity of social media has heightened this threat drastically. What has the potential to breed community and individuality, seems doomed to promote conformity and waste.