Fashion trends used to last. But now, micro-trends seem to be taking over. But many of those wardrobe changes aren’t sustainable – environmentally or economically.
A new generation of fashion consumers want to see more sustainable practices and aspire to leave fast fashion in the past. They are making a point to shop exclusively at secondhand stores or from small designers and towards buying clothing that feels unique and personally tailored to their tastes.
As seen on TikTok, Clara Perlmutter (@tinyjewishgirl) and Myra Magdalen (@myramagdalen) are pioneering a personal style movement defined by an eclectic taste that mixes vintage pieces with new maximalist designers and incorporates non-traditional items, like rubber lizards and TV remote controls. The pandemic has greatly changed how many view and participate in the fashion industry, and for many who were stuck at home it has given them the time to develop a more personal style.
Perlmutter often mixes clashing patterns, works with interesting silhouettes and enjoys over-accessorizing with colorful child-like jewelry and the “unnecessary” headband paired with her bald head. “This has been an incredibly isolating time, and turning inward seems natural in those circumstances,” said Perlmutter “For me, putting on something bright takes the edge off of the tedium of days on end spent inside.”
Recent spurts of isolation have given us time to reflect how fashion can be both damaging to the planet and overwhelming to keep up with. Trend cycles that once lasted 5-10 years now last only just a single year or two, a fast turnover rate that is becoming harder to keep up with.
“I’m alarmed by the rate of turnover in trends, but this is a generation that is used to instant gratification on our phones,” says Perlmutter. “It’s no wonder that fast fashion sites are having such a moment. It hardly makes financial sense to drop serious money on something that is trendy, when trendy means ephemeral. People are opting for the knockoffs instead. It’s sad to see people I know get ripped off time and time again, though. That’s why I’m all for owning bold statement pieces without regard for trends, things that are timeless.”
In order for fast-fashion brands to constantly produce new designs, they’re often accused of stealing from smaller designers. The resulting products are cheaper, but often fall apart easily.
“You should look to your childhood,” recommends Perlmutter. “Think critically about times from early in your life that made you fall in love with fashion. It could be something you saw a cool girl at the mall wear, or a movie character, or any other a-ha moment for you…Great. Now distill that to its essence. What aspects of [the] style attracted you? Were you drawn to the color palettes? Were you drawn to certain silhouettes or certain patterns?”
Myra Magdalen is fearless in her personal taste, often opting for items people wouldn’t typically think of wearing, like using a barrel bolt lock as a fasten or book lights as hair clips. Incorporating things that aren’t considered clothing shows that fashion can be incredibly experimental and an ethical way to include new elements into your wardrobe.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with fashion trends in general or wanting to participate in them. I think micro-trends however are there to encourage people to constantly buy new things and throw things out. I think that this has led to the rise in fast-fashion and showcase the waste and sustainability issues in the fashion industry. I also think it makes it harder to cultivate your own personal style,” she says.
Magdalen’s approach to fashion can help us rethink how to dress ourselves. Instead of buying the latest trends to make your outfit more interesting, her work asks: what non-traditional item could you include instead?
“My best advice on finding your personal style is to just wear whatever you like and go from there. Don’t worry so much about fitting into an aesthetic or following fashion “rules” or trends,” said Magdalen.
Shopping at boutiques and secondhand stores can also help you create something of a unique wardrobe. There are plenty of stores that fit that criteria around Brooklyn, but Megan O’Cain and Olivia Reinertson are doing something special: designing clothing according to their personal styles and delivering a one of a kind experience.
In Bushwick, you can find O’Cain’s designs at GG’s Social Club, which also sells used clothing too. GG’s Social Club has a homey atmosphere, decorated with books; a deconstructed set of Funk & Wagnalls encyclopedias here, a tape recorder from the 1970s there. O’Cain creates clothing that promises to release your inner child with colorful knits, voluminous silhouettes, and an assortment of hand painted designs.
Says O’Cain: “I began customizing and repairing vintage as a kid and it quickly evolved from there. Ultimately when I design, I am always creating for myself, I saw a gap in what I wanted to be wearing and I started designing to fill that. I try to always keep my personal style in mind when designing and it’s given me a lot of confidence in my work because it feels really true to myself. Finding my personal style has included a lot of staying true to my inner child and finding inspiration from things other than fashion to avoid falling into trends.”
You can find Olivia Reinertson’s designs over in Williamsburg at By Liv Handmade. The storefront carries homemade knits, prairie-like dresses, and vintage sewing patterns. Reinertson aims for cottagecore clothing with lace and ruffles galore that sometimes include a ‘70s bohemian twist.
“When I started making clothing, it was out of necessity. I was a preschool teacher making a less than ideal salary, and couldn’t afford to buy ‘nice teacher clothes,’” said Reinertson. She wanted “something durable, comfortable, stylish and functional.”
“I started buying bed sheets at the Salvation Army on 25th street and [began] turning them into smock dresses to wear to work. It wasn’t until a few months later that I began making clothes for anyone but myself, so a lot of my original designs were made specifically for me. There is definitely still a large connection between the pieces I create today and the pieces I created at the start of By Liv, so an element of personal style will always be there.”
Featured Image: courtesy of Megan O’Cain’s instagram account.
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