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June 21, 2024

Fashion vs algorithm: the homogenization of modern fashion

Arushi Sakhuja  
The fashion industry is an ever-evolving space. While trends change every season, one thing that remains constant is style. Unlike trends, style is considered inherent, and an extension of the individual’s personality. Fashion designer Pooja Shroff distinguishes between the two thus: personal style is an expression of individuality, reflecting an individual’s unique fashion sense and character; trends, on the other hand, are the latest and most popular styles in vogue. But the internet revolution seems to have changed things forever. 
It would be fair to say that recently, dressing has been driven by social media and the internet. While some choose to make bold statements through their take on unconventional and eclectic picks, others are safely following the herd. But that’s not all, even clothes from different brands are beginning to look similar and some stores are stocked with copycat designs. “Trends are more artificially created and accelerated by the needs of fast fashion and the necessity of increasing the top line continuously,” claims Vaishali S, fashion designer. 
Vaishali S, Fashion Designer
Vaishali S, Fashion Designer
Homogenisation of both trend and aesthetic standards are some of the ill effects of globalisation and the internet working together.   
In modern society with the surge of celebrities and influencers on social media, individuals seem to be influenced by the algorithm more than one another. And soon enough it might even be hard to tell the difference between two individuals’ dressing choices. A few pivotal questions we need to be reflecting upon are – is the internet making us dress the same? Are trends and brands being pushed by social media without much thought? LuxeBook dives deeper to get a clear understanding of maestros in the industry.
“While scrolling through our Instagram, one gets access to the world of fashion like no other. It has kept us abreast with ongoing trends, be it from the runways or our favourite influencer’s feed. There is an undeniable fondness for fashion trends today. The lines of the fashion world are blurred as more and more fashion trends have become accessible. This sharing of trends and the ease of accessibility has led to the homogenization of fashion trends,” shares Shroff. 
Pooja Shroff
Photo Courtesy: Pooja Shroff
However, on the flip side, Nivedita Saboo Founder and Fashion Entrepreneur at Nivedita is of the opinion that it’s the exact opposite. She says, “Be it a millennial or a Gen Z-er, today everyone wants to flaunt their individual style. They want to use clothing and accessories as a medium of self-expression and authenticity, whether that means going the maximalist route or minimal, wearing something traditional or contemporary. And that’s the beauty of it all. The weight of ‘fitting in’ has been lifted off. This outlook is most evident to me when working with my brides and grooms. They no longer want to fit into boxes. The new-age Nivedita bride, for instance, isn’t coy and doesn’t want to hide under the garb of a heavy lehenga or dupatta. She wants to embrace her roots and also celebrate her personality on her big day. The modern man isn’t at the mercy of his partner either. He’s well aware of the silhouettes and shades that work for him.” 
An absence of personal style 
“Despite appearing to be separate, personal style and trends are interconnected, with the fashion industry relying on the continual emergence of new trends. However, this has led to the ‘fear of missing out’ factor, causing people to prioritize following trends over maintaining their style” states Pooja Shroff. For most of the 20th century, designing clothes for mass consumption was still dependent in large part on the ideas and creative instincts of individuals. Fashion offices sent people out into the world to see what was going on, both within the industry and in the culture at large, to find compelling ideas that could be alchemized into products for consumers.   
At the end of the 1990s, things in fashion started to change. Conglomeration accelerated within the industry, computers and the internet were becoming more central to the work – even on the creative side, – trend-forecasting agencies emerged, and their services gained wider popularity and deeper influence. Soon enough fast fashion took over, trends surpassed creativity to meet sales targets and innovation took a back seat.” Set aside a few icons of fashion like Armani and Chanel where, despite innovating every season you clearly recognise their distinctive immutable style, nowadays also the big brands have been caught into the trend’s treadmill. We see former iconic brands like Balenciaga, Gucci, etc., playing the game of trends and trend setting, very often exponentially increasing their top line (and market value), but then having backlashes and risking losing the identity of the brand,” feels designer Vaishali S who recently showcased her new collection at the Paris Fashion Week.  As buyers and sellers become more familiar with one another, it gives rise to content exchange thus blurring the lines that once distinguished groups from one another. This phenomenon is often referred to as assimilation, where the Western world’s impact on developing nations can be seen as a prime example. The accessibility of products on a global scale is what has led to this homogenization.  
Influencers and the impact on fashion
Photo Courtesy: Pexels
Moving the focus to the luxury segment, haute couturiers are also feeling pressured by fast fashion, which in turn has led to the rise of similar styles and designs. Designers are shifting their focus from spending hours on single and customised pieces and moving towards producing larger quantities. Hence disseminating the concept of how ateliers worked in the early 19th and 18th century. Couture houses are also expanding their range of seasonal collections from simple spring/summer and autumn/winter to pre-spring and resort wear collections. Some have even taken the plunge to introduce athleisure lines like Net-a-Porters Net-a-Sporter line, and others are now introducing prêt collections that can sell off the rack and on online platforms. 
Saboo believes that the concept of trends helps bridge the gap between society and hence is a beneficial tool. “Trends are extrapolated from what’s happening around us. It entails seasonal, cultural and social changes. Its why trends are fleeting and varied among people and places. The homogenization of fashion means bridging this diversity gap.” 
A 2021 investigation by Rest of World found that Shein added an average of more than 7,000 new items to its website every day. The company generates new garments to capitalize on whatever is trending. To stay afloat, traditional retailers have been forced to become like their fast-fashion competition, relying more on data and the advice of large consulting firms and less on the creativity and expertise of their staff. Such trend-prediction methods, result in the homogenization of fashion over time. When a designer’s interesting idea is liked, retailers copy designs. With supply chains have become more dispersed and complicated, multiple brands buy from the same supplier and put their own labels, hence one can often find the same clothes in two stores.  
Pooja Shroff
Photo Courtesy: Pooja Shroff
Digitalization has had an exponential impact on every aspect of fashion, and the pandemic has only propelled the virtual push. We are no longer limited to just one format. In-person and virtual realms will continue to co-exist.   
The impact of social media on fashion 
“Fast fashion and social media have definitely been a catalyst in massifying fashion. Perhaps this is the result of cancel culture and the constant urge for instant gratification,” expresses Saboo. In the past decade alone, social media has managed to quickly revolutionize virtually every industry in the world, and fashion is certainly no exception. In the fashion world, social media has brought connectedness, innovation, and diversity to the industry. Instagram, for example, functions as a live magazine, always updating itself with the best, most current trends while allowing users to participate in fashion rather than just watch from afar. Social media has also done a number of incredible things for the fashion industry, including creating fashion icons, heavily influencing fashion trends, and ultimately reforming the way people dress and shop and how brands market themselves. “Social media has a powerful influence on people’s fashion choices, leading them to follow the latest trends. The fear of missing out is instilled causing individuals to conform to what is currently popular.”  
Fast fashion
Photo Courtesy: Unsplash
It is also interesting to note that although this has paved the way for the uproar of many creative individuals, a new term “influencer looks” has become a popular way for individuals to showcase their styles and promote fashion brands feel Shroff. “They can inspire and help to spread awareness of the latest trends and styles. Influencers look to contribute to the homogenization of fashion and encourage people to conform to what is popular rather than developing their unique sense of style. I believe that Influencer looks are essential to staying in style, but one should adorn looks they are the most comfortable.” Adding to that we feel although comfort is a priority, personal style too should be explored and displayed to keep the arena inventive and diverse. On the flip side, for Saboo, “Influencers are doing what fashion editors and journalists have been doing for the longest time.” She continues to say that social media is a fantastic and “quickest way to disseminate anything new and create awareness about a brand or product. “What I love about the “Influencer Look” is that they are getting more and more creative with their styling. From a couturier standpoint, a fresh perspective to a garment I have designed, or my vision is always exciting and stimulating to me.” Adding to this Vaishali S says Influencers have been the perfect tool to build on individualistic fashion. “The influencers’ incessant posting of the same styles and of shifting brands has helped set the tone. But the brands are to blame much more, they have been caught in this rat race, and they should be the ones to drive virtuous individualistic fashion.” 
The realm of fashion has swiftly seen the globalization of its own consumer markets at an unprecedented rate given the birth of social media platforms like Tik Tok, Instagram and digital fashion shows. “Social media has a powerful influence on people’s fashion choices, leading them to follow the latest trends. The fear of missing out is instilled causing individuals to conform to what is currently popular. It can be seen in the impact of fashion shows, movies, influencer lookbooks, and social media on personal style, causing people to abandon their unique sense of fashion.” Could this, in turn, bring on an era where individuals, from around the world are in essence dressing eerily like one another? A homogenization of fashion so to speak. Would it therefore also not to wrong be to acknowledge the fact that the term “sustainability” in fashion is now being abused?
Nivedita Saboo, Founder and Fashion Entrepreneur at Nivedita
Nivedita Saboo, Founder and Fashion Entrepreneur at Nivedita
The cycle of following trends  
There is a key point which often gets missed out and that is the circle of wanting to be appreciated by society. The cycle follows the following path – many people know that they want to dress well or dress in a certain way but don’t know how to achieve that aesthetic, so they look to a person whose fashion sense has been applauded by the masses on Instagram and work to emulate the aesthetic. Someone looking to begin to define their style will look up to more well-established users for tips and tricks. Because these users know that the more avant-garde outfits aren’t going to give them sufficient exposure, they will continue to post basic outfits to Instagram, which will once again inspire someone who is just getting into fashion, which will increase the body of people who are focused on a certain look. All of this boils down to the fact that so long as people are driven by likes and followers, the current state of Instagram fashion is going to stagnate for the foreseeable future.   
“There are several factors leading to the homogenization of fashion, mainly including social media, influencer culture, fast fashion, and globalization. The widespread of these factors have made it easier for people to access and follow fashion trends around the world. It has led to a greater sense of uniformity in fashion as people adopt similar styles. Overall, these factors have combined to create a fashion landscape in which trends are rapidly adopted while personal style takes a back seat to what is considered fashionable,” concludes Pooja Shroff.  
Pooja Shroff
Photo Courtesy: Pooja Shroff
There are couturiers like Chanel, Schiaparelli, Dior, Dolce and Gabbana and more who constantly push sartorial boundaries, yet their concepts remain reserved for only a daring few. This unfortunately has propelled many cultures into mastering the production of westernized fashion as opposed to experimenting with design. ” The trend of less is more, bespoke, sustainable, slow fashion, social impact is coming strong, especially with younger generations. The big question now is: we young people are aware and sensitive to these changes for the good of the planet and our future, but how do you democratise and make this “elevated” fashion accessible for us and for our Instagram account?” Concludes Vaishali S.   
Despite the accessibility of both products and ideas given the growing web presence, fashion innovation (or its lack thereof) may have also led to the homogenization of fashion. While there are still couturiers like Rick Owens and Yohji Yamamoto that constantly push our sartorial boundaries, yet their concepts remain reserved for only a daring few. This change pushed many cultures into mastering the production of westernized fashion as opposed to experimenting with design. The result hence is a wardrobe with the same selection of clothing. Gone are the days when enthusiasts looked to designer runway showings or subscription-based print-style magazines as the go-to source for discovering what is considered in vogue. Today’s digital marketplace often begins and ends with the space of social media, to discover what’s new. As the cultural transmission continues, as we continue to learn from each other taking bits and pieces from each culture in the name of fashion, we spontaneously develop a universally accepted style of dress. So, if individualistic fashion really dying or simply thriving on the realm of social media?
Pooja Shroff
Photo Courtesy: Pooja Shroff
As the internet brings us closer to the fashion industry as well as those within that share our ideals, are we headed towards one large globalized market? Are we all subconsciously working together to develop a homogeneous style in which we all dress the same no matter our location? 
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