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How TikTok became fashion’s social media linchpin

A competitive force to Instagram, which has long been fashion’s de facto social media platform, TikTok’s users have built a zeitgeist of acceptance as clashing sub-cultures and aesthetics co-exist in an extraordinary mixture of conversation, exchange, and adaptation.

Ah, TikTok. The short-form video-sharing platform that’s been absolutely dominating the teen market over the last two years and social media’s answer to shortened attention spans and technology’s ever-increasing development.

Let’s put things in perspective, if there’s one statistic demonstrating quite how drastically it’s become entwined in our lives recently, it’s that users worldwide spent 2.8 billion hours scrolling through the For You Page in 2020 alone.

Encouraging a pivot to fashion during the pandemic by recruiting established members of the industry to join the app, it has well and truly taken the world of style by storm, supercharging fashion in a way Instagram never could.

Though Instagram and the subsequent 2010 ‘influencer’ boom certainly made a significant dent in the process of getting garments from their early stages into the hands of consumers, it barely scratches the surface in comparison to what TikTok has achieved in the blink of just one year.

Instagram will, of course, for ever be the OG of giving us access to a once-unthinkable global audience, but it has unfortunately lost much of the authenticity that made it so great to begin with, leaving those seeking limitless self-expression to flock to alternative platforms.

Pursuing this growing desire, most have digitally congregated towards TikTok, where anyone has the opportunity to create their own modes of dress and behaviour, unbound by outdated pressure to conform to just one style.


what should my aesthetic be for tomorrow? #aesthetic #outfit #darkacademia #style #makeup #day4

♬ original sound – iconicakes

‘Adherence to one aesthetic as access and acceptance into a subcultural group is no longer foundational,’ says culture editor at Fashion Snoops, Carrera Kurnik, who believes that without street style or red-carpet events due to Covid-19, TikTok became the go-to cyber meeting place for stylish people. ‘Thanks to the quick-bite format, these kids can play around with identity and explore the many facets of their aesthetic imaginations to their heart’s content.’

TikTok has also revolutionised creator content and marketing in a vast range of sectors, making it easier than ever before to connect with an unlimited number of networks. In an effort to tap into this lucrative market, high street and luxury brands alike continue to flock en masse to the app, acknowledging its undeniable influence on shopper’s purchases as well as its value as a trend funnel.

Pre-2020, the fashion industry was arguably the only voice directing the approaching season’s trends, with some help from popular culture along the way. Whether this involved a new colour palette, material, cut or ensemble, it rarely went from runway to rack without the approval of major fashion editorials relied on by designers to give their pieces the go-ahead.


Highly highly requested

♬ 2 on Tinashe slowed and reverb – <3

‘If one of your favourite creators changes their aesthetic due to a particular trend, a whole style can be born out of it,’ explains content strategist, Yazmin How. ‘More and more, people are tapping into TikTok to see what emerging styles are ‘in’ and what previously popular trends are coming back around. Before, it was a long journey before they made it mainstream, from creative directors to magazines to stores. Right now, with social media, they are so quick to come up.’

By way of example, concordant with the rise of the ‘cottagecore’ trend on TikTok, searches for the term on Depop (which is synonymous with TikTok on account of it being Gen Z’s favourite resale platform) rose 900% between March and August last year, when it reached its peak.

Additionally, in an instance marked by unexpected virality, London-based JW Anderson witnessed the explosive passion of its young DIY creators when its patchwork cardigan sold out overnight. Crochet enthusiasts were quick to recreate it in one of the biggest fashion moments to hit TikTok last year.


I made myself a knock off of harry styles’ jw anderson cardigan lmao #fyp #foryou #foryoupage #harrystyles

♬ original sound – Liv

There was even the first-ever #TikTokFashionMonth which took place last September and saw the likes of Louis Vuitton, Prada, Balenciaga, Fendi, and Dior (among others) live-stream their upcoming collections with a range of style sessions, exclusive drops, and virtual catwalks.

Being confined to our homes appeared to be the catalyst for many to join in on the fun and get involved, including members of the unerringly serious fashion industry. From designer Jacquemus to model Bella Hadid, the sartorially blessed did not hesitate to jump on the TikTok bandwagon in their newfound downtime, making the app a hotbed for style-set members to show us their everyday looks from the comfort of their own living rooms.

‘Fashion is legit on TikTok,’ says the director of creator community at TikTok, Kudzi Chikumbu. ‘It goes beyond the outfits and into creative expression.  TikTok is a place for joy, and it’s giving the fashion industry a whole new way of showcasing their art and personality.’

More than just a place for content, TikTok has also become somewhere that entire businesses are born, particularly those with sustainability at the core of what they stand for. With the hashtags #upcycling and #vintage totalling a combined 8 billion views, the popularity of thrifting or repurposing clothing is undeniable and brands who choose to fit consumer-led movements such as these will most definitely benefit in the long-run.

One thing is clear. 2020 was the year fashion onboarded itself to TikTok, an app that made style accessible to both novices and experts through an unfiltered lens and opened the floor to an incredibly bright future. This nod from such a highly revered cultural institution reflects how the platform has truly infiltrated the fashion landscape – no more will TikTok trends be deemed ‘digital only,’ blink-and-you’ll-miss-them fads made for ‘young people,’ but part of a cultural movement that will help to define this era in style.

Don’t shy away from getting involved yourself.