Throughout the mid- to late-2010s, the best place to find out about fashion trends was on Instagram. In the late 2000s it was style blogs, and before that, glossy print magazines. Now, TikTok is filling that role as the place where users go to find out what’s in style.
In its end-of-year style report, released on Wednesday, styling service Stitch Fix reported that clients referencing TikTok as inspiration and guidance for trends and styles had increased by 85% in the last two years. At the same time, references to Instagram had decreased.
TikTok has been the driving factor behind both broader trends in style — like the move away from skinny jeans — and the popularization of specific products, like the Gap logo hoodie and the Skims dress. For Jarah Burke, fashion account director at marketing firm Power Digital, TikTok’s reach (1 billion active users, as of November) is one way it’s dominating trends, but so is the way it motivates users to turn anything they’re doing into a “vibe.”
“On TikTok, people play up the aesthetic side of a hobby,” Burke told Glossy, in regard to TikTok fueling the skiwear trend. “The ‘vibification’ of activities can be a way for a brand to bring new people into its fold in an aspirational manner.”
Other big TikTok trends throughout the year have come from the #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt hashtag, including the viral Birkenstock clogs, the L.L. Bean tote bag and countless microtrends that quickly rose and fell on the platform, including strawberry dresses, knot shirts and combat boots.
Natalie Levy, CEO of SPARC Group — the joint venture between Simon Property Group and Authentic Brands Group — credited TikTok with helping revitalize one of SPARC’s owned brands, Aeropostale. When women’s denim began to move away from skinny jeans and toward a looser fit on TikTok in 2021, Aeropostale’s “mom jeans” went viral on the platform, leading to a spike in denim sales and a shift in Aeropostale’s denim strategy. Loose denim made up only 7% of Aeropostale denim sales in 2020, but it’s now 40%. The brand’s profits grew by about 15% this year.
“We’ve doubled down on TikTok since then, because we see how strong the ROI is,” Levy said, though the company does not disclose specific ad spending amounts. Aerpostale now works with dozens of TikTok influencers including Lexi Hidalgo (2.1 million followers) via paid posts, plus it gifts products. “We’ve had a lot of viral moments on TikTok.”
Further proof of its influence, aggregating trends that began on TikTok has caught on. Publications like Who What Wear, Refinery29 and Popsugar regularly post lists with headlines like “The 8 Fall Trends That Have Blown Up on TikTok,” “These Fashion Brands Are Going Viral On TikTok Right Now” and “7 Viral Fashion Items Trending on TikTok Right Now.”
Instagram has obviously noticed the ways TikTok has won over the fashion world, introducing copycat features like Reels. In turn, prominent users like Kim Kardashian urged Instagram to “Stop trying to be TikTok.” Other platforms like YouTube, Amazon and Etsy have all introduced their own TikTok-like short-form video feeds this year. But TikTok is not above copying successful competitors, as it did with a feature imitating BeReal, launched in September.
As consumers and fashion media go to TikTok for guidance on fashion trends, it makes sense that fashion brands are following. It’s helped established brands like Burberry continue to grow and helped struggling brands like Banana Republic find new audiences.