According to TikTok, the hottest style right now is the “coastal granny,” inspired by laid-back oceanside minimalism and lots of linen. Before that it was “indie sleaze” – a hipster look of plaid shirts, beanies and leggings under dresses. And before that, it was “twee”, a retro-feminine style that emphasized Peter Pan collar shirts and colorful tights. Tomorrow, it may be “royalcore”, “night luxury” or “Miley Stewart summer”.
Keeping up with TikTok fashion can seem impossible. Trends move at lightning speed, and while some terms become a permanent fixture in the ever-changing fashion lexicon, others suddenly disappear.
But with a user base of nearly 1.8 billion, designers and merchandisers of all kinds of brands feel compelled to pay attention to trends on the platform. J.Crew, for example, promoted its sheets using the Instagram hashtag “coastal grandma” in May; the post had one of the highest engagement rates this month, chief marketing officer Derek Yarbrough said. Aéropostale and River Island used the term “cottagecore” – a countryside-inspired aesthetic with floral and ruffled clothing – in their email sends, while Asos and The Iconic ticked off the name “indie sleaze on their websites. Aerie even has its own “coastal grandma” edit page on its website, which includes linen blankets and straw hats.
TikTok trends and their associated increase in sales, however, can be fleeting. Crochet products, huge on the platform last spring, saw a 23% drop in sales at the end of April compared to a year ago, according to Edited. By the end of the season, many were heavily discounted.
To effectively capitalize on TikTok trends, brands need to identify which quirky aesthetic matches their DNA and would work in their marketing materials — and which they should steer clear of.
“There are so many trends happening at once that you need to understand how your brand fits in,” said Agus Panzoni, trend forecaster at TikTok. “There’s a real danger in investing too much in something that won’t sell for you.”
Why the TikTok aesthetic is taking off
TikTok’s trending aesthetic is something of an evolution of people looking to magazines for styling inspiration – only TikTok users can participate in their creation rather than consuming fully formed looks chosen by an editor.
“TikTok is a tribe mentality and when you are attached to a [subsculture] it’s a niche, it has huge consumer power,” said Benji Park, TikTok forecaster and brand consultant.
Experts are quick to note that most TikTok trends aren’t new. Eileen Fisher, for example, has been selling lightweight linen and wide-leg beach pants for decades. The “coconut girl” aesthetic, inspired by surfing and island themes, was on the shelves of Delia’s and other tween stores in the mid-2000s. TikTok also inspired more adventurous trends: bodysuit searches in leather soared 83% on Google at the end of March, just as videos featuring “fetishcore” or dominatrix-inspired clothing flooded the social platform.
Gen-Z embraces these styles on TikTok because they’re packed with fancy names and sociological explanations, Panzoni said. On Poshmark, searches for linen pants rose 66% in May, thanks to “coastal grandma,” said Chloe Baffert, senior director of merchandising and curating at Poshmark. Requests to Stitch Fix stylists for white linen basics also rose 15% from last year, while surf and island-inspired requests jumped 26% as the ‘coconut girl’ wave surged. reached its peak.
“It’s a great way to attract Gen Z customers because they’re the ones driving the trends, and they [appreciate] humor and style change,” said Kayla Marci, market analyst at Edited.
Working with TikTok aesthetics
Many digital-focused brands have built their entire business model on creating TikTok-inspired styles. Legacy labels, however, are still finding their own ways to incorporate the TikTok aesthetic into their merchandising and marketing.
Earlier this summer, Forever 21 launched rebranding and incorporated TikTok influencers like China McClain, Griffin Johnson and Olivia Holt into its design and trend forecasting process, CMO Jacob Hawkins said.
“When you went to [Forever 21] stores, it would just be an ocean of assortments, but it’s much more organized now,” said Hawkins, who added that the company’s social, marketing and design teams are all working together now. “There are more conversations with influencers than ever before, and all of that feedback is about what we design and buy.”
Brands like Revolve and J.Crew, meanwhile, are evaluating how to highlight existing products that work with a TikTok trend. Revolve plans to use the “Corporate Cutie” aesthetic, which promotes workwear, as more professionals return to the office, said Revolve brand director Raissa Gerona.
“It’s a dangerous game to play, chasing something, because everything is going so fast,” Gerona said. “So instead of chasing a trend on TikTok with a purchase, it’s more, ‘what do we already have on the website that can accommodate that.'”
Park said it’s better for brands to use TikTok subcultures in faster-paced social media marketing, rather than bank entire bulk orders or ad campaigns over a trending look.
“Balletcore is really big now, so shoot a gorgeous video in pointe shoes, or if it’s cabincore, take us to the mountains,” Park said. “But there’s no point in selling your soul to the devil for a million knit sweaters that you think are going to break because they’re crocheted with nipples.”
Trend with caution
Park said most TikTok trends happen on “90-day cycles,” with a lifespan of no more than six months. To keep up with TikTok’s trending aesthetic, it’s essential to understand their undertones and why shoppers are flocking to the look.
“It’s always good to understand the mentality of who is driving this trend,” Panzoni said. “What is the emotion behind it? What are the societal changes that have brought us here? If you understand the narrative, then you can understand how to market a trend and also decide if it’s right for you. »
For brands that might not feel comfortable aligning with the trendy aesthetic, there are still other ways to activate on TikTok. Gerona said Revolve has had success promoting products on TikTok with the Get Ready With Me (#GRWM) format, where influencers and celebrities use makeup and outfits to get ready while talking about a particular topic. Telsha Anderson-Boone, owner of New York luxury store TA, said she eschews the TikTok aesthetic and instead uses viral TikTok sounds to promote her store.
“I think the most important thing is to stay consistent,” Anderson-Boone said. “When you’re focused on a niche, it’s hard to change when something else comes along, but if you’re true to your brand image within these platforms, you can live anywhere.