The Fashion Algorithm

The age of chaotic blandification—wherein nothing is trending, yet seemingly everything is in style all at once.

Key Takeaways

  1. Even brands have become amalgamators of the feed, producing new collections according to what appears to be trending online.
  2. Today, "cringecore" styling exists everywhere from the runways to our feeds. It’s the campy, bedazzled crossover between Balenciaga and Gucci, and Rick Owens putting miniature fog machines in his classic platform boots.
  3. It’s likely that we’ll continue to see Instagram-influenced collections from high-end fashion houses and trends that trickle up from Tiktok into our daily lives.

It’s no surprise that our sense of style is dictated by what we see online. We copy looks from influencers and friends who get lots of likes and buy clothes from apps that look like social media feeds (Depop, Shein). From teenage girls posting Tiktoks about sets they bought on Amazon.com to influencers posing in “New Bottega’s” Instagram-friendly styles, it appears as if almost everyone is dressing to impress the algorithm.

Even brands have become amalgamators of the feed, producing new collections according to what appears to be trending online. It’s Celine releasing e-boy-inspired collections and Prada dropping iterations of their classic bucket hats each season. But it’s also vintage resellers collecting archival looks worn by the Kardashians, and Shein selling $2 friendship bracelets that look identical to the DIY versions popular on Tiktok feeds. All of this has led to a bottom-up approach to fashion, meaning that what’s in style is more often dictated by the masses rather than by traditional tastemakers like magazine editors or even designers themselves. The result is an attention-seeking population (driven by social media addiction) stuck without the wherewithal to find their individuality within hyper-targeted and hyper-curated feeds.

Prada SS2022


Today, it’s no longer traditional trends that are important to the producers and consumers of fashion, but rather which looks can garner attention online. The result is a chaotic, blandification of taste wherein nothing is trending—yet seemingly everything is in style all at once. Within this increasingly democratic fashion landscape, teens on Tiktok are declaring the rise of everything from 70s jumpsuits to “dark academia” (think pleated skirts and rosary-inspired necklaces), while subaltern trends from rave culture to Rick Owens have become as ubiquitous as (and amalgamated by) fast fashion brands like Forever21.

Gucci SS2022

For the inaugural issue of Viscose, a new fashion journal, I coined the term “cringecore” to describe this trend toward mimetic fashion through the lens of styling. In it, I argue that rather than displaying taste in a traditional sense, current fashion stylists choose to emphasize the uncanny: outrageous outfits stylized in a way that boosts their potential for virality online. 

Today, cringecore styling exists everywhere from the runways to our feeds. It’s the campy, bedazzled crossover between Balenciaga and Gucci, and Rick Owens putting miniature fog machines in his classic platform boots. Cringecore can be smart and successful, like when Lotta Volkova styled Matthew Williams’ first, horn and sequin-heavy collection for Givenchy, or when Lil’ Kim rocked head-to-toe Prada Re-Edition Nylon while hosting the 2021 BET awards. But it can also be outright embarrassing, like when Kim Jones partnered with Travis Scott for his latest menswear collection at Dior, or when Balenciaga debuted a Kelly green stiletto Croc to troll the fashion world. But what all of these fashion phenomena have in common is their choice to put attention-seeking above taste. In other words: in today’s fashion landscape, memes are the ultimate form of entertainment. 

Today we see a mishmash of trends culminating in both the basic-bitchification of luxury brands (see: logomania), and a renewed strive for attention that has turned a desire to appear authentic into a desire to look absurd. So what does this mean for the future of fashion? It’s likely that we’ll continue to see Instagram-influenced collections from high-end fashion houses and trends that trickle up from Tiktok into our daily lives. But we will also see a further splintering of style, and a new understanding of what it means to be fashionable. If everything is trending all at once, fashion is no longer about staying up-to-date, but fitting in with your chosen tribe, or simply showing the world that you can pull off whatever it is you’re trying to do, as long as there are likes to validate you.