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From festival to arena: The impact of fast fashion on the concert industry

“You’ve Got the Tickets:” four words that every concert-lover wants to see. Waiting all day in the queue, fighting for your life to get the best seats and battling with the finicky check-out system on Ticketmaster are all worth it to know that you’ll soon be able to see your favorite artists live. However, tickets are just the first step. Transportation has to be figured out, the setlist has to be learned (unless you like going in blind) and, most importantly, your outfit has to be planned. 

Curating the perfect outfit to wear for a concert isn’t anything new. Think back to the golden days of Coachella—when Vanessa Hudgens and Kendall Jenner seemed to dominate the scene with their boho-style looks. Deemed the “Influencer Olympics,” Coachella has created massive fashion trends, from bold, bright bikinis to Y2K fashion, that are fueled by the pictures posted by the influencers attending it. 

However, this fashion frenzy isn’t limited to influencers or Coachella. Regular people have jumped on the trend to plan elaborate outfits for Lollapalooza, Glastonbury and other large music festivals. Just take a quick search for “festival fashion” and hundreds of thousands of articles will pop up, advising you on the fashion trends you’re likely to see this year and how to style them. In fact, popular sites like PrettyLittleThing and White Fox Boutique even have dedicated sections on their websites for festival fashion.

While there’s no denying that these looks have created iconic moments in fashion (a certain flower crown, crocheted top and denim cut-off look worn by Hudgens has defined Coachella), this festival fashion is undeniably a catalyst for overconsumption. The clothes bought for these events aren’t made to last. They’re cheap, targeted to that moment’s specific microtrends and bought for a one-use situation because of their low quality and short popularity. 

With the sheer numbers attending these events (approximately 125,000 go to Coachella and approximately 200,000 go to Glastonbury), these one-time outfits add up. In fact, a recent study found that single-use outfits for music festivals accounted for approximately 7.5 million outfits per year – a total of $307 million worth of clothing. In other terms, 7.5 million outfits are bought every year for these events. 

This rapid overconsumption and use of fast fashion isn’t a trend exclusive to festivals, as it applies to the concert industry at large. More and more tours are being associated with certain aesthetics and an unofficial dress code, driving many people to buy brand new themed outfits. Harry Styles’ “Love on Tour” brings to mind images of boas, cowboy boots, pink and an undeniable influence from the 70s, while Taylor Swift’s “Eras Tour” has had fans scrambling to find outfits to pay homage to their favorite eras. 

Newspaper print and black define the Reputation look, while rainbow, sparkle and hearts characterize the Lover look. In the case of Styles and Swift, these trends happened a bit more organically — fans took it upon themselves to construct this theme, with little input from the artists themselves. In contrast, for her birthday shows on the “Renaissance” tour, Beyonce posted a request on her website for fans to “wear [their] most fabulous silver fashions” so that they could surround themselves in a “shimmering human disco ball each night”. The Beyhive readily answered the call, and soon chrome outfits were flying off the rack. 

These are three of the biggest tours in recent years – and their effects on consumerism and the environment haven’t gone unnoticed. Poshmark spokeswoman Mallory Smith reported that sales for items with “Eras tour” in the description or title have increased more than 350% since the tour began; similarly, those including “Renaissance” has increased more than 500% since the tour began. The fashion industry is responsible for 8-10% of global emissions, and with the fast turnover rates we see in concert outfits, it’s not a stretch to say that these practices contribute a significant chunk of these emissions. 

Of course, one of the most fun parts of a concert is planning your outfit. But fast fashion and single-wear outfits don’t have to be a part of this. Sustainable options, such as thrifting or DIY-ing, are available to curate both a unique and stylish outfit. More importantly, though, the focus on the outfit worn and the pictures taken in these outfits has buried the real value of concerts: the live music, the atmosphere and the ability to see your favorite artists in real life. It seems that these things have all lost their priority for the sake of an Instagram post-worthy outfit. 


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