Fashion Hauling and Today’s Teen Shopper

What are “fashion haul” videos saying about today’s teenager’s attitude toward consumerism, and what’s on the other side of the spectrum.

In case you haven’t heard the term, “fashion hauling” refers to an internet phenomenon that has young (mostly) girls showing off their latest shopping finds to thousands of viewers in “haul videos” on YouTube. To be able to afford a constant stream of new stuff, haulers usually shop at fast fashion chains like Forever 21, H&M, Charlotte Russe and Target, or discount retailers like Marshalls, JC Penney or TJ Maxx.

Though this may seem like an innocent way for young girls to express themselves and share shopping finds with online peers, it’s becoming a serious issue because it promotes rampant, mindless consumerism. Haulers love fast fashion retailers because everything is cheap and they can afford a lot. They buy buy buy without putting any thought in how their clothing was made and where it comes from. If you consider the entire supply chain – from the raw materials and the labor required to the shipping and marketing – it is simply not possible to make a T-shirt that costs $7.

This video, a fashion haul by has over 3,6 million views on Youtube.

Fast fashion retailers, of course, do not want you to think about this stuff, they just want you to buy it. So naturally most of them have embraced the fashion hauling phenomenon with open arms, some of them even sponsoring popular haulers by offering gift cards, video contests and other incentives. Haulers seemingly live in a world where happiness can be bought, for a single-digit price tag at Forever 21, and everything is just “OMG, so cute!” To those of us far removed from it, these girls seem to be motivated by a desperate search for meaning.

The girls in this video, which has over 2 million views, just went on a serious shopping spree at Forever 21.

While it’s troubling to watch this trend develop and grow, there is also another side to the story. At the other end of the spectrum, many of today’s youth are distancing themselves entirely from the idea of ownership, looking for simplicity and alternative solutions to things they see not working in society. Instead of buying cars, they get Zipcar memberships, instead of buying CDs and DVDs they use Spotify, Hulu and other cloud-based streaming services, and instead of seeing the purchase of a home as the ultimate achievement they appreciate the freedom of renting. The less stuff you have, the more you stick it to the man.

This one has over 900,000 views and close to 12,000 comments.

Perhaps both of these extremes are reactions to coming of age in a time of economic uncertainty and political upheaval, but what does this polarization say about our society? And, more importantly, what effect will it have on the future of consumption? Does slow, considered fashion stand a chance against this escalating fashion hauling trend? Only time will tell, but perhaps it’s time to popularize “vintage hauling” or “stuff-I-already-have-in-my-closet hauling”?

Lead image, still from this video

Johanna Björk

Johanna is a sustainable fashion writer currently based in Ojai, CA. Read her weekly On Trend column to learn what's new in eco fashion.