The “Dark Patterns” Fuelling Fast Fashion

The term “dark patterns” has been popping up online a lot more recently, but what exactly does it mean? And, how are these dark patterns fuelling fast fashion?

What are “dark patterns”?

Companies use dark patterns to mislead or coerce shoppers into making unintended purchases. These design elements can be found on lots of different types of sites to direct users to selecting certain options.

Examples found online

The scarcity principle

The “scarcity principle” states that you will want something more if you believe it to be scarce. Brands will artificially create this scarcity in various different ways. This can include saying stock is limited, flash sales, or collaborating with another brand, celeb or influencer. This is also ramped up when sites declare that ” 30 people are looking at this item right now’, creating an even greater sense of urgency that if you don’t buy it now you will miss out completely.

Getting a good deal

If you pick up an item and the price has been crossed out it makes you believe that you are getting a bargain. However, quite often these prices are artificially inflated to make you think that it is worth much more than it really is.

Following the crowd

Have you noticed that when you’re online shopping there’s a section that highlights items that are frequently purchased together. While this looks incredibly helpful that whole outfits are being suggested for you without you even having to search, it is really just a cross selling technique. People generally like to follow the crowd and are happier to make the wrong decision with many other people than risk making the right decision on their own.

Is my phone listening to me?

How many times have you scrolled through Facebook or Instagram and you see a targeted ad about a random product that you have only just spoken about with friends. I am always questioning whether my phone is listening to me. Really what is happening is that you are being shown products based on previous online behaviour. Every site you visit leaves a cookie on your browser which is used to create targeted ads. These ads will start popping up over the next few weeks. The more you are exposed to the same products you are more likely to like and purchase it.

This reminds me of something I was told when I worked in retail years ago. They would require you to try and get customers to sign up for store cards. The store wanted you to ask the same customer three times in slightly different ways whether they would like to open a store card. They said that statistically people are more likely to sign up after three attempts.

Ending in ‘9’

If a price ends in a 9, 95 or 99 it is known as a charm price. It makes you feel like the item is cheaper than it really is. Pricing an item at 0.99 will have a considerable effect on sales, vastly outweighing items priced ending with .00.

Once you know about all of these techniques you will start seeing them pop up on nearly every site that you shop on. I know that every fast fashion site that I used to shop on adopts all of these. Generally I’m looking for something specific when I shop and I tend not to stray from that but these tricks could very easily change someone’s mind.

I’d love to know if you have bought something you didn’t intend to because of ‘dark patterns’.


  1. Danielle
    November 12, 2021 / 7:01 pm

    I love reading this sweetie!

    Danielle |

    • lifesacatwalk
      November 13, 2021 / 3:41 pm

      Ahh thank you!

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