A woman standing in her room with price tags attached to every item.

If you’re interested in fashion, beauty, or interior design you might find yourself on a side of TikTok devoted to the never-ending pursuit of organizing your life into a particularly trendy aesthetic. Whether it be dark academia, Eloise-core, or Barbiecore, there is a shopping-savvy creator out there who will help you curate your desired visual identity. Even if you’re not looking to tailor your life according to trends, every day you’re introduced to something new to buy. 

But the culture of consumerism on TikTok doesn’t end with aesthetics. If you open the comments section of almost any video of a young person talking, you’ll find at least one person asking where their shirt is from, even if it is just a basic white tee. In extreme cases, commenters inquire about every single piece of clothing a creator is wearing as well as the items in the background of the video, like decorative lamps or ceramic bowls. 

This kind of consumerism was on full display last November when creators started posting their holiday wishlists, gift guides, and hauls. People on TikTok turned to creators to point them to the “It” products or find the perfect gifts for loved ones. “Gifting can be both stressful and time consuming. It’s really difficult to find a thoughtful, unique gift for each and every person in your life. Having someone else curate gift guides for you just makes the whole process easier, especially if you find someone who has an aesthetic that you like, or whose advice that you trust. It takes a lot of the guesswork out of adult gifting,” Shay, the 30-year-old creator who runs @shayinjune, told Mashable. TikTok allows users to outsource finding products to their favorite creators. 

Colby Taylor, a 27-year-old creator in New York City, typically posts fashion and sustainability content on her page, and she hit her stride posting gift guides. She genuinely wants everyone to get the best possible gifts and aims her guides at people who don’t know someone that well. “Someone who’s addicted to shopping like me, can help out,” Taylor told Mashable. Her guides ranged from “vibes based gift guide for girlies” to “gifts I would give to really hot famous people.”

Sydney Chase Barber, the 25-year-old content creator and interior decorator behind the TikTok account @concretetreehouse, considers herself a curator. “I just love finding cool, cute products, and then sharing them with other people. It’s not like I’m always buying these things, especially when it comes to guide season. I like finding cute stuff, really interesting brands, and sharing them with people,” she told Mashable. Barber’s account is devoted to showing her followers how she decorates her colorful, maximalist New York City studio apartment.

Despite the popularity of the shopping community on TikTok, shopping has yet to be fully integrated into the platform in the U.S. TikTok has launched TikTok Shop in Singapore and the United Kingdom. Ads on TikTok in the U.S. feature a shoppable link in the description, and some ads show links to the products in the lower left-hand corner of the video. But if a creator’s video is not an ad, they rely on a third-party link in their bio to steer their viewers to products featured in their videos. “[I’ll] find a product, let’s say on Etsy and link it through rewardStyle. Then if you go to the link in my bio you’ll see a link to my LIKEtoKNOW.it page, and you’ll be able to click on that product. A very small percentage of that purchase goes to the creator who recommended it, but it adds up,” explained Barber. Other creators use Amazon storefronts via a link in their bios to direct their followers to products and earn a small portion of commission. 

For her videos, Taylor uses screenshots of the products and the green screen function. “I tried to keep it so they can see the product name and price to screenshot it. I figured for most people that was enough to find a product. Links weren’t my intention. It was to help people get ideas for people, because sometimes you just need a little help,” Taylor told Mashable.

“I had lots of people flock to my comments saying, ‘try to guess which one was sponsored.’ None were. It was all things I had used before or knew a friend liked,” Taylor explained. “I think it’s useful that they are coming from real people, and that they are recommending things a little more off the beaten path and specific.”

In a world of endless products and online shopping options, people are turning toward creators to cut through the infinite choices and tell them what’s worth buying.

“There’s a glut overall in the market of options. It’s hard to find high-quality items with unique, thoughtful designs. TikTok has promoted a lot of mindless consumption and now everyone has the same viral Anthropology, Zara, and Aritzia [items],” explained Shay

Shay aims to pass on their shopping-savvy smarts to her followers. “I do a lot of reviews of brand clothing quality, personal style tips, fabric composition education. I like curating and recommending high quality items. I’m very against mass purchasing and constant mindless consumerism, so I tried to educate my followers on how to be savvy purchasers,” said Shay.

Gen Z consumers value creator recommendations. Increasingly, young people turn to TikTok and Instagram to search for new restaurants, things to do, and items to buy. 

“There’s so many places to buy stuff that it’s kind of overwhelming. On TikTok you see something that someone is recommending and latch on to it,” said Barber. “I like to show people that you don’t have to decorate a certain way just because it’s popular, your space should reflect you and your personality so bring in the things that you love,” said Barber. 

On a platform where visual aesthetics and vibes are organizing principles, what you wear and own defines you. And knowing where to buy the right stuff might be the most sought-after skill of them all. 

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