A fashionista is someone who follows fashion, or is involved in the fashion industry. This term is sometimes used in a mildly deprecating way, suggesting that fashionistas are obsessed with fashion at the cost of other issues of importance. As a general rule, however, fashionistas are not offended when people call them such, and many use the term in self reference, like a badge of pride. This term often crops up in trend-setting magazines, for example, and it also appears in books and news articles as well as radio and television coverage of fashion.
This word appears to have originated in the early 1990s, and it spread quickly in the late 1990s. It integrates the Spanish suffix “-ista,” which suggests that it may come from a region like California, Texas, New Mexico, or Arizona, where Spanish often mingles with English in surprising and creative ways. The “-ista” suffix is also used in some other slang terms, either because people have borrowed it from “fashionista” or because they are familiar with the Spanish language.
In the sense of a consumer, a fashionista tends to follow fashion avidly, and he or she dresses well, keeping up with the latest fashions to ensure a reputation for being stylish and well turned-out. In addition to actively buying fashionable garments, a fashionista keeps an eye on cultural trends, attends fashion events, and reads fashion magazines. While they may be criticized as shallow, fashionistas aren't necessarily one-dimensional people with a single-minded fixation on fashion. In fact, fashionistas sometimes lead movements to push for fair trade garments and the abolition of child labor in the garment industry, or engage in other socially and politically aware activities.
This term can also be used to reference people in the industry, such as buyers, designers, and so forth. Fashion buyers often have a huge impact on the fashion industry, because they determine which stores carry which collections, and which items go on to become popular. Becoming a fashion buyer requires a formidable knowledge of fashion, trends, and the industry.
A number of derivations of the classic fashionista can be found. A recessionista, for example, is someone who tries to dress fashionably on a limited budget, using creative means to remain stylish in the face of adversity. Some fat activists use the term “fatshionista” to describe overweight individuals who dress stylishly and promote plus-size fashions. Many fatshionistas try to act as ambassadors for the plus-sized community, showing people that being overweight doesn't preclude stylish looks.