How COVID-19 has Transcended The Fashion Industry… For The Better
Written by: Alessa Morjaria | 3 min read
COVID-19 has inevitably changed the world forever. The way we consume, the way we shop, the way we dress, the way we interact, and essentially the way we live. Apps like Zoom, Instacart, Peloton, and UberEats have experienced all-time highs, but what does this mean for the fashion industry?
The fashion industry's contribution to the global economy cannot be underestimated. Retailers, department stores, and manufacturing plants employ millions and generate billions in revenue. However, this sector has been criticized for its legitimacy and transparency, even long before the pandemic.
The 1.5 trillion-dollar global industry has been continuously questioned for its outsourced mass production and unethical labor practices, otherwise known as fast fashion. In an effort to grow sales, retailers constantly cut corners, provide unlivable wages, churn out collections, and ramp up production while sacrificing quality products and ethical operations. These appalling cost-cutting efforts have resulted in global human rights and environmental impacts. The fashion industry generates 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, estimated to account for 10% of annual global emissions across all sectors. The synthetic fibers used in most garments take upwards of 200 years to decompose.
In light of the pandemic and following increased digitization, retailers closed their stores and turned to online channels. With the rise of economic uncertainty, paused social lives, and "Work From Home" culture, consumption in the fashion industry subsequently slowed down. Clothing sales have drastically fallen, supply chains have slowed, and some production has fully stopped. After incurring tremendous losses in revenue, many companies like J.Crew, J.C. Penny, and Neiman Marcus Group shuttered and filed for bankruptcy.
Despite these hurdles, there's a silver lining. This sector has stood the test of time but is constantly evolving. Specifically, we have recently seen transcending innovations in technology and sustainability. As the world comes together, especially with the subsequent rise of social media, consumers have begun to voice their opinions on the industry's detrimental social and environmental impacts. And with increased awareness and shifting consumer preferences, retailers must adapt. This has forced companies with business models to follow the principle of quantity over quality, sacrificing all environmental concerns, transparency, and corporate citizenship to do better. Additionally, the second-hand apparel market of thrifting and online resale has reached an all-time high. The circular economy is the perfect solution to overcome financial distress, while consumers have started to rethink the ways to capitalize on their unused clothing and create capsule wardrobes.
As a result of increasing consumer pressures from the most progressive generation yet, the spotlight on sustainability has returned, and fashion retailers pledge to build a more sustainable future.
A Greener Future
Social media during the pandemic has brought upon us a new age of interconnectedness while revolutionizing many industries. Any new widespread trend, movement, or hashtag is shared with millions within seconds. The power of social media has allowed brands, influencers, and individuals to raise awareness for sustainable options through their platforms.
According to a study by McKinsey & Company, 67% of respondents consider using sustainable materials to be a critical purchasing factor. This ha
s notably been a time where companies have taken genuine responsibility to create greener supply chains, invest in renewable fibers, and introduce fair working co
nditions. During the 2021 Fashion Revolution Week, the viral campaign #WhoMadeMyClothes added yet another hashtag #WhoMadeMyFabric. The movement was designed to highlight traceability and transparency throughout the supply chains of major retailers. Over 60 brands were asked to disclose their manufacturing facilities publicly.
Here are a few notable brands that have taken on this allenge and implemented some of the most influential sustainable campaigns.
While aiming for sustainable materials, the luxury fashion powerhouse launched its first sustainable collection, Off-Grid, which is made of recycled, organic, or sustainably sourced materials.
One of the world's most recognizable brands is straying away from its fast-fashion roots with its H&M Conscious collection, using organic cotton and recycled polyester, and offering in-store recycling options.
While denim is notorious for requiring tremendous amounts of water to create a single pair of jeans, Levi's commitment to sustainability was proven through its recent collection Water<Less. This new line uses up to 95% less water throughout its design and manufacturing process.
Fashion giants continue to pivot and transition their sustainable efforts while refocusing their marketing strategies. The pandemic has pushed consumers to reassess their values and retailers to reassess their practices… which has sparked a "year of awakening" and change within the fashion industry.