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Could coronavirus spark a sustainable fashion awakening?

The world is getting shut down and people are living in an environment of doubt. A virus that originated from a living-animal market in Wuhan, China is now crippling the whole planet. Economies are falling and businesses, large and small are shutting down. No one really knows when the world will go normal again but it has indeed given us the time to think and introspect about the way we live. It’s not about somebody “eating a bat” anymore. Over the centuries, we have been taking more than we need and returning trash to the earth. Trash that is crippling our planet. The Coronavirus crisis has shown how little it takes for nature to fight back and lock us in our homes. If science is to be believed, this is just one of the several coming crises in the near future and the only way to keep us safe is to change our ways.

When the emergency situation across countries will be lifted, it will certainly be the time to do things differently. Sustainability should be the key that takes humans forward, as a species, and this includes every other industry that tries to remain afloat. Being consumer-driven, the fashion industry too will have a role to play.

While “sustainability” is not a new term to the business of the fashion industry, it certainly is going to be the focus from now on. It is expected that consumers will now truly wake up to the carbon footprint they are leaving. Behind every purchase decision will be a question as to how the product was made, where the raw materials came from and how sustainable will it be for the years to come. In just a month, we have been forced to see that we can only live on the very “essentials”. Though it is unprecedented how this will affect the “luxury goods” market, we can equivocally say that the supply chain is going to change. In plain words, no sane person will be looking for a crocodile leather purse post-Covid-19 but would rather go for a material that just about serves the purpose.

The pandemic has clearly shown us that the responsibilities of this world aren’t just limited to countries and governments. Everyone should play a part in the recovery as things like pollution, viruses and economic crisis won’t have boundaries. In some ways, the pandemic has shown that “we all are in it together” and it is only by taking a collective decision that we can ensure that such a situation doesn’t repeat itself. It’s the perfect excuse for a transition that the good part of this world has been waiting for. With technology on our sides, it shouldn’t be too difficult either, as suggested by Katrin Ley from Fashion for Good. This indeed is the best time to reevaluate, turn around manufacturing processes and accelerate sustainable changes that have been put in motion for some time now but didn’t get much attention.

Recycled fabrics and the use of natural energy that aims to reduce pollution and minimize waste should be a new way out. People will not stop wanting new clothes even though the world will cut back on being too “social”, but they would certainly ensure contributing towards the betterment of the environment they live in. At the end of the day, we are working to keep ourselves and our kids safe and healthy. If buying a $1000 dollar shirt adds more dust to the air and is a pollutant to our waters, there’s no logic behind the purchase anymore.

Sustainable fashion also isn’t just about the environment. The processes need to be people-friendly too. We will definitely see a rise in handmade products and traditional looms from now on. This also revives the smaller cottage industry that is dying across the globe. Consequently, saying that the pandemic has cost the world a billion jobs isn’t completely true. With better work environments and safer products, it could be made into a perfect revival.

Sustainability shouldn’t also be just about eco-friendly products. It should be a way of life from now on. It is the responsibility of both the consumers and the manufacturers to understand that need of the hour and change their expectations. In these times, when we have got the opportunity to be closer to our families and know our neighbors, we will reflect on what matters the most at the end of the day. Hopefully, the fashion industry too will be able to connect us back to nature and strike a balance to be a part of that better tomorrow.

Published by: Vibhuti Vazirani/ 2020-04-15

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