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Lessons Lockdown Has Taught Us About The Fashion Industry

The fashion industry has come undone, struggling to operate and dealing with tremendous losses during this period of uncertainty. In times like these where parts of the industry have partially hunkered down, persistent problems have unravelled and come to the forefront. Now, the only thing left to do is emerge out of this pandemic as a more evolved and robust fashion system — so long as we proactively participate in solving these issues. 

More creation, less creativity 

Surplus stock is not an issue that has been exclusive to the pandemic alone. It wasn’t too long ago that luxury brands like Burberry came under public fire for incinerating clothing worth £28.6 million, a practice they have since vowed to never commit again. This time however, unsold inventory has yet again reared its ugly head during lockdown with fast fashion retailers among the worst hit by it. The Mirror reported that UK based Primark is sitting on as much as £1.5billion worth of unsold stock as it waits for business to resume. Fast fashion brands have been known to push out fresh stock as little as every two weeks, a practice that has successfully created a want for more among customers but has been wreaking havoc on the planet with most of it ending up in landfills. Somewhere down the line, the fashion industry became obsessed with its need for excess and chasing the next hot item — a hazardous habit that is in dire need of reassessment. 

Archaic seasonal calendar

Fashion weeks flourished around major capitals back in the ‘60s and have become a larger than life phenomenon which we have now come to know has Spring and Fall shows that are held bi-annually. Add similar menswear and Paris couture shows into the mix, along with pre-fall and resort — the latter being produced and shot without official fashion weeks and we have a total of six fashion weeks being held every year. This system of constantly churning out collections has had a trickle down effect on independent brands as well who are feeling the pressure of having to keep up with their established peers. A recent survey report compiled by Tagwalk had 91% respondents claiming that they would prefer if men and women’s collections had joint shows, while 63% percent of them stating that they would find it out of place if a brand held a big fashion show come September. Trend forecasters are now predicting that collections needs to head in a more seasonless direction going forward, driven by the individual voice of a brand rather than tapping onto seasonal silhouettes. 

Workers at the bottom of the supply chain 

The fact that garment workers fall at the bottom of the fashion pyramid is not news to any of us, however thousands of them could potentially face poverty if lockdown prolongs any further. The Covid-19 pandemic has been especially damaging to the labour force from countries like Pakistan to Cambodia, Indonesia and Vietnam. While they had temporarily benefitted since a lot of the labour load from China had been redirected to them, that is no longer the case as the virus spread. With retailer cancellations or postponed payments piling up, more than one million garment workers in Bangladesh, the world’s second largest manufacturing country have been furloughed or let go, according to a report released last month by Penn State’s Center for Global Workers’ Rights. The industry is in dire need of applying fairer laws need to across supply chains along with severance packages for employees who could face the risk of being laid-off. 

Call for sustainability

According to Lyst’s latest sustainability report “slow fashion” has generated 90 million social impressions over the past year suggesting the beginning of a shift in shopping behaviours. Globally, people are experiencing moments of reflection and mindfulness in these times of uncertainty, which could further fuel the responsible fashion movement. With reports of a dramatic reduction in air and water pollution amid lockdown, consumers are beginning to see that climate change has been an issue that shouldn’t have taken a pandemic to be realised and dealt with. Hopefully, when the dark cloud of Covid-19 gets lifted from above us, sustainability will become more of a norm. 

Published by: Vibhuti Vazirani/ 2020-04-29

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