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Will COVID-19 disrupt fashion’s sustainability commitments?

As with any other forward-thinking industry, fashion businesses across the globe have been adapting to the changing needs of the world. The push towards sustainability is nothing new and with climate change and global warming becoming severely apparent, there have been changes in both the consumer and supplier front. Before COVID-19, there had been encouraging steps towards sustainable clothing, with top fashion brands leaning towards materials and manufacturing that are eco-friendly and put the minimum pressure on natural resources. However, COVID-19 will certainly change the way things are. According to Vogue, “the odds that fashion will continue trying to reduce its environmental impacts” is highly unlikely after this pandemic is over. The explanation lies in the challenging payoffs in the coming future.

One of the most severe effects of COVID-19 will be the economies across the globe. Jobs are already being hit and layoffs add to the already plummeting financial markets across the globe. For fashion businesses, the focus in the coming months and years would be protecting their profits and keep businesses running. Sustainability comes at a price and when the world was just about to transition to sustainable fashion, we were hit by this pandemic. The industry will likely continue depending on a non-sustainable but well-established manufacturing process rather than invest in a sustainable fashion.


However, there’s a complete flipside to this review when it comes to the consumer side. What COVID-19 has shown is that we need only the bare essentials to survive. It was due to the chase for luxury that climate change, air pollution, dwindling water levels, and COVID-19 were born in the first place. For most consumers, COVID-19 would be life-changing. It is an opportunity to change ways and live more in sync with nature. It is unlikely that people, even with the wallets, will be interested to invest in luxury goods that leave a huge carbon footprint. We have already started talking about the necessity of leather goods. With wildlife trade getting banned, we won’t have the supply of crocodile skin bags and snakeskin boots as we had them earlier. Post COVID-19, if we no longer question the need for animal products in the fashion business, we are likely contributors to the doom of our species!

The challenges of climate change are too urgent to be ignored right now. Even with economies falling, our planet’s health should be our priority. For those willing enough to take some risk, this transition can in fact be an opportunity. We already have the technology in our end. Switching to recyclable fabric and eco-friendly product lines won’t be hard. Overall, the common interests towards the transition towards sustainability remain high but only time will tell if enough investors will be will to put their money to change the world.

Another crucial factor in the sustainable fashion industry will be awareness and collaboration with science. We already have brands that manufacture products from recycled plastics from the ocean. But few are aware of the microplastics as a bi-product of the same. While the idea certainly contributes towards reducing our plastic trash in the ocean, it doesn’t completely help solve the crisis. We need to go to the root of the problem and eliminate plastics from any kind of manufacturing process. It is for the governments and industry stakeholders to take this decision collectively. This is also the time when we should move ahead from the “showoff” business and “perceived progress” and actually contribute to the problems we had created in the first place.


It is for the industry leaders in fashion to make the call at the end of the day. Fashion leaders should not only market “sustainability” as their key goal but also run the programs at the very core of their business. Today, we are still in the process of “trial and testing” and the actual commitment has been put on hold. Sustainability requires considerable investments and for many, this is about taking very cautious steps. Coronavirus has brought a pause to all businesses, giving us enough time to sit back and rethink. It will certainly boost a change in people’s behavior from now on. People will be more inclined towards environmental problems now than focus on making money the way it has been made till now.

For consumers, it would be a crucial decision that they support companies and brands that are trying to restructure and offer a more sustainable product. The good thing is that sustainability doesn’t just help nature heal, but also give people an alternate way of life. We will be going back to traditional fabrics and looms and this will mean the revival of handmade textiles. It’s not all bad at the end of the day if we stay positive. There will certainly be a world after COVID-19 but what kind of world we live in depends on the decision we make.


Published by: Vibhuti Vazirani/ 2020-04-20

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