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COVID-19: the impact on the fashion world

COVID-19 has hit the world population hard and has knocked the economy drastically. The mainstream media is trying to provide the most relevant and recent information, confirming that the UK’s total cases are rising steadily each day.

Although we are used to internet trolls and are wary of online scams, we undoubtedly have to trust the severity of the pandemic and understand the government’s decisions for lockdowns and the immediate closure of nonessential businesses.

But just how impacted will the fashion industry be?

Global impact

We are witnessing a domino effect with the virus, not only by spreading it, but with travel restrictions and the shutdown of several countries across the globe. We’ve witnessed fashion show cancellations, factory and shop closures, and whole work forces quarantined.

The global fashion industry is inextricably linked to the Far East and the shutdowns China faced saw the closures of shops such as Michael Kors, Nike, H&M and more. Little did they expect that European stores would be following suit only weeks later.

This means that the fashion industry has come to a screaming halt. Fashion shows were forced to be digitalised or shutdown entirely. Virtual audiences taking social distancing to a new extreme.

The government has had to prioritise essential services and has the best interest of people at heart in doing so, but the curbing of fashion also means a lack of self-expression for some and a drop in income for international factory workers.

Fashion to the curb

The impact of this overall cancellation of fashion will impact the industry drastically, perhaps shaping future consumerism forever with the need for people to be more conservative with their money.

With the stop of a reliable income for so many, the luxury of buying clothes and accessories will become something only few can afford. Buyers will have to take this into account and tailor their latest lines and products to this new way of living.

But will this mean a new price range? Perhaps, however brutal factory work means that for every deadline missed, there will be a fine in place, charged to the company. This could see the collapse of brands and the buying of companies to save them from closure. We have witnessed recently the closure of Laura Ashley and many shops could follow in their wake after temporary closures.

Alongside this, ethical considerations of workers should come to light – COVID-19 means these factory workers are expected to work even with the risk of infection. Our government has closed businesses, but the rights for these people are limited and thus will still have to produce summer collections despite the consumer demand dropping for the foreseeable future.

The restriction of travel due to international bans has implications for those who visit factories to create sample pieces and patterns. Although some companies are shipping these prototypes to other countries’ factories, as opposed to those in China, there will be an increase of pressure due to upcoming competition when retailers retime their advertisement for consumers.

Which retailer will be on top for those who want to spend their furlough income?

Fashion brands overcoming?

Alongside food deliveries and prescription couriers, brands are offering contact-free delivery services to sustain a, somewhat smaller, income.

Brands such as H&M, Topshop, Pull and Bear and many more are promoting the government’s advice by closing their stores to allow social distancing and maintaining temptations by keeping online shopping viable.

Is this beneficial?

In the news, there have been reports of people not behaving in line with the government’s restricted actions. People were recently sent home from a park in Shepherd’s Bush, London, for sunbathing as their daily outing. Police have had to spend their time disbursing these gatherings, but perhaps the message will be clearer now that every online retailer has COVID-19 warnings on it?

Individuals don’t always trust that the government isn’t falsifying or exaggerating their measures, but online retailers promoting their compliance to the rules could invoke more people to adhere to the restrictions.

Not all negative

There could be hope that the coronavirus is allowing people to fall in love with their old clothes again, perhaps making some truly vintage throwbacks come back into fashion.

Or, maybe people will begin to see the value in reliable clothes, making individuals more conscious of their fashion habits and how they do not need to update their wardrobe with every pay cheque. If anything has become clearer in this time, it is reliability, so maybe people will feel comforted in the reliability of their old clothes and decide to shop for essentials rather than in excess.

Companies such as The Body Shop, Krost and Lipslut are starting initiatives which give back to those in need due to COVID-19. This is a step in the direction of consumer consciousness, allowing people to spread kindness through spending.

The Carbon Trust and released a report stating that the yearly footprint of fashion industry professionals is around 241,000 tonnes of CO2. This amounts to similar levels produced by a small country. If coronavirus can inspire in anyway, it should allow a consciousness towards sustainability in the fashion industry and make people think of new solutions to mass consumerism and commercialisation.

A creative industry needs a creative solution and now is a perfect time for companies to start thinking about one which will benefit the world.

So do we believe the government?

Personally, I don’t think the government is doing anything wrong in terms of safety and complying with the lockdown is something we have to do as global citizens. But COVID-19 has stumped the creativity of industries and this will have a knock-on effect for the near future.

Who knows how the world will change after this but being as globalised as we are may be limited for years in the wake of COVID-19. Maybe British fashion houses will have to rise once again, and consumers will be forced to shop locally and thus more sustainably.


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