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Fashion and the global crisis – will coronavirus kickstart sustainability?

As coronavirus took hold and the world changed, many worried about income, health and the changes being put into place. Lockdown proposed a period of uncertainty, but as time went on, we adapted and responded to the changes, and it soon became apparent there are some advantages to humans being less active in the world.

The Environment

As businesses were closed, jobs were postponed and socialising was cut to an all-time minimum, the public faced limitations, but the environment began to thrive. From cleaner air to liberated wildlife, the advantages to the world around us became unmissable.

Within a couple of weeks of modern life being postponed, animals began appearing, waters became clearer for the first time in years and pollution hit an all-time low.

Less transport and less people around allowed pollution levels to decrease. Countries such as Paris and Madrid recorded some of their lowest levels of nitrogen dioxide, as China reported a 25% decrease in carbon emissions.

Cleaner air was soon visible, citizens of Northern India were able to observe the Himalayan Mountain Range for the first time in their entire lives.

Parts of nature used as tourist attractions began to notice the change. Venice’s wildly popular canals showed clear water for the first time in years, as their stringent lockdown took place.

The benefits to the environment are undeniable, and many have come to terms with the fact that general human life has a large impact on the climate crisis. Many questioned whether coronavirus was a chance to allow the world to ‘heal’, whilst others became active in campaigning that these restrictions in everyday life should spark a change in the way we usually live.

So, would these obvious benefits shift the way in which we think and act when we are finally allowed to resume our normal lives?

The Fashion Industry

Whilst the environment thrives, the business world feels the negative impact of coronavirus. Small businesses such as hairdressers, boutiques, and bakeries were forced to close shop, alongside large companies that would never have dreamed of the day their doors would be forced to close. All businesses across different industries closed up, most for the first time, and most notably, the fashion industry.

The physical aspect of the fashion industry was no longer available, online stores were the only way. Whilst many missed the option to browse the high street, others were happy to know they could continue to scroll through ASOS like nothing was happening.

Other physical aspects such as Fashion Week, general fashion shows, and most significant the iconic “Cruise” shows, all succumbed to the virus and were put on hold, making large fashion houses miss out on their biggest brand-building moments. Live-streaming shows, and releasing Fall collections without the marketing of physical shows went ahead, as the fashion industry began to adopt new methods.

Could this see a change in marketing strategies? Is a physical store on the high street really needed? Is online marketing enough now in the current modern age? Are fashion shows still needed to present your latest seasonal collection?

Sustainable fashion: the impact of coronavirus

The fashion industry has come under-fire many times, but more frequently in recent years as climate change and how businesses contribute to the environment has become more apparent. From activists exposing the way in which fashion brands source their products, to second-hand and vintage fashion being reinvented to postpone fast fashion.

Sustainability within the fashion industry has been a widespread campaign for a while now, as brands operating on fast fashion have been slammed for being unethical, and people begin to access other ways to source their latest fashion find, from Depop to charity shops. Amongst all the uncertainty, one benefit of people having more time on their hands has been the increase in awareness of certain topics, including sustainability which has been able to reach a larger audience.

A physical transformation amid the pandemic was seen as retailers worldwide altered their manufacturing practises in order to create PPE, from masks to hospital gowns. Whilst being a positive gesture for all those working on the frontline, the environment also reaped the advantages of it. Deadstock fabrics and excess materials were used to allow the production of these products quickly and efficiently, when they usually would have gone straight to landfill sites, contributing hugely to carbon emissions.

An obvious consequence of the pandemic is the reduction in the demand for fast fashion. Supply chains began to be disrupted, leaving brands unable to keep their ‘New In’ section moving as quickly as usual, not to mention most avid fashion consumers slowing down on their usual spending amid financial worries and job insecurity.

As a result, consumer mindsets are shifting as they are beginning to learn to live with less, realising that basics are enough and usual spending may be sheer greed at times. This, combined with the well-publicised positive effects on the environment, has seen the beginning of a new outlook concerning consumerism.

People are now beginning to get a sense of what sustainability actually means; it isn’t just buying a t-shirt labelled ‘100% recyclable materials’, it is a way of living. Our everyday, ordinary choices impact the world in ways which we underestimate.

A cause for drastic change?

As we remain sitting at home, many stay positive by thinking forward to ‘the day this is all over’, and considering how drastically day-to-day practises may change forever.

A large-awakening may be instore post-pandemic, with sustainable living becoming a key-part to everyone’s daily lives. As the fashion industry adapts to the limitations it is facing, we wonder whether the unsustainable aspects of their trading will come back into action after everyone has seen the benefits of a world without them.

For the industry to change, and for us as human beings to change, we must find new ways of living, and break old habits. Coronavirus might just be the worldwide change needed to spark the revolution.


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