The Impact of Coronavirus on Festival Fashion

For most people in their twenties the first thing that comes to mind when they think about summer is probably festivals. It is five days of craziness, non-stop singing, dancing, ruining your eardrums and vocal cords, drowning in mud or dust and not getting any sleep.


But most importantly, it is five days of fun and freedom and fashion plays a huge part of it. At festivals you can set your creativity free and show a different, crazier or more confident side of you.


Unfortunately, with the coronavirus pandemic still entirely affecting every aspect of our life there is very little to no chance that we will be allowed to pack our festival outfits anytime soon. And this is a massive problem for fast fashion brands and also small businesses whose sales were primarily driven during festival season. But will this negatively impact festival fashion’s future?


The relationship between fashion and festivals


To better understand the problem, we need to look at the pre-covid relationship between fashion and festivals. It was in the 2010’s when festival collections really started to emerge from fast fashion brands.


By 2019 festival season became something that big names, like H&M or Asos, would not want to miss. Festival season runs in spring and the beginning of summer, from March until June. During these four months lots of retailers flood their website and shop floor with ‘new in-s’ dedicated for the so-called festival aesthetic. And as you can imagine, festival goers were going crazy about these collections.


Many brands have generated a huge part of their sales with their festival offers and each year the demand increased. So, they started to place bigger orders from suppliers. As we now already know, this was a mistake.


The issue of fast festival fashion


It might come as a surprise for some people that fashion brands usually work 2-3 seasons ahead. What this means is that the festival collections they intended to come out with in April have already been ordered months ago.


So, what happened when COVID-19 shut down the entire world in March 2020 and all the events got either postponed or cancelled? There was no way to cancel those orders – or at least not ethically. It left retailers with enormous piles of unsold – not just – festival merchandise.


Millions of dollars worth of clothing sitting in warehouses waiting to be displayed on the shop floor. Even with e-commerce experiencing a massive surge in sales, no one is going to purchase festival clothing. Why would they, when the only summer program they have planned was lockdown?


Luxury, high-end & small businesses


Let’s not forget about other sectors in the fashion industry either. Luxury and high-end fashion also got their share of difficulties. Of course, they were not hit nearly as bad as the rest of the industry. As a result of the fallout of festival season they have lost some opportunities to connect with their customers and build important relationships.


However, the ones that suffered the most are small businesses that heavily rely on festivals. They do not work with the same budget as fast fashion or luxury players and they cannot make up for their lost sales easily.


A brighter future for festival fashion


Where does this leave the fashion’s beloved festival season? And what changes can we expect in the future?Although it is not yet certain when festivals will take place again, experts predict a shift in consumer behaviour and demand.


One of the reasons for that is the change of target audience. Until now, it was primarily Millennials that brands have targeted. But by the time festivals return, most of Gen Z will also appear on the scene. This generation is known to prioritise sustainable choices and to raise awareness on important issues.


So, it is likely that festival goers will move away from the single-use outfit ‘trend’ to wearing sustainable, second-hand or previously worn clothes. This is not good news to the fast fashion industry that have profited off of the wear-once mentality at festivals. It is, however, wonderful news for the environment.


Changing trends


Another aspect worth taking into account is the change in trends that the coronavirus might or will cause. After social distancing for over a year it is unimaginable to see festivals the same way. Dancing in large crowds without masks and being pushed against other people is extremely bizarre to think about. This begs the question: will protective masks, hand sanitiser holders and clothes that cover more skin make their way into festival fashion? There is a huge possibility.


Greener festivals?


Whilst the pandemic has undoubtedly impacted fashion brands leveraging festival season there is a positive side to it. There might be hope for greener festivals where our outfits are eco-friendlier. Whether that means wearing sustainable alternatives, thrifted outfits or repurposing our ‘old’ festival clothes.


It also gives us the chance to bring out our authentic personal style to truly stand out from the crowd. Nevertheless, it will be exciting to see what is to come and what this new era of festival fashion will hold.


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