The global pandemic of COVID-19 has brought the world to a standstill, with numerous countries in lockdown to slow the spread of the disease. While it is difficult to escape the news and panic surrounding this, businesses like the fashion industry can provide some escapism from the new reality. However, this current situation highlights how insignificant the latest trends can be. This is having a huge effect on the industry as people are turning to news articles rather than fashion blogs. Many companies have been forced to close for safety reasons and economic loss.
With everyone staying indoors as advised by the government, retail therapy is out of the question during this difficult time. Shopping is appearing less desirable as communities knit together to help each other get through this. There is less reason to be shopping the latest trends as events and plans have been cancelled to keep people safe.
A positive turning point?
This reduction in shopping could result in a complete revolution in the fashion industry, with people making less ‘trend’ purchases. Fast fashion is being discouraged. People are finding more sustainable alternatives and making use of the clothes already in their wardrobe. This could create a positive outcome of the pandemic as, along with less cars on the road and a reduction of our global footprint, fewer fashion related purchases are being made and less items being produced. The fashion supply train cannot depend on Chinese manufacturing, thus, stalling the production of products across the globe and preventing the growth of fast fashion. Could this be a turning point for environmental welfare?
Conversely, with people unable to physically go into stores and try things on, they may turn to cheap online brands that are providing free delivery and extravagant sales, promoting fast fashion. It is also hard to support sustainable fashion at a time like this as thrift stores and charity shops are closed.
It proves impractical to support local businesses due to shop closures; many local companies do not have the user basis and ability to sell online, creating potential huge economical damages to their company and even permanent closures. This also further encourages people to shop online as these local companies are unavailable. Consumers are more likely to search for cheaper alternatives from companies that have the platform to carry on through this hard time, promoting products through sales and advertisements, advancing the problem of fast fashion.
Buy what you need – not want you want
Fast fashion is also being supported by fashion bloggers and social media influencers as they carry on as normal, uploading fashion hauls and the latest trends. While social media can provide a healthy route to escapism amid the global pandemic and frightening news, it can also be counter-productive as it may be used to promote the wrong things and cause unhealthy obsessions as more people are stuck inside scrolling.
As most social media influencers are self-employed their only means of income is to give their audience content as if nothing has changed. This can be harmful in a society where everything is online as social media influencers hold a huge influence over their audience. They encourage young viewers to spend their money on the retailers they’re promoting; which is often huge hauls from online fast fashion brands, creating a problem surrounding consumerism and an excessive need for materialistic goods.
A healthy way to battle this while helping the fashion industry would be for social media influencers to promote sustainable fashion even when it can be harder to come by. Promoting to only buy the goods you need rather than items you want, considering the current societal shutdown and how, realistically new purchases would fit into your current lifestyle.
Caring companies or self interest?
Some brands have changed themselves in order to help during this crisis and support the government under strain. Burberry, the UK based major high fashion brand, has stopped supplying trench coats and started producing masks and hospital gowns for the NHS. This is a major step in the right direction, highlighting how the world can come together to combat the crisis and support one another.
However it is questionable whether these brands are using the crisis as a way to stay relevant and grow during the crisis and if brands will go back to their old ways once the world goes back to normality. Or rather if these brands are positively using their huge platforms and privilege in the world to help a crisis, showing the importance of kindness to one another.
Here, the fashion industry proves helpful in battling coronavirus. This incredible step has also been taken on by affordable retailer, I Saw It First. They have brought out a ‘blue edit’ where 100% of the profits were donated to the NHS. While this brand is a culprit in promoting fast fashion, providing trendy pieces which can encourage waste in an age where the environment needs a revolution, the step I Saw It First have taken in helping the coronavirus pandemic proves an ability for these brands to do good within the fashion industry – helping to provide care to those who need it and highlighting how the virus can be a turning point for welfare regarding workers, consumers, and the environment.
However, this same retailer earlier used the virus as a promotion to drive sales, offering the first 1000 customers to a ‘free’ hand sanitiser with every purchase. This appears to be a strategic method in driving sales by relying on and endorsing the scaremongering of the media rather than providing help and clarity during this difficult time. This highlights how the fashion industry is often quick to jump on the latest bandwagon and sale opportunity but is reluctant to change its ways and offer true help.
Change for the better
In order to see any positives arrive from the chaos and tragedy coronavirus has caused, the fashion industry needs to adapt and change to provide help. Not just now, but to change for the better. This could have the outcome of a complete revolution, putting environmental and human welfare above exploitation of the consumer decreasing the growth of fast fashion. The current global pandemic has proved that the fashion industry can help its customers and other workers through its platform and privilege, creating an amazing impact and result.