Fashion + The Global Crisis

Social Media Has its Own Pandemic

Imagine you are in quarantine, it shouldn’t be hard as you most likely are. Now imagine you are quarantining in one of the most affected parts of the UK. On top of that, add the fact that six other people are quarantined with you, including your parents. OK, good so far? One more thing: your mother is asthematic and diabetic, vulnerable. The picture you should have in your head right now is a perfect illustration of my situation.

Yep, I’m homebound in the city of Sunderland with a mother who is too frightened to even walk out into the garden. So, believe me, I, more than anyone, eagerly consume the mainstream media so as to have the soundest knowledge of what precautions to take and how the virus is being dealt with. 

Mainstream and social media

But the mainstream media is multifarious. My siblings, and the majority of 18-28 year olds, (who I will be referring to as young people, although I admit younger is more suitable) are far more likely to scroll through their Facebook and Twitter feeds then tune into BBC News.

With far more articles being shared on Facebook and generally a heightened degree of political thought being expressed on this website over the past decade, Facebook has become a social media platform that is now more than ever being used as a serious news outlet. The same can be said for Twitter. Young people today exclusively go to social media outlets to be informed on current affairs. 

On the other hand, the older generations such as my parents are much more driven to their television sets, having probably never had a Twitter account. The official news is their mainstream media. And there we have it: a divide. 

Let’s get political

Although for the most part, these mainstream media outlets are merely informers seeking to reassure the people, COVID-19 inevitably becomes political, and from this, becomes a catalyst for heated disagreements. There is a disjunction between the political views held around the coronavirus by younger generations as opposed to older. My sister sat gobsmacked, mouth open like a cod-fish in utter disbelief when my father voiced his support for Boris Johnson as Prime Minister during this pandemic. “But… how? How can you sit there and give your support to that selfish greedy villain? He has blood on his hands!” she protested. 

The role that social media plays in convincing impressionable people into seeing the Conservatives as a calamity of a government who are wholly responsible for the high death rate in the UK is something which I find problematic.

Is there not something unjust about the amount of hate built up in young people towards their government? The negative aspect of this sphere of mainstream media is the overwhelming emotional manipulation: 18-28 year-olds will be exploited to heart-wrenching posts depicting devastating deaths of innocent people who contracted the virus. It is all very, very upsetting. The posts will then conclude with an image of Boris himself, completely changing all the sadness of the reader to anger, lightning quick, and directed right at the government. Social media platforms have contributed to the mindset of our current youth, that whatever happens, the government can do no right. From this, the quarantined turn on the quarantined, parent disagrees with child and young people start to wonder when their Conservative-voting mother became so cruel.

The radical anti-government sentiment on social media fails to acknowledge that the higher population density of this country surely has a connection with the higher death numbers as well as the personality of the UK: the pubs were heaving the night before lockdown!

Although social media is a fantastic platform for encouraging young people to think and discuss important things, bettering their awareness of the world around them and allowing them to form opinions of their own, I believe a lot of youngsters give it a real flawed nature as they turn it into an anti-government hub of perpetual disapproval.

Fashion in a pandemic

On the topic of fashion, things are quickly changing for better, and for worse. With the growing consciousness of climate change and the importance of sustainability, fashion brands have agreed to take new approaches that favour sustainable fashion in the past few years. But in such a time like this, with plummeting revenue and workers being let go in large numbers, it is unlikely large companies will continue to focus on sustainability.

In Bangladesh, for example, over a thousand clothing factories have had orders worth $1.5 billion cancelled due to the virus outbreak, it seems almost cruel to expect them to start prioritising eco-friendliness when the workers are surely more worried about simply surviving.

However, we are now entering the most digitally active period the world has ever been in. Given the best part of the world is in lockdown, more people than ever will have little else to do but browse the internet or scroll through their Instagram. Independent, influential fashion accounts are embracing this sudden digital eruption and using their heightened attention to urge forward sustainability with fashion.

COVID-19 is also merging brands with immersive technologies. Clothing has become virtual. Instagram fashion accounts such as The Fabricant, whose bio claims they are “uploading humans to the next level of existence”, promote digital fashion and showcase virtual catwalks. They are using this pandemic to take fashion to new levels, appropriate for lockdown. Their designs emit a futuristic glow and they use the human psychological connection to certain colours to produce looks of exquisite delicacy, and they are now halfway to having a following of 100,000.

Other fashion influencers have taken to promoting comfy indoor clothing and are causing online shoppers to turn to cosy apparel, proving that the control the app has on fashionable buying habits is still very much existent. Influential people on the ‘Gram such as Mariano Di Vai, Tatiana Huber and Love Iguehi have been busy elevating the face mask to high fashion, some masks are eloquently sequined, some exquisitely patterned, others are flanked with the Gucci logo or contain interwoven floral displays. Ultimately, the ‘Gram has produced a fashion world that is conscious of coronavirus, and it is quite remarkable.

I was pleased to see FN news bring to light independent designers;

 “In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic fallout, the businesses of young, emerging and independent designers and retailers are likely to be the most vulnerable. In Supporting Independents, FN will spotlight these creatives to learn how they are adjusting to a new way of working and living.” 

Thus, media outlets such as FN news deserve credit for portraying the hardship felt by fashion designers. Large companies like H&M and Burberry show little signs that they will continue following methods of sustainability during these times.

However, designers such as Casey Dworkin, the creative director and founder of Sylven New York, have been spotlighted by the media, and due to this her quest for more sustainability in fashion has gained momentum and recognition. It is the humble, not the powerful, who thrive on for the Earth in a pandemic.

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