Thursday 22, Oct 2020, Delhi (India)
While 2019 was labeled as the "Year of Sustainable Fashion”, four months into the new decade and COVID-19 is transforming the entire definition of the fashion world in 2020 in crafting a new future of fashion. This doesn’t indicate that the fashion designer needs to shelve their sustainable fashion commitments, in fact, it’s time for the fashion industry to reflect on their processes, as well as the impact it does on the consumers and the planet. With creative projects slowing down as a result of the pandemic, it is essential than ever for famous fashion designers to adapt to the scenario and consider ways to change the definition of fashion post COVID, as well as looking at sustainability as a medium for this transformation. Right now the world has come to a standstill, but having less to work can ultimately drive creativity, as brands are unable to travel overseas for major campaigns due to lockdown, they may move from the glossy fast fashion culture to sustainability. This fashion blog is all about sustainable fashion and consumer's behavior post COVID 19 and the lockdown.
After looking at the consequences of COVID-19 most of us would agree with the fact that our modern society has to develop in more sustainable ways. From recycling and upcycling to wearing second hand's each of these practices in everyday life can save the Earth from a lot of dump. As quality has always been a part of the Indian culture, repeating of quality garments and using a fashion piece for a long time is the key to contributing towards sustainable fashion.
Sustainability as a process includes how we produce and consume garments, shoes, accessories, and other textiles. Before the outbreak, almost all major clothing brands were working in progress in the area of promoting sustainable fashion.
Sustainable fashion is a highly debatable topic today, there are several forms of sustainable fashion. It is partly about producing clothes, shoes, and accessories in environmentally and socio-economically sustainable manners like paying fair wages to workers and providing them with a good quality working environment, and also about more sustainable patterns of consumption, which necessitate shifts in individual attitudes and behavior-changing the way they perceive the future of fashion. After the collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh in 2013, the incident which killed thousands of factory workers, the fashion world’s interest in sustainable as well as ethical fashion has grown phenomenally.
Since the Bangladesh factory incident, several organizations looked out to educate and brief consumers about the impacts the fashion industry has on the environment and encouraged the consumers to opt for better fashion choices.
Before COVID-19 sustainability in fashion was at its peak, by then people understood that sustainable fashion is not just about wearing organic clothes, it has to be a way of life. Sustainability was an act of conscious living, “bigger is better” was no more encouraged by the consumers. In 2019 the wildfires raging in California, Russia, Brazil, and Australia was a warning about the climate crisis, which alerted the consumers to shop Sustainably. Last year sustainable fashion was on the fashion industry's agenda, for many fashion brands and famous fashion designers it was the year of awakening, fashion woke up to sustainability in 2019, many fashion blogs reflected well on the topic and did their bit to spread awareness. There was even a series launched ‘Get Your Greens’ to coincide with Earth Day 2019. Greta Thunberg, the Swedish schoolgirl became the representative of youth, and led to a revolution by stating "you are never too small to make a difference". Further Fashion Revolution announced that it too is declaring a climate emergency, fashion brands like H&M, Gap, Burberry, Levi's, and Kering all pledged a target of 30 percent greenhouse gas emission reductions by 2030 to contribute to a better future of fashion.
Many fashion blogs declare that the fashion industry accounts for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions, and around 20% of wastewater. The fashion industry inhales more energy than both shipping and aviation combined. Sustainable fashion can be a one in all solution to reduce all the harmful impacts the industry is causing to the environment over the years. It is a perfect alternative to fast fashion, Sustainability in fashion acts as the closest possible alternative that substitutes a more fulfilling lifestyle choice. It significantly lowers our impact on the environment, as under sustainable fashion we possess only that we use and we use all that we possess. Along with this, the other major factor is that eco-friendly fabrics and accessories last for a very long time. Organic materials keep on getting better with time and don't need to be disposed of soon, which further creates less waste and prevents the disposed of garments to end up into the dumping grounds and add up to the pile of waste. Opting for sustainable fashion can also be seen as a ripple in the massive ocean of waste reduction.
Fashion world's annual transparency scorecard comes at a timely moment this year since the COVID-19 pandemic has paused the entire world, consumers and designers both are taking time to re-evaluate their actual needs and plan not to return to this fast fashion buying and creating culture. Many fashion designers and fashion brands are looking for ways to a slower production along with focusing on sustainable fashion in the near future.
⁃ The fashion world will be moving from showrooms to digitally produced campaigns, this shift to digital will save buyers from traveling and reduce waste.
⁃ The consumption of fast fashion will experience a much-needed slowdown post-COVID and sustainable fashion brands will emerge the strongest in the long run.
⁃ Consumers by then will be adapted by living with less which will further make the designers push capsule wardrobes, focusing on the concept of ‘buy less, buy better.’
⁃ Sustainable and non-toxic fibers will be in demand as health will continue to be a top priority.
⁃ Holidaying will be local once the lockdown is over, and the consumer will look to natural and biodegradable fabrics.
⁃ Fashionable masks will be trending, consumers would be looking for the ones made from 100% organic.
In the last few years, fast fashion has taken over the entire fashion world and left carnage in its path. The fashion brands have been blamed for underpaying and overworking of their employees in factory settings. Ethical fashion is something just opposite to this, it covers issues such as working conditions, exploitation, fair trade, sustainable production, the environment, and animal welfare. Ethical fashion majorly refers to the treatment of people in the stages of raw material, processing, and manufacturing. Ethical and sustainable fashion go hand in hand, to encourage sustainable fashion, the most important thing is to operate ethically with the factory workers, following are the things one must keep in mind-
Minimum age of employment
Terms and conditions for employees: rates of pay, working hours, health and safety
No discrimination, harsh or inhumane treatment
As lockdown continues, staying home is transforming people's psychology towards fashion, be it the consumer or the fashion designer they are utilizing this time to think about new projects and the future, which will be tough, but obviously there will be a future. In the future what the industry and designers can see is that fashion won't be about quantity anymore, but quality. Earlier it was all about quantity, the quantity of production, the number of shows, the number of samples, hence the quality wasn't taken much into consideration. This slowdown has made the big fashion brands realize that so much production isn't necessary at all. Until the time there is no vaccination for COVID, it can bounce back any moment, it's challenging. The world is considering this virus as a sign from the planet, which we have ruined, and this can lead to the end of fast fashion.
The lockdown has changed the dynamics of the fashion industry. People are locked in their homes and looking for ways to respond, maybe this is the time when new normal will step in. In this unprecedented time, people don't know what is going to happen in the future, if things will ever go back to normal. The world considers this virus as a warning by the Mother Nature, and this thought has made them a little more mindful about living a sustainable life, it is speculated that even if sustainable fashion is a little expensive than fast fashion, the consumers will still consider it above the fast fashion. The world is all set to give more importance to quality over quantity. The consumer's perspective towards sustainable fashion has completely transformed and this will lead to a rise in sustainability.
The World Health Organisation is urging the people to wear masks made of layers or breathable fabric, whenever in public, as it becomes mainstream, the fashion world takes it as an opportunity. The luxury fashion brands and goods manufacturers like Prada, LVMH, Kering, and Lamborghini are sewing masks for the medical community and European relief efforts. The famous fashion designers are selling to consumers, turning the new necessity into a form of self-expression. Designers are coming up with sustainable face masks, in India, the Chief Minister of UP has declared the manufacturing of 66 crore khadi masks which are sustainable in nature to be distributed as a measure against the spread of COVID-19.
The masks are made out of Indian handspun natural fiber khadi, these cotton masks are sustainable, they are washable, and would be distributed free of cost by the Indian government among the underprivileged, or sold to others at a nominal price. Used as a symbol of independence by Mahatma Gandhi to fighting the battle of COVID-19 today khadi fabric has seen tremendous growth and more people are looking forward to adopting it as a part of the ecologically sound lifestyle. According to a statement issued by the KVIC, Khadi production has increased by 145% in the country in the last five years, and now the making of masks by this fabric will be a major step in globalizing it.
From Zara to H&M fashion brands in the past have tried working towards a more sustainable future, which includes cutting carbon emissions and utilizing recycled textiles.
Now that the world has seen the deadly impact of the virus, they consider it to be a signal by the Mother Nature, the ethical, as well as environmental issues coming with fast fashion, are no secret. Before the COVID the world was consuming in excess of 100 billion pieces of clothing a year, as a whole, the fashion industry was responsible for 92 million tons of waste dumped in landfills every year. But post-COVID the retailers will start to increase their efforts to address the problems. Zara in the past announced a new series of sustainability initiatives, including the goal for 100% of its cotton, linen, and polyester to be sustainable by 2025, the fashion brand, will thus be able to come out with new initiatives to move from fast fashion to sustainability. In the same way, H&M is the second major fashion brand which earlier tried working towards a more sustainable model. Now the brand will somewhere try to go for sustainability as a journey. Fashion brands would be promoting the concept of recycling and upcycling.
The world is stepping back witnessing a global pandemic, which has made us take a different viewpoint on what is unfolding to spur us on towards a better and brighter future.
Over the last seventy years, we have become habitual to a life of convenience, every year industries multiply to support our ever-changing and unfulfilled lifestyle demands. The fashion industry is taking the outbreak as a lesson, learned the hard way, although we are unsure as to what lies ahead. This unprecedented situation may have brought many businesses to a halt, but it is the time that the industry and consumers both reflect and rebuild a sustainable future for the fashion world.
What do you think, can this pandemic spark a permanent shift from fast fashion to sustainable fashion in the future?
I Knock Fashion would love to hear back from you, do let us know in the comment section about your views on the same.