There is no doubt we are living in unprecedented times.
The COVID-19 pandemic is having devastating impacts on people and communities, while the planet benefits as we pause and reevaluate earlier mindsets. This pandemic has reinforced our interdependency between people and planet and has shown us that global action is needed in order to meet the basic needs of people while simultaneously caring for our planet. As it alters our day-to-day life, it is also altering the fashion industry.
A current spotlight is on the changes in the $2.5 trillion industry which has taken a serious hit. Founder and editor-in-chief of The Business of Fashion, Imran Amed explained that “the crisis is a catalyst that will shock the industry into change.”
Systemic change in the industry is a call to action for the fashion industry to slow down on mass production and fast fashion, while providing safe and fair working conditions throughout the supply chain. As our current situation unfolds, the change has been hastened as the industry is now forced to focus on how the pandemic is not only affecting manufacturing and sales, but how it is affecting the people who make our clothes and people who wear them.
As the COVID-19 pandemic threatens jobs and business failure in the industry, it “may herald the end of the current high production, fast fashion model and result in fewer, smaller collections from more sustainable chains.” COVID-19 is changing the fashion industry and the planet for good.
The fashion industry is predicting changes as COVID-19 may prompt consumers to encompass more of a conscious mindset in an effort to shop values, while adapting to environmentally and socially responsible purchasing decisions. Focus will shift from fast fashion, a term used to describe trendy clothing that move at warp speed and are sold at a low price point, but have negative social and environmental impacts, to quality, minimalistic basics and classic pieces that offer longevity as an investment in addition to being ethical and sustainable.
Facts of Fast Fashion
- The fast fashion industry produces 1 billion garments annually.
- The fast fashion industry emits 1.2 billion tons of CO2 equivalent per year.
- The fast fashion industry is responsible for producing 20% of global wastewater.
- Production of a batch of textiles uses about 3500 different chemicals.
- 63% of clothes are made from petrochemicals.
- 97% of clothing made is overseas.
- Dangerous and poor working conditions exist for garment workers.
According to EcoWatch, “Fast Fashion is the second dirtiest industry in the world, next to big oil.” That’s a second place that nobody really wants. As conscious consumers, we have the power to change fast fashion, reset old values, refresh the moral code and have sustainable practices become the norm.
Take to Reform
- Avoid impulsive purchases and think upcycled or second-hand first. Before purchasing ask yourself, “Do I need this? Can I purchase this second-hand instead?” Think of it as a purchasing buyerarchy so-to-speak, something like wear or use what you already own, repurpose, swap, thrift, then finally purchase new.
- Choose quality over quantity always. Fast fashion has generated a huge problem in the whole supply chain of how clothing is made and sold resulting in lower quality items that are not meant to last and encourages consumers to keep buying, which has severe negative impacts on the planet.
- Consider the before and afterlife of your purchase, as well as the longevity of an item. Where and how was it made? What happens to it after I no longer need it? How can I extend the life of the item? (Extending the life of any product or item will always help reduce the environmental impact.)
- Buy from companies that do good and are committed to ethical and sustainable practices. Research them, go to their site, check for corporate and social responsibility, where and how their products are made and what type of packaging they use. You can always use websites like Good on You to help you sift through brands or use directories such as the B Lab’s directory for a fashion brand’s transparency. Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance that balance profit and purpose.
Currently, systemic reform in the fashion industry is gaining momentum as a global movement represented by The Fashion Revolution.
With 100 countries around the world, The Fashion Revolution advocates to conserve and restore environmental resources, ecosystems and the value of people advocating for safe working conditions and decent living wages across the supply chain.
The movement began in 2013 after an eight-story commercial building, the Rana Plaza, collapsed in Bangladesh killing over 1100 people and injuring 2500, mostly garment workers, after building owners ignored warnings of structural danger. Since then the call for reform, beginning with that particular disaster, has not only necessitated fair wages in safe working conditions, transparency and accountability for fashion supply chains, but aims to celebrate and value the people and craftsmanship involved in making clothing. Its popular hashtag #whomademyclothes is a mission to “unite everyone in the fashion industry, from the designers, makers, distributors and wearers to work together towards changing the way clothing is sourced, produced and consumed.”
While the planet is enjoying the perks of halted manufacturing, fast fashion has suffered a blow by the ongoing pandemic. However, the setback has reinforced the need for change in the industry to work toward a better future post-Coronavirus. Environmental and ethical improvements are underway for the unsustainable system of Fast Fashion. As the Coronavirus Pandemic is changing the way we live and accelerating awareness for the greater good, let’s keep in mind that we are the most important catalyst for change.
Lead image: Photo by Pham Yen