What impact has the Covid-19 pandemic had on sustainable fashion?
Like so much else, the Covid-19 pandemic has hit the fashion world hard, from our high streets to global garment factories. And ever since stay-at-home life became the norm, the industry’s sustainability problems have become more glaringly obvious.
But there’s a glimmer of a greener future, if brands seize this period as an opportunity to shake up their practices. We take a look into where sustainable fashion is at right now and where it might be heading.
Of course, lots of us have been shouting about how fashion needs to change its ways for a long time. The industry’s gigantic carbon footprint is no secret, after all. But voices have become louder since the start of the pandemic, which has put a spotlight on ways fashion harms people and the planet.
News of mounting piles of surplus stock from unsold spring collections made us question consumption. We saw how undervalued and underpaid garment workers are, as major fashion brands chose not to pay suppliers for cancelled orders. And lockdown life generally got us thinking about the impact of our lifestyles on the natural world too.
All this explains why a post-Covid survey by McKinsey found 65% of respondents are planning to buy more durable fashion items. And 71% are planning to keep what they have for longer too. The way we shop is changing and not just because browsing high street stores has been a no-go.
We’re also turning to second-hand and rental apps over buying brand new more and more – a trend that was already growing before the pandemic but has only accelerated since. US-based app thredUp reported that the resale industry, already worth $20 billion, is expected to double in size by 2022.
So shoppers want to make sustainable choices. But what about the industry? Well, in some ways, it inched towards a greener future in 2020.
Take the virtual fashion weeks. Covid restrictions were the reason IRL events moved online but there was a sustainable upside too. Just imagine the air miles saved by people joining in from home, rather than jetting from New York to London, Milan and Paris, as many industry figures would have done.
And then there’s the sustainable innovations we’ve seen in the last year. More major brands seem to be paying attention to the conversation and introducing sustainable methods and materials. Like Adidas and their ‘Clean Classics’ trainers made of fully recyclable material and Selfridge’s repair and resale scheme.
We’ll celebrate the wins for sustainable fashion and want to be hopeful. But let’s be real – we’re still nowhere near pulling the breaks on the fast fashion cycle just yet.
For a start, we have to be wary of greenwashing. Brands are talking the green talk in 2021 because they know it’s what we want to hear. But introducing one sustainable initiative here and there isn’t going to change the industry. We need top-to-toe transformation.
Then there’s the fact that while stalwart high street stores struggle to survive, online fast fashion retailers have actually been thriving over the last year. Some of the most well known of these retailers have reported a jump in sales and increased revenue in 2020.
And let’s not forget how many fast fashion brands either haven’t paid their suppliers for cancelled orders or did so only after pressure from the #PayUp Fashion campaign. There’s still a lot of resistance to creating a sustainable and fair manufacturing process out there.
As a fashion brand, how do we fit in? We’re proud to say we’ve used the last year to prepare a fully sustainable model for producing our swimwear collection.
From choosing sustainable fabrics to promoting fair wages, we’re committed to doing things the right way – for people and the planet. Because style shouldn’t – and doesn’t have to – mean compromising on your values.