The fast fashion industry, post-covid: what’s in store?

read | December 3, 2020

In the last decade, there has been a trend towards healthier habits. People are more concerned with eating well, taking care of their bodies, looking after their mental health, and following an eco-friendly consumer lifestyle. In fact, research shows that millennials in particular, are the largest group interested in sustainable development goals. But what’s going to happen to the fashion industry, particular fast fashion, post-covid?

Despite the increasing interest in conscious and ethical shopping, many of us still buy fast fashion. The fast fashion industry is detrimental to the environment because we don’t see its impact; it’s not always evident and does not affect us directly.

There is hardly any transparency about where our clothes come from, unless we take the time to find out what goes on behind the making of the clothes. Issues such as exploited factory staff in developing countries working overtime on minimum wage, unsold seasonal clothes ending up in landfills, violation of animal rights, and destruction of the marine ecosystems are the main concerns.

There has been some movement towards a more ethical way to produce and consume, with many sustainable and circular brands popping up to explain that a circular economy (creating new products out of waste materials) is the answer.

But this has been a slow process, because society tells us that retail therapy helps us. That we need to consume the latest trends in order to feel happy. That we need to be fashionable to stay relevant. 

How did COVID affect the fast fashion industry?

The world collectively dealt with a common enemy, resulting in a similar lifestyle and state of mind around the globe. Almost everyone was quarantined at home, stores shut down for months, and no one cared about buying the latest product. During these challenging times, many of us realised that we don’t need to consume so much, and that we might, in fact, own too many useless things. Covid also opened our eyes to the inequalities in our society, and shed some light on the hard-working people behind the scenes.

Even better, we realised that without our interference, nature regenerates itself faster, the air is purer, the ocean is cleaner, and the animals are happier. In that sense, perhaps the coronavirus pandemic is a blessing in disguise for the climate crisis we are facing today.

The fast fashion industry took a huge hit during this time. Some well-known brands are closing down permanently, while others simply decided to stop production. However, in that process, they also stopped paying their workers in developing countries, the same workers who live paycheck to paycheck and depend heavily on their salaries. 

The COVID pandemic is paving the way to a more sustainable world.

Covid opened our eyes to the way that consumerism and the linear economy affects us and our environment. The linear economy is the way we have been operating since the industrial revolution, perhaps even before then: produce, consume, discard. And this can no longer go on. Purchasing fast fashion products means that we are contributing to a society that, in turn, contributes to climate change and humanitarian issues, just to buy products that we would throw away after a few uses. And this does not only apply to clothes or shoes.

Have people stopped shopping? No. Now that many countries are reopening, malls and stores are welcoming customers back. And despite having to wait in line before being able to enter the shop, people are willing and eager to go back to their old shopping habits. But there is hope.

We can’t stop anyone from being consumers, nor do we want to. What we need is to put an end to our current purchasing habits, and consume consciously. There’s no denying that we need certain things, like clothes, home furniture, shoes, etc. By adopting a circular lifestyle and only purchasing products that are made out of waste materials, and created ethically from brands that provide fair wages in safe working conditions, we are helping to protect the earth’s resources and take a positive step towards tackling humanitarian issues.

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