There's been a conversation bubbling to the surface for weeks now: what does Covid-19 mean for sustainability? Will businesses be so gripped by their losses that they will be making cuts, without the "luxury" to focus on sustainability? The truth is that none of us know - we can only hypothesise for what that means for the fashion industry specifically.
For those who used sustainability messages as a marketing ploy (or, greenwashing), this is unlikely to last as marketing budgets are either cut during budget re-forecasting, or reallocated to hygiene & safety in a post-Covid-19 world. Where every penny counts following months of catastrophic losses, are the huge brands that account to investors and shareholders willing to pay more for a sustainable material? We hope so, but sadly aren't convinced.
The good news though is that we think it will be different for the brands who genuinely hold sustainability at the core of their brand and ethos, who will continue to do so. Perhaps they were one step ahead? By focusing on the quality and provenance of their product and supply-chain rather than being solely P&L focussed, they will stand sturdy and in tact. When the doors to their studios and stores reopen, they can start the engine to their well-considered supply chain, with increased thought for how fragile the industry at large is.
Materials aside, what we do know is that supply chains are likely to change. This sweeping global pandemic has shown us that fashion's supply chain is broken. The fast fashion brands of the West had been propping up economies in countries including Bangladesh, Cambodia and Turkey, only to let them mercilessly crash down with tonnes (literally!) of manufactured clothing which they won't be paid for. Garment workers in these countries don't benefit from Government grants or wage support packages. The factory owners themselves may become scapegoats but it's hardly their fault as their orders fell through the floor overnight. It's a devastating reality that the same people that made the Zara blouses or Topshop jeans do not have food to feed their children.
This leads us on to customer behaviour. There's undoubtedly been an impact on humans over the last six weeks - we've had time to think about the way the world operates, and our role within it. We are reminded of the cascading effects of our own personal decisions - not just from a 'stay at home; save lives' perspective but beyond that with regards to our planet and its people. We hope that this level of consideration can be protected and nurtured to help the general public to see why it's worth investing in sustainable fashion pieces and moving away from throwaway culture.
So back to the original question - what might fashion look like in a post-Covid-19 world? Optimistically, we see the enormous footprints of fast fashion brands shrinking - fewer on our high streets and in shopping centres for sure. Will this create more space for the small independent brands that have managed to weather the storm? We think it might just.