COVID-19 has affected each and everyone of us this year, whether on a political, socio-economical or personal level. It was a year that showed us more than ever that the world we live in is not sustainable and considerable changes are needed. It was a time of self-reflection and re-evaluation. How did Covid-19 affect fast fashion and did it manage to eventually turn this industry around?
The impact of COVID-19 on the fashion industry
The first lockdown regulations had a big impact on the fashion industry, with many people staying at home and many brands having to close their stores.
Especially with customers not attending events, this ultimately affected their purchasing decisions and the sales of retailers and fashion companies.
In Germany, fashion brands were losing 1.5 billion euros per day and in the UK clothing and footwear spend by 40% this year compared to 2019.
One might think that online shopping must have been booming around this time, but in fact it only increased by 22% (compared to 2016), which is lower than expected. This left the fashion industry in an inventory crisis.
This crisis had a big impact on brands, but even more on the supply chain and workers involved, revealing more than ever it's unhealthy structure.
In the fashion Industry, payments for suppliers, factories and the workers involved, are often done much later after the order is placed and fulfilled.
In March 2020, global brands refused to pay for an estimated 40 billion dollar worth of goods that garment workers had spent hours sewing.
This led to 70 million garment workers being laid off globally without being paid, sending them to one of the greatest economic crises ever seen.
A report by the International Labour Organisation shows that almost one in two garment workers in the Asia Pacific regions live in a country that has closed all but “essential” workplaces. Not only do these workers already work in exploitative conditions, but don’t even have or are offered a safety blanket in such situations.
Fortunately, movements such as the #PayUp works to demand the payments of companies, the right of garment workers.
This is not only the case in Asia Pacific, but also in Europe. In the UK more than 10,000 textile workers are estimated to be working for less than half the national minimum wage. An undercover Sunday Times investigation found that workers in Leicester who were making clothes for fashion giants such as Boohoo, were being paid as little as £3.50 an hour.
Once again revealing the exploitative nature of the fast fashion industry. It seems however, that even with customers and fashion giants facing a mixed year, there is a slowly v-shape recovery to be seen.
How consumers are dealing with the situation:
COVID-19 and the fact that most of us were staying at home more than ever this year also changed the way we viewed and desired shopping.
Consumers seem to have been becoming more aware of their shopping choices and their impact they have when purchasing.
A survey by Mckinsey showed that two-thirds of surveyed consumers state that it has become even more important for them to limit impacts on climate change. Additionally, consumers want fashion companies to uphold their social and environmental responsibility, especially in the crisis The survey also showed that 78% of consumers considered the use of sustainable materials to be an important purchasing factor, as well as expecting brands to take care of their employees, as well as workers in Asia, during the COVID-19 crisis.
This shows that perhaps this might be the time not to question when fast fashion will recover, but how and if it can change in a way that allows fora sustainable future. Also, how do we as consumers, with our knowledge of its economic and ethical failing, want to contribute to this system with our buying choices?
How does Kleiderly contribute?
At Kleidery, we made it our mission to reduce word's fashion footprint by recycling unwanted clothes or overproduction, which would otherwise end up in landfill or incinerators. Especially, in times of COVID-19 we see that innovative solutions are needed to deal with inventory and the overload of clothes. This is the vision Kleiderly has.