As people have had the limbs suspended of their own economic security, is it safe to say that what could arise from this crisis is a total re-alignment of the fundamental principles woven into the fabric of the fashion industry? Let’s hope this is not just a utopian fantasy, yet even if this were to be true; at what cost would this occur under? Again, it is the vulnerable, underpaid and overworked players across the industry who are suffering under the weight of socio-economic and frankly, racist ideologies. It reeks of the privilege of health care, fair pay and wealth distribution; a glaring reality that we are living in a world masqueraded by an extremely intricate and insidious neo-colonial legacy.
With an annual revenue of $2.5trillion and contributing to 10% of the global economy, what occurs in the months to come will have a drastic impact upon those within and intersecting the fashion industry. According to The State of Fashion 2020 there is expected to be a 30% drop in this revenue in the year to come; and picking up again up by a mere 2 – 4 percent of positive growth in 2021 and thereafter. It will be a slow return, if any, to a world in which consumptive behaviour can regain its previous strength. Individually and collectively, and beyond financially; we have a long period of recovery to enter.
It is our deepest hope at Luxiders Magazine that within this uncertainty, we find the gusto to charge forth with sustainably minded contingency plans; and that fair restructuring is asserted upon an industry in which human collaboration is still the nexus of its ingenuity. Speaking to fellows in the industry, we have garnered much excitement for the future; as many believe we needed to come to a halt in order to seed the practical intentions for the future. While this may seem a subdued response to such a crisis, it is also somewhat true; how else could the belly of the beast been exposed?
Trend analytics suggest that digital connection and sustainable principles such as reusing, upcycling and mending are gaining traction during lockdown; this would indicate a shift in consumer behaviour, which demands a response for the conglomerates at stake. A little birdy told us that Fashion Nova (or rather, fashion Never!) put out an 80% sale across their site in the last week…despite having halted payment for their manufacturers. This one example of a myriad of companies, some with “eco collection” who halted their payments when lockdowns were implemented. This display of arrogance and offensive strategies can no longer be tolerated, and such distasteful moves will be noted by the public; even if a few buy into it still.
Proposing season-less design, rethinking fashion week operations and a return to purpose-driven economics are some ideas noted by the report by Business of Fashion and McKinsey. These are fantastic notions and these are already taking place. One only has to look at the MA graduate collections at Central Saint Martins to know that trends are decidedly uncool; or perhaps Helsinki Fashion Week pioneering an entirely eco-friendly & sustainable fashion week for the last few years. Among indigenous communities, “sustainability” is simply a way of life; and these communities are the guardians of this knowledge. It is crucial that we are humbly shown the way through this by those who have guarded the sacred bond between humans and the Earth.
Going back to core values such as the respect for craft, the necessity of collaboration and the antidote of connection will prove a challenge. Mainstream fashion is designed to favour the few beyond immeasurable clout while subjugating the very hands behind the garments and accessories. Just like with a viral pandemic in which those who can afford to hoard food and medical supplies, so it may very well be the wealthy who endure this period ahead. Maybe not though – because just maybe, we can stand the test of time and come out of this resolved in our energy as a collective. It is truly time to rewrite the narrative, and it takes everyone in the industry to move beyond divisive, individualistic motives; as sustainability is not a trend, it is a solution; and it is here to stay.
+ Words: Holly Beaton
Holly Bell Beaton is a writer and stylist with a passion for the intersection between biology, technology and design. Raised in Cape Town and of Swedish heritage, her travels across the world have encouraged and informed a global perspective regarding the future of fashion and its relationship to planetary health. She is currently working for a sustainable fashion label in Cape Town, South Africa.
Follow her on Instagram: Holly Beaton