A topic I have been wrestling with during lockdown is clothing consumption. Our relationship with clothes, our choices and how we consume is all changing. Whilst clothing brands have shut up shop, the temptation for spontaneous buys and “oh but I will get so much wear out of it” purchases has been taken away. Of course, we still have online shopping at our fingertips, but surely consumers are thinking twice before ordering that second set of satin pyjamas, right?! (an ‘essential item’ hmmm questionable). These times really do make you appreciate what you have and value the essentials that we once took for granted, so surely this will alter shopping habits going forward.
When it comes to our wardrobes, let’s be real – we have enough clothes to last years if we never stepped foot in a shop again. Although, clothes are a creative outlet and form of expression and joy for many so I would never expect shopping to stop entirely. However, I do wonder what impact this crisis will have on consumerism, in particular fast fashion consumers.
It’s impossible to ignore the headlines showing the impact COVID 19 is having on the fashion supply chain. From the cancellation of RTW shows to the closure of stores and resulting loss of sales. All sectors are being hit. One of the most harrowing news stories being the devastating impact on Bangladesh factories and their workers. These businesses rely on order payments from large brands to cover the costs of their raw materials for production. Many of these brands are refusing to pay for pre-existing orders, resulting in the loss of wages for workers as well as a wider potential impact on the Bangladesh economy which relies heavily on garment exports. Real people are facing real poverty as a result of these brands refusing to pay up. Amidst a world of bad news stories, this one feels like the cherry on the cake.
Amongst these heartbreaking news stories, you have to wonder how these fast fashion brands are planning to operate going forward. These companies make profit on the fast pace nature of the industry and rely on creating copies of high fashion products quickly, at a fraction of the cost. They are also dependent on having a customer with a relentless desire for newness. These brands promote themselves on the basis of having ‘on trend’ products at the cheapest prices (*cough* £1 bikini *cough*). Firstly, many of the usual trends of the season will be non-existent due to the cancellation of runways shows, so how will high street brands design garments if they have nothing to copy? Secondly, unless travel restrictions lift overnight, I don’t think any of us will be on the hunt for a £1 bikini any time soon. Consumer’s priorities are changing, and brands are going to have to change with them.
With events, social gatherings and parties off the agenda, sales of ‘party wear’ will have plummeted. As we stay home, there is less justification for certain clothing purchases, at a time when otherwise many people would be picking their summer wedding frocks. I do wonder what effect this will have on consumer behaviour going forward, once restrictions are lifted. Will this pandemic make fast fashion consumers think twice before their next purchase? Or will they flood back to their old habits once their buying detox is over. Moreover, how will instagram influencers react going forward? I do hope they will think twice about what they promote to their followers at a time like this. Influencers have power and also responsibility right now. They will no doubt have to adjust their content, because of the lack of ‘newness’ in which they so often thrive upon.
These past few months have certainly resulted in a slowdown of the pace at which this sector operates. Whether this will have any longer term impact on these brands in the future, we are yet to see. However I do think these times highlight the fragility of the fashion system and how one section of the chain affects the next and can result in permanent damage. Will the future of fast fashion look very different after this pandemic? At this point, all I can hope is that consumers are acting responsibly and maybe, just maybe shopping habits will change for the better.