A note from our team about COVID-19

Reassessing Fashion’s Pace Is Essential Now

by: Rosie Dalton | 3 months ago | Features

Image: a garment factory in Cambodia. Image source.  

“It’s time to rewire the fashion system,” writes Business of Fashion in its State of Fashion Coronavirus Update. In this special report, BoF illustrates just how fragile fashion is right now and how brands have to slow down in order to survive.

What the coronavirus crisis underscores in particular is the unsustainability of a fast fashion model – as many high street retailers fail to properly manage the situation.

“While it seems obvious that major clothing outlets fit into the nonessential category, many fast fashion brands (including H&M and Zara) were still open for the majority of March, as the pandemic spread across the globe,” Laura Pitcher writes for Teen Vogue. “Retail workers were on the front lines of a global crisis in the middle of growing confirmed numbers of cases. Now, they’re facing mass layoffs.” 

Typically, fast fashion brands pay their suppliers weeks after delivery of finished garments, which means that factories in vulnerable areas have already paid for materials on cancelled orders (amounting to USD$2.81 billion so far). While some brands have attempted to rectify this by reimbursing the material costs, this has happened much too slowly and remains the exception, not the rule. 

What is required now, then, is a dramatic reassessment of fashion’s speed and scale. Put simply, we have been producing too much clothing too quickly for far too long now. Which has forced many brands to face a harsh reality in the face of this global pandemic: a glut in inventory and an increasingly cautious, cash-strapped consumer.

According to BoF, “fashion executives and business leaders are currently focusing on crisis management and contingency planning, but eventually we must shift towards re-imagining our industry altogether.” Especially because “some experts predict that consumer sentiment may never recover to pre-2020 levels as anti-consumerism and economic fallout cast a shadow over global markets.”

As consumers increasingly embrace the slow movement in self-isolation too, chances are that this trend will continue once the dust settles. Which proves that a radical rethinking of fashion’s pace is essential right now.

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