The year 2020 brought with it a well of emotions for my friends and me. We raised our glasses to new experiences, opportunities, and learnings in the new year and the upcoming decade. Joke’s on us, I doubt any of us had a clue about these “new experiences, opportunities and learnings”. This also would’ve been an ideal moment for someone to hit us with a “careful what you wish for”!
Sitting at home, glued to my phone - I came across a meme that made me wonder about this royal continuing prank that we as humans have played on ourselves. The meme initially made me laugh and then struck me with a wave of nerves, it went something like this—“2020 in five words - Your free trial has expired”. I felt as if a wrecking ball had just me, it was time for us to pay, and in more ways than one.
Five months into Coronavirus and almost three months into lockdown, my shopping wish-list went from summery tops and cute bottoms to masks and hand sanitisers. I am now buying what I need, and it seems - I’m not the only one. Thinking about the shift in my purchases, I began to spiral - which made me think about an industry so close to my heart yet one that is not only responsible for almost 10% of the world’s CO2 emissions but is also the world’s second-worst offender of water pollution. The fashion industry.
Cracks within the seams
What is apparent now is that Coronavirus has brought to the fore the many flaws of the industry. Various business models seem to be on the brink of collapse as we eye the post-pandemic life. According to Forbes, a huge chunk of the fashion industry is based on guesswork, where brands mass produce without any prior customer feedback—hoping that when the stocks hit the stores, the customers will like it. This causes the industry to overproduce up to a whopping 40% every season. Which is not only a waste of resources, but also supremely damaging to our planet. Sounds insane, right? Here's something else—according to BOF and McKinsey & Company, the Darwinian Shakeout is inevitable—80% of fashion companies will be under great distress due to the closure of their shops for over two months. The situation in my head plays out like a satirical misdemeanour. The young and woke companies that are shifting towards sustainability and zero-waste will be the first to collapse, as opposed to the quintessential retail behemoths with their seasonal releases and deep pockets.
What are brands without their audiences? The fast-fashion industry thrives on two things, 1. the impulses of its consumers, and 2. providing affordable alternatives to luxury designs. As we click yet another ‘proceed to checkout’ because “it’s been a while”, the score once again goes to the fast-fashion brands and companies. Now, I’m not going to dwell too much into how I feel about fast fashion, all I’m going to say is that there was a time when most people (my friends and I included) in Delhi could easily have a dog tag around their necks that said: “brought to you by Zara/HnM” and it would be totally justified. As these brands churn out new stocks every couple of weeks, the fast-fashion industry plays tricks on our whims and fancies. But they’re not the only ones to blame. While many of us celebrate the occasional up-cycling of clothes (vintage, pre-owned etc.), our post-pandemic life also needs us to be frugal and more abstinent from our needs. We often talk about going sustainable and investing in quality pieces every now and then, but there’s no time like now to introduce the concept of Slow Fashion into our lives. With wasted stock and dated styles, the CEO of Business of Fashion, Imran Ahmed says “the situation would require lateral thinking and creativity” from fashion business owners.
When the dust settles, our new normal needs to see better, more sensible messaging from across companies, says Luxury Advisor Mario Ortelli to the South China Morning Post. Other business wings such as Marketing need to follow suit, where the greater chunk of money needs to be invested in Digital Advertising, as opposed to print. While there are many renowned brands internationally and locally that are going digital flawlessly such as the Nike NTC and NRC apps, Zomato/Swiggy, sssmagazine, The Swaddle, WIP, etc there are many who need to catch up. No doubt a major rewiring and innovation are on the cards for the big industry players. “The consumers are now paying attention!” says Aditi Mayer, the Sustainable Fashion Advocate and Journalist to The Guardian. The environment is steadfastly catching up with the threadbare ways of promotion, advertising, production and sales, which means reducing our carbon footprint has now become imperative. While progress is still being made with the Shanghai Fashion Week going online in March, other fashion federations around the world must see digital as the inevitable next step.
Ultimately, post CoVid-19, the industry needs disruptors to shake things up, and most fashion brands will have to look into the “why” behind each collection and the impact they have on the planet. Production needs to be brought down to the required amount and communication needs to be more mindful. The planet shouldn’t be taken for granted and the power of digital needn’t be undermined. And while we introspect, let’s raise another one for 2021, where we try again next year.
HOT OR NOT SCALE
The demand and supply chain - EEKS 🆘🆘🆘
Fast fashion - EEKS 🆘🆘🆘
Upcycling - HOT 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥
Impulse shopping - OOPS 🆘
Digital - LOVE IT 🔥🔥🔥