What impact has Covid-19 had on the fashion industry?

07 May 2021

What impact has Covid-19 had on the fashion industry?

What impact has Covid-19 had on the fashion industry?

From making the switch to vegan shoes to the rise of online shopping, the pandemic has certainly shaken up the sustainability of the fashion industry.


It’s bizarre to think that we have now lived through over a year of a global pandemic. It has affected our lives in more ways than we ever could have expected. Today we’re exploring what really changed in the fashion world due to Covid-19.


Dramatic changes occurred when the pandemic first took hold. According to the World Economic Forum, “in the United States, clothing sales fell by 89% in April [2020] from the same month in 2019” and similarly sales were down 50% in Britain over the same time period. This quick and dramatic reduction in consumption across the US and the UK can be seen as an example of what is going on around the world.


Interestingly though, it is clear Covid-19 has created an opening for fashion brands to rethink the path they have taken so far and adopt a more conscious strategy. This of course includes reducing their impact on the environment - starting by repurposing the huge volumes of excess stock created by the Covid crisis - and making eco-friendly business a way of life.

As Lockdown closed physical fashion stores, brands were ‘forced’ to join the digital world and find new ways to create customer experiences and build relationships. These digital developments will continue to aid them even as their physical stores re-open. The increased digitalisation also allowed brands to discover new opportunities for their products, from design to end-of-life. Some of these changes are now helping to tackle the environmental costs of fashion, such as by using virtual trying on and 3D technology to minimise fabric waste.


With consumers increasingly caring more about how they impact the planet, fashion brands must continue to draw upon this opportunity to put ethics and sustainability at their forefront.


The effects for garment workers


When the pandemic first took hold, as physical fashion stores closed their doors, their workers were forced to go on furlough. Supply chain workers faced even more uncertainty. The Covid situation for supply chain workers highlighted fundamental changes that are needed within the fashion industry, as many workers are exploited. However, it is becoming less acceptable to turn a blind eye to social responsibility.

The payment for suppliers within the fashion world is usually completed a considerable amount of time after the order is made. Economically, this meant during the pandemic that supply chains were facing losses in their billions as fashion brands around the world cancelled countless orders. Across much of the Asian Pacific, where the majority of fast fashion is produced, garment workers were heavily impacted in devastating ways.


It is thanks to campaigns such as #PayUp that awareness was raised and some brands finally paid for the pre-pandemic items, but not all brands made this pledge. In this instance the pandemic offered consumers a chance to think twice about where their clothes were coming from, to see if the brand was acting ethically, and if they were being transparent about what they were doing to help their workers. It opened up new conversations about the power you have as a consumer to force positive change to come about, simply by choosing ethical fashion.


Time to shop sustainably


To give some perspective, on average it takes 2700 litres of water to make one t-shirt, which is enough drinking water to sustain one person for three years. When you consider this in the mist of fast fashion, it’s not hard to see how problematic an unsustainable fashion world can be.


Although, it is no secret the rise of citizen’s awareness of the costs of fast fashion had already started to take effect well before Covid-19. Interestingly, it seems the extra time spent at home may have increased the number of consumers opting for more sustainable fashion choices. As physical stores closed their doors, many purchasers’ habits were turned upside down, forcing people to stop and think. It seems the pandemic could have created the perfect environment for a shake-up of consuming behaviour.

As the ONS reports, although the overall trend of clothing sales in the UK has seen recovery since the pandemic took hold, “they remain 41.5% below the level in February 2020 before the pandemic began”. Even as online shopping soared, it wasn’t enough to keep up with the pre-pandemic consumption levels. When you consider that a sustainable lifestyle is one to feel good about, you can understand people shopping with what they needin mind, rather than what they want. Ethical fashion brands are leading the way to a better future, offering products such as shoes made from recycled plastic bottles, pesticide-free organic cotton and even cork trees.


By reducing consumption, extending the life of your current wardrobe, and making critical choices about the social and environmental footprint of your fashion wardrobe, you will be on the path to sustainable fashion.


Grounded in an ethical, vegan philosophy, we take social responsibility and transparency seriously. Here at Nae, we action environmental sustainability throughout every aspect of our brand, to bring you feel-good vegan shoes and vegan accessories.

Have a healthy day.


The NAE Team


Madeleine Bird

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