The fashion industry has endured a solid hit due to the COVID-19 crisis. If one goes to any fashion brand’s website for shopping, the delays and effects of the pandemic are evident, it has impacted shipping, production, and launch of new collections by the brands, to name a few. However, consumers feel it is safer to shop online than to visit a store according to a Boston Consulting Group (BCG) consumer sentiment survey. The graph below shows the expected impact of the pandemic on worldwide fashion and luxury sales in 2020.
Source: Preuss, S. (2020) How Sustainability can save the fashion industry after COVID 19, Fashion United.
Consumers are expected to change their spending patterns. Many anticipate saving more (29%) and spending less on fashion and luxury goods (–27%). See Exhibit 2. According to a BCG Covid-19 consumer sentiment survey of almost 6,000 consumers in the US, UK, Germany, Italy, and China, consumers indicated that they favourably viewed brands that paid their furloughed employees, repurposed facilities to produce personal protective equipment (PPE, or donated to their communities.
The Big Players
We have a few captains sailing on the ship of sustainable fashion, one of them is Levi’s. The brand has made strong commitments to sustainable denim production, including reducing their water use. By 2020, they aimed to make 80 per cent of their products using the Water<Less™ technique. Another one is Eileen Fisher, they are committed to using organic, recycled and sustainable fibres. They also support clean air, water, and a healthy environment for workers and wildlife. Mara Hoffman, for the sourcing of their designs, prioritizes natural, recycled, and organic fibres and does not use any fur, leather, mulesed sheep wool or feathers. 100% of their swimwear is produced using recycled nylon or recycled polyester. Brands like Rag & Bone, Noah are also included in this captaincy.
We have a few emerging designers who will join this captaincy in the next few years. Ali Golden, an independent women's clothing brand based in Oakland, California insists on maintaining the highest possible standards of ethics and sustainability with growth. Kelsey Rendall, made-to-measure handcrafted luxury womenswear based in Brooklyn designs with a strong dedication to ethical fashion. Initially, Kelsey had two collections a year and now she launches just one. She firmly supports ethical manufacturing and sustainability and does not want to damage the environment. What is most inspiring, is that today numerous emerging designers want to bring about a change in this sector as they have realized how the apparel industry pollutes the environment. Many believe in designing unconventional collections that can be worn again. These designers' creations will gain more momentum in the future.
What are the Experts Saying?
“The metrics we use to measure the health of our businesses should also include the health of our planet. All of us have to double-down on sustainability, reducing environmental impact and increasing social justice” explains Rick Ridgeway, Vice President of public engagement at Patagonia. Brands just beginning in the field of sustainability must utilize this moment to change to create competitive advantage. The leaders should keep on being good examples as their vision and actions will accelerate change in the industry.
“Both our current and future customer base is calling for more sustainable choices in fashion. Nine out of ten Generation Z consumers believe companies have a responsibility to address environmental and social issues. By committing to sustainability, we can secure our long-term growth, stay relevant to our customers, and establish market-leading differentiation against our competitors,” states Kate Heiny, sustainability director at Zalando SE.
Preuss, S. (May 12, 2020) How Sustainability can save the fashion industry after COVID 19, Fashion United. Available at: https://fashionunited.com/news/fashion/study-how-sustainability-can-save-the-fashion-industry-after-covid-19/2020051233506, Accessed on: 16 September 2020
Koslow, L. and Lee, J. (March 17, 2020) COVID 19 Consumer Sentiment Snapshot #1: Setting the Baseline, Boston Consulting Group. Available at: https://www.bcg.com/en-in/publications/2020/covid-consumer-sentiment-survey. Accessed on: 16 September 2020
Riva, A. (June 24, 2020) Expert Q&A: How will COVID 19 Impact Fashion and Luxury Companies?, Aptos. Available at: https://www.aptos.com/expert-qa-how-will-covid-19-impact-fashion-and-luxury-companies/. Accessed on: 16 September 2020