Not so fast fashion?
As fashion retailers’ stock builds up, Charlotte Bend explores the impact of the pandemic on fast fashion and the industry’s future in a post-covid world.
Coronavirus has hit people in different ways. With the mass closure of non-essential shops, many have resorted to online shopping. Whilst some impulse buyers have ordered hauls of cheap clothing from top retail brands, the pandemic has made it clear that clothing overproduction remains a problem in 2020. The fast fashion industry is responsible for contributing to 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions every single year. Therefore, with the sudden increase in cancelled orders due to Covid-19, it seems the perfect time to look into why this industry is having a global impact.
Fast fashion is the term used to describe the rapid production of cheap clothing prescribed by the latest trends led by mass retailers. The global pandemic has affected this industry due to top retailers ordering the production of clothes months before paying for the finished items. But at a cost, it raises concerns of the piling unsold stock and whether it will be destroyed or thrown to landfill. Not only could this have a huge impact on the environment but it is also at the expense of garment workers. Bangladesh has been hit harder than most, with 1 million garment workers being furloughed or dismissed due to a lack of funds. Also being impacted is Los Angeles, although it’s viewed by many as a city where dreams come true – due to its ties with Hollywood – many garment workers are not entitled for unemployment benefit. Whilst retail brands offer financial help to store or office employees, the unseen network of factory workers have received little aid.
As Brits have been forced to shop online for clothing over the past few months, it seems only natural that more customers are investigating second-hand clothing sites.
Although the inevitable cancellation of orders has had a detrimental human and environmental cost, in the long run, it may see a move towards more positive change in the future. Various social media platforms, in particular TikTok, have influenced users to upcycle their own clothes with the extra time lockdown has afforded. Equally, whilst some alter their pre-existing wardrobe, others have taken to Depop, Vinted and eBay to swap and sell items. As Brits have been forced to shop online for clothing over the past few months, it seems only natural that more customers are investigating second-hand clothing sites. The preloved vintage tag created by @oyinza has inspired many to support the slow fashion industry in place of its counterpart. Rather than following the trends devised by clothing websites as a marketing strategy, people are realising they can develop their own original sense of style. As many are using this time to catch up on hobbies or rest, lockdown is a valuable illustration of how extra time can lead to individuals educating themselves on matters which they may not have been interested in before.
So what does this mean for the future? Perhaps we will see a positive shift away from wardrobes stuffed full of cheap clothing. Although, we must proceed with caution, as retail brands are expected to open their doors in the coming weeks as lockdown begins to ease. Hopefully, the impact of more people shifting towards slow fashion in lockdown will reduce the ethical and environmental cost that the fast fashion industry has globally.