The COVID Fashion Cleanse: A Letter to Young Fashion Designers

The Fashion Industry COVID cleanse is like helplessly watching a snag in your favorite sweater slowly unravel. Our souls sit wrapped in funerary black, as we continue to witness weekly retail carnage reports. Fashion brands which did not have a socially responsible plan (by either leveraging too much debt or not conforming to change) have filed for bankruptcy. The list of brands is as long as the seconds of this forever-feeling pandemic, and the inventory of companies literally and figuratively continues to grow because there is no light yet at the end of this pandemic runway.

Amidst the obituary of ‘Big Brand’ deaths lays a gross over saturation of product, and heaps of discarded fast fashion. Excess inventory was a problem before COVID-19, and the virus only exacerbated the already there massive problem. Many remaining fashion brands are pledging to change their ways to become more sustainable, circular, ethical… screaming overdue reevaluation of the fashion system. Without enforced country or planet laws to define sustainability, brands must find ways to be accountable to earth and humans. Opportunity dwells here.

Opportunity dwells in other areas of apparel too! Amidst these current retail bankruptcies and disruption sits rebirth, renewal, reconsideration, and reevaluation of the entire fashion industry. In this “come-to-Jesus” moment, we are being forced to rethink and make changes: reevaluating fashion week, reviewing the amount of seasonal deliveries; considering excess inventory orders; reviewing how R.T.V. (return to vendor) and charge-backs impact the industry; evaluating the value customers place on ethical & sustainable products; understanding the ‘slow fashion’ approach; recognizing that petroleum is in 60% of our clothing (as polyester) and most won’t biodegrade for 200 years; considering the necessity of brand transparency; understanding the continued growth of D.T.C. (direct to consumer brands); evaluating the importance of brick and mortar retail stores; considering smaller collections and later markdowns; understanding the negatives of unchecked consumerism and it’s impact on our society; observing growth in up-cycling and reselling; considering new life for dead stock; understanding zero waste design; experimenting with new business models; assessing growing tech opportunities both in fabric and digital; and more…

It is important also to recognize that history has played a large part in shaping fashion over the years, and this pandemic is one of these times! For example, after WWI emerged more practical loose fitting dresses, the flapper movement and the crinoline. The Great Depression, with the motto “repair & reuse”, showed creativity and the birth of up-cycling! During WWII women wore utility clothing produced during war rationing, which then gave way to the ‘new look’ of knee length skirts and tailored suits. The non conforming youths of the 1960’s Vietnam War era started the bell-bottom trend. The punk, anarchist, anti-conservative and consumerism political movement began in Britain in the 1970’s and brought us leather studded motorcycle jackets. The 1980s saw the rise of women in the workplace and the power suit. The pandemic of 2020 brings us….?

So you see, young fashion designers, that this COVID fashion cleanse that we are experiencing is temporary! 2020 is a transitional time, and a new decade is dawning with you! We will continue to stew and evaluate in this present mid-pandemic state, which will eventually reach post-pandemic status. We will emerge from our isolation cocoons shedding our COVID-comfort loungewear, Zoom leggings and ‘I give up’ sweatpants, wanting to show individual and personalized style… our uniqueness. We don’t need more t-shirts and leggings, we need beautiful timeless pieces of self expression.

Post pandemic, we will be more responsible with our purchases, because we experienced mid-pandemic reevaluation. We will still be able to buy a $6 t-shirt online, but there will be a mind shift. We will be happy this pandemic is over, and we will show our excitement by wearing color and prints. We will want beautiful things, but we will want less flashiness and glamour, because that’s fake, cold, and not authentic. We will move towards luxury because we want pleasure and comfort. We will want timeless and classic investment pieces. The lingerie industry will grow, because it makes us feel confident and beautiful. We will embrace craftsmanship, because it’s emotional and we have been reflecting. We want clothes that will make us feel good, because our souls will rejoice that the pandemic is over! Educated consumers who are reading about the global impact of fashion will fuel continued growth of sustainable fashion and the ‘kindness economy’, because they are feeling responsible and accountable. We will see a shift to more knits and sweaters, because we got comfortable in our cozy COVID loungewear. A ‘homewear’ wardrobe will form. We will toss out our heels and buy another pair of slippers.

Fabric innovation will continue to grow in areas of sustainability, tech and healthcare. PPE will go mainstream! Fabric masks are not going away, because we want to be careful and cautious. We will reuse & recycle because we are rethinking our spending. There will not be revenge buying, and we do not need a new wardrobe. We will need LESS! COVID has made us introspective, and the era of meaningless disposable fashion will be over. We will be looking for value and less impulse purchases. Young fashion designers, take it away..



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