Some of the likely consequences of the coronavirus crisis and the associated societal lockdowns for the world of fashion are easier to predict than others.
These include – at a time of heightened resource scarcity and supply chain disruption – a probable movement away from the industry’s previous manufacture of seriously high quantities of items with the expectation of over-producing.
There have even been suggestions that the whole culture of fashion ‘seasons’ could be under threat, with its increasingly outdated implication that fashions should be expected to have short shelf lives.
Instead, customers who have been largely forced to work from home or deal with other stringent restrictions on their lives are showing a greater inclination towards rooted, rather than controversialist clothing.
We are talking, in other words, about a comparatively ‘seasonless’ and practical fashion that helps buyers to feel more inspired, powerful and comfortable for the long haul, whatever time of year they choose to wear it.
How do Britons want fashion to evolve in the years to come?
The Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) recently quizzed the British public on this very subject, and gleaned some fascinating answers.
The survey revealed that less than a fifth (19%) of us, for example, want the fashion industry to “go back to normal” after COVID-19. So, we wish to see change in the fashion world, but what kind of change are we yearning for?
Well, half (50%) of respondents expressed a wish for the fashion sector to “do whatever it takes” to boost environmental sustainability, while almost that percentage (47%) wanted to see more UK-based supply chains.
Meanwhile, the 35% of women who have signalled that they will buy fewer clothes after lockdown, serves as a further warning that the relentless churn of the fashion ‘seasons’ – if not quite becoming a thing of the past – at least won’t see the same emphasis in the post-COVID-19 world.
Fashion eyes a ‘post-growth’ era
Many of the paradigm shifts that we have seen across the sectors in the age of COVID-19 have arguably been mere accelerations of trends already long set into motion.
This might well be the case with fashion’s contemplation of an alternative to its longstanding growth-at-all-costs model. The chaos that the fashion world was already visiting upon the environment, and the sheer unsustainability of this, was evident for years prior to the crisis.
The crisis that we now have, though, has focused minds on the merits of a ‘post-growth’ approach, characterised by decreased consumption and production.
Rather than constantly seeking out that fresh churn of ‘newness’, it has been suggested that the future of fashion could be defined by slower growth and new ideas of what constitutes success.
Motivated further by government incentives, the fashion brands of the future may be much more anxious than their counterparts of today to put the environment and society at the heart of their business objectives.
Another incentive for such a shift should be Generation Z’s admiration of brands that espouse strong ethical and environmental policies. In line with this, nearly 70% of 16-24 year olds have indicated that they will modify their consumption habits.
Unlock your brand’s potential on the catwalk
COVID-19 may have upended industry after industry, but it has also served as a catalyst for change that might be not merely necessary, but also inevitable. It is safe to say that fashion will be no exception to this.