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The Future of Fashion!?
Business meetings, virtual happy hours… and fashion shows?
The COVID-19 pandemic, a world-altering global phenomenon, has accelerated some of the truths about the future that were already presenting themselves. Working from home had become more common in the past few years as workers and companies realized there were financial and emotional benefits to WFH. Major companies, including Twitter, Google, Square, and Shopify, are now ‘digital companies,’ offering their employees permanent work from home status. The future of work now looks like the welcome screen to a Zoom meeting.
What about in the world of fashion? Just as COVID-19 has changed work and our personal lives, it has brought the world of fashion into a new future. We are now in a truly digital and virtual future, and perhaps a future in which the fashion industry is incentivized or even forced to take steps towards sustainability, access, and a whole new calendar.
Take fashion week. In a 2019 article, the Business of Fashion (BOF) explained that during a few days of London fashion week, with more than 54 runway shows, tens of thousands of miles of cars driven around the city, hundreds of visitors flew in from around the world, and massive amounts of waste were produced, including hundreds of thousands of tons of CO2 emissions. All to show the new season of clothes to a select group of designers, tastemakers, buyers and influencers.
But just this month, a new, 2020 version of fashion week was rolled out: YouTube videos, online runways, Instagram live feeds. From Dior, miniature clothes: Maria Grazia Chiuri produced clothes scaled down for dolls, presented in a magical fairytale video available online for anyone to see. Suddenly, the world of high fashion has become accessible and available to anyone around the world with a device and a robust wifi signal.
Beyond the world of haute couture, COVID has forced to the fore economic consequences and environmental realities that have helped us to press pause on ‘fast’ and ‘mass’ fashion. While companies that are mission-driven and provide great value, like Loop, continue to succeed as consumers’ interest in sustainable brands goes up, this massive global moment creates a rupture for businesses built on over-consumption.
Leaders in the industry are optimistic that this moment, as with all moments of crisis, holds possibility for a better future. Achim Berg, expert on global fashion, explains that COVID-19 “gives us an opportunity to redesign the industry’s value chain and to focus on the values by which we measure our actions.”
In all likelihood, just as our lives at work, or at home, will likely never look quite the same, the business of fashion won’t either. Alessandro Michele, the creative director of Gucci has already committed to a new model for Gucci; one in which the constant cycle of fashion shows is replaced by a more thoughtful schedule with more room for creativity. The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) and others have also published letters advocating for only two shows a year, and fashion business groups are pushing for a ‘rewiring of fashion.’ The potential for change is massive, and the upside for the environment even more so.
If the cultural reset provided by COVID can mean more access, less waste, and a transition to a more values driven and thoughtful model of production and consumption in the fashion industry, this is a silver lining we should all be excited about.