Most industries have suffered recently as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic, however, very few industries have been hit harder than fashion. Although it would be easy to assume that the fashion industry has become completely digital, that isn’t the case. According to the BBC, “more than 80% of all transactions in fashion still happen in physical stores'', so it’s not hard to see how the industry has been hit so badly. Add to this the cancelled fashion events, the sad realisation that people don’t have an occasion to wear new clothes too, and the fact that luxury stores rely on creating an experience for their customers, and you start to wonder whether the industry will ever recover. However, it's not all doom and gloom. Like so many other industries that have been affected by the pandemic, fashion has had to adapt to its new surroundings. We’ve already seen digital fashion weeks and an incredible virtual reality fashion show in the form of the ‘GCDS Out Of This World Digital Fashion Arcade Show’, so it’s clear that the industry's focus is already shifting but we want to know what the world of post-pandemic fashion will look like.
A new retail reality
This next change takes us from the catwalks of Milan to the stores of Nottingham (and everywhere in between) because the pandemic has affected everyone from the designers through to shop floor staff. According to the Retail Gazette, retail has been one of the worst-affected sectors during the lockdown and has seen 1.1 million businesses place their staff on furlough.
So what does the post-pandemic world look like for retail staff in fashion? Well, we may start to see a change in job roles. For some retail brands, the decision has been made to retrain or repurpose their staff rather than placing them on furlough or letting them go. This means that people who were previously working on the shop floor are now being trained in virtual assistance as the brand places a bigger importance on the e-commerce side of their business. H&M have just announced changes to their flagship store in Stockholm. They plan to introduce party dresses for hire, a fix it station where you can have clothes repaired. With the pandemic pushing more shoppers online the idea is to extend the role of bricks and mortar and diversify the roles in store.
The post pandemic world must be seem as an opportunity for retail, we took it for granted and then had it taken away. We love our high street and this is an opportunity for businesses to utilise the skills of their shop floor workers and enhance the experience of their consumers online. A unique opportunity exists now to get to know who your customer is becoming and find innovative ways to adapt to meet their needs.
A new outlook
It’s no secret that the fashion industry was working at a pace that nobody thought it could keep up with, and we’ve all heard of fast fashion as well as the tolls that it has placed on designers over the years. However, with the current restrictions in place, the world doesn’t seem to be consuming fashion in the same way that it previously did. With nowhere to go, we don’t feel the need to buy a new outfit every week, and this seems to be a mindset that isn’t going anyway. Although over recent years we may have seen independent fashion brands bring out small collections that are sold year-round, we haven’t seen much of a change from big designers. However, with 52% of consumers intending to make long term changes to their fashion consumption (Thersa, 2020), the industry may be forced into making these changes. We’ve all started to realise what is truly important to us, and those new pair of shoes just aren’t it, so in a consumer-led industry, we may start to see a less toxic environment as we go into a post-pandemic world.
From advances in carbon-sequestering sequins to a boom in second-hand shopping, there have been chinks of light during the pandemic, despite the grim big picture. The industry’s environmental issues are well known. Sustainable fashion has the potential to have very positive impacts on the planet, both in terms of cultivating greener production practices and introducing labor equality. One promising 2020 project was the One X One incubator programme, organised by sustainability consultancy Slow Factory Foundation and Swarovski with support of the UN, which paired designers and scientists to produce prototypes for the industry. Given the environmental cost of standard plastic sequins, they produced a shimmering cocktail dress with sequins made from ocean macroalgae, a material which sequesters carbon.
With all of this in mind, it’s possible that we may see a more sustainable fashion industry post-pandemic?
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