Embracing Sustainable Fashion in the Wake of COVID-19

Since mid-March, the majority of Americans have spent their days lounging in comfy sweats and oversized shirts (or business casual tops on days that require logging into Zoom). Although the country has partially reopened in small waves since this summer, this has been the year of dressing down.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Although the fashion industry has taken a hit from this, it could actually be an excellent tipping point for the death of fast fashion. In an August 31, 2020 Grist article by Claire Elise Thompson, she explores this possibility. Thompson pointed out that COVID merely exacerbated this trend rather than starting it. She said, “ …the fashion industry was on an unsustainable road to ruin even pre-COVID, with some luxury designers going so far as to burn their excess stock.”

The early days of COVID made it impossible to shop at brick and mortar retailers, increasing the difficulty of posting a brand new “outfit of the day” to Instagram. It made us get crafty in ways that we never had before, with people taking up baking and other craft projects. With people losing their jobs in large numbers and needing money for daily necessities, along with the ability to show up to the office in sweat pants, shiny new clothing has lost its appeal.

In 2020, the fashion industry is projected to shrink by about 30% according to a report by McKinsey and Company. It is not projected to rebound quickly. As people scale back their budgets, they may start to realize that they can do more with less and having a closet bursting with unused clothes is not necessary.

Along with the economy and the pandemic, the climate crisis has some people rethinking their excessive consumption habits. A majority of fast fashion items end up in landfills, and the production process is far from eco-friendly. As these practices come to light, more people may choose to eschew fast fashion altogether.

While it remains to be seen whether this pandemic will cause a permanent slow down of current fashion cycles, it has definitely proven that such a movement could be embraced.