As COVID continues to be a challenge for governments and populations across the globe, the disease is still having wide-reaching impacts across textile production chains too – from changing consumer habits to manufacturing processes and outlooks. As well as highlighting the challenges when it comes to tackling the impact of fast fashion; the coronavirus pandemic has driven awareness of how manufacturers need to change and rebuild their production supply. If COVID has exposed the points of weakness in fast fashion to a wider audience, what will be the lasting impacts on the industry?
COVID has highlighted the complexity of tackling fast fashion
Even while physical retailers have been closed in initial lockdowns, online sales of fast fashion have boomed. Retailers such as Boohoo and Missguided have reported record-breaking sales, seemingly unaffected by the reduced sales experienced by other sectors. This only serves to demonstrate the massive challenge in tackling and reducing the reliance on cheap, next-day delivered, throwaway garments. If even a global pandemic where everyone has to stay at home doesn’t reduce consumer demand, what will? But while this can seem futile, there is evidence to suggest that consumers and retailers are willing to change – there just needs to be concerted, lasting effort to drive sustainability from all parties in the supply chain.
Manufacturers must do better
The outcry over Boohoo’s factory conditions, as well as reports of vulnerable workers not being supported and paid during COVID shutdowns globally, make it clear that manufacturers must do better. As well as driving more sustainable production, taking this opportunity to improve issues and conditions that have been exposed due to COVID stress will go a huge way to improve sustainability across supply chains. Coronavirus highlighted just how precarious many sprawling global supply chains are too – and if manufacturers change their business models to be more sustainable, cost-effective and flexible, this can have a huge impact on sustainability.
Science and technology will play a huge role
Recently, MPS urged support for technology and science to develop better, more sustainable fabrics to reduce the environmental impacts of fast fashion. While this isn’t the only answer, the investment can certainly help to create fabrics that are more sustainable, as well as introduce digital and streamlined compliance chains. The pandemic has shown how manufacturers and brands can work together to pivot operations to create PPE; this collaboration should be used to create further technological solutions and support for sustainability.
Do people want change?
While fast fashion brands continue to do well, largely driven by social media, there does still seem to be an appetite for genuine, lasting change. The psychological impacts of the pandemic are likely to affect all areas, including consumer purchasing and attitudes to fashion. Recent research highlights that people want to do more about the negative impacts of fashion; and fashion brands and manufacturers must take this seriously.
To wrap up
Like many sectors, the pandemic has fundamentally altered business as usual for the fashion industry. This is likely to have lasting changes, including on consumer demand and operations. But this also has the potential for the sector to change standard working practices, react to changes in consumer behaviour and put genuine sustainability first.
Textile Consult operates globally and in the UK, consulting on a variety of management, training and sustainability issues within the textile industry. Contact us today to find out how we’ll work with you to find effective, sustainable solutions for your company.