History has proven that periods of global crisis accelerate transformational societal shifts, and serve as inflection points for businesses. As COVID-19 forced us all into lockdown, many of us took this time to reflect and be more mindful of our purchasing decisions, including businesses, and designers in the fashion and textile industry. The industry has been pointing to more sustainable practices, but the pandemic is likely to accelerate these practices rather than stunting them.
Many lost their jobs and are continuing to work with less money, causing them to buy less and make more conscious purchases, which are likely to continue to happen. In a global survey, consumers favored brands with environmental programs in place. Companies must realize that by committing to sustainability, they are securing long-term growth, staying relevant to consumers, and establishing market-leading differentiation against competitors.
First Things First: Restructuring Business Models
The global pandemic has revealed that many companies weren’t prepared and are now being forced to adapt and restructure their company models and infrastructure by evaluating and implementing the following things.
Employees and suppliers must be the main priority in any business moving forward. Employees deserve the time, pay, and protection that they need, such as increased safety protocols and paid leave time. If layoffs are impossible to avoid, resources and connections should be provided to employees to help them get back on their feet.
Customers and suppliers play a huge role in the survival of a company. During a time of crisis, the way that businesses treat both need to be reevaluated; by modifying and extending return periods for customers, the company considers the safety of customers while giving them the time they need to safely return their items. Another way businesses have modified operations is through the use of curbside pickup or even delivery options to keep customer and employee interaction to a minimum. Additionally, this should go without being said: Suppliers need to be protected through agreements concerning wages and coverage to ensure their well-being is being considered, too.
All business decisions need to take a sustainable approach by using funds to create energy-efficient measures to reduce emissions and costs in the long run. Changing packaging or opting for paperless options are ways to save trees and natural resources. Changes that have been made thus far are likely to stick as companies put their time and money into places that matter.
Changes to the Creative Process
Fashion designers are at an inflection point, and the consensus seems to be that everything needs to happen less, but with better quality fabrics and craftsmanship. Fashion will always remain, but it will continue to have to shift to save the planet and put a stop to constant landfill visits and reduced prices due to the overproduction of garments.
Using eco-friendly alternatives like recycled fabrics or organic and regenerated fibers is a route that some designers are taking to make their designs more sustainable. Cutting down the number of pieces per line and the pace that these pieces are produced will likely be a shift that many designers will make to focus on quality over quantity and speed.
Some designers are considering taking a more local and less global approach to cut out the need for big box stores since wholesale retailers have proven to be tricky and less reliable than needed when a crisis is about. Making this shift will provide customers with goods at better prices and better quality while also making changes to the quantity and speed in which the items are produced.
Digital transformations are on the rise in the design process by converting to 3D design collaborations, and video conferences for sample designs. It is expected that this type of prototyping will continue in the future.
The fashion industry and other industries alike shouldn’t have to nearly crumble to the ground to notice that waste is an issue or that all employees aren’t being treated fairly. However, during times of pain, there’s growth. The past months and months ahead will likely be filled with continued growth and progress towards creating a more sustainable infrastructure for the fashion industry and the world.