So many fashion shows were canceled around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic. People lost jobs, clothing stores had to close, textile factories stood still, and businesses went bankrupt.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the fashion industry like many other industries is in crisis. Almost all production orders were canceled or deadlines very difficult to meet in these difficult conditions.
Meetings and photoshoots have to take place remotely via videotelephony with applications like FaceTime. This keeps the people involved safe but lowers the quality of the photographs.
"A FaceTime shoot will never make the picture as professional and cool as if it were shot by a real photographer. But of course, it's more environmentally friendly."
- Manuela Tatjana Frey, international model and TV host
The fashion industry is used to organize fashion weeks very often in many cities around the world like Paris, New York, Milan, and more. Four fashion weeks take place in New York alone every year.
Unfortunately, constantly creating new pieces of clothing and collections places massive pressure on the environment. It's highly detrimental to the planet and the people working in the supply chains.
Due to the rise of fast fashion over the last 20 years, fashion brands and designers create new styles every week. 52 seasons have replaced the traditional 2 to 4 seasons for new collections each year.
The overproduction and overconsumption of cheaply made clothing led to the fashion industry becoming one of the largest polluters in the world.
It's responsible for huge amounts of textile wastes, increasingly high carbon emissions, water, air, and soil pollution by hazardous chemicals. Fast-fashion giants like Zara create more than 1 million garments every day.
"Zara alone churns out 850 million clothing items a year. You can imagine the size of the toxic footprint it has left on this planet, particularly in developing countries like China where many of its products are made."
- Li Yifang, Greenpeace activist
Read up my article on the top 10 reasons why fast fashion is so popular to understand its success and impact on the planet, the economy, and consumers.
The consumption and production of fashion must slow down to ensure a sustainable future. Too many raw materials are overexploited. Too much water and energy are used for clothing manufacturing.
We are on the verge of a global social and environmental crisis. It's now more than ever important to manufacture clothing without using plastic, using sustainable and fairly traded fabrics that hardly create any waste.
Post COVID-19, we must rethink the whole system of fashion, how we produce, sell, distribute, use, and dispose of apparel and footwear.
The global fashion industry is responsible for 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. It adds massively to the amount of carbon dioxide and methane present in the atmosphere that accelerates global warming.
Read up my article on the fashion industry's catastrophic contribution to climate change to learn more about the impact of your wardrobe on the environment.
It would be a lot more sustainable to produce and sell goods locally. Transport routes alone between raw materials, garment manufacturers, retailers, and consumers are major causes of greenhouses gas emissions.
The coronavirus pandemic highlights the problems of the current fashion systems. The supply chains cannot be maintained. A large proportion of all clothing produced globally comes from China.
When China shut down its textile production, garment factories and clothing stores around the world must close.
The COVID-19 pandemic will have lasting consequences for the fashion industry. Let's hope that production will be more local in the future, no longer be scattered around the world, but closer to consumers.
Accelerating the transition to sustainable clothing is a major global issue in the fashion industry today after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sustainability and transparency are at the center of many discussions started by the critical economic and societal challenges caused by the coronavirus.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) reports that COVID-19 affected millions of jobs in the global textile and apparel industry.
“The International Labour Organization is deeply concerned by the threat posed by COVID-19 to millions of jobs in the global garment industry. This is an unprecedented crisis that can only be solved through global solidarity. The priority must be to sustain businesses and protect workers. At the heart of this is an effective social dialogue between governments, workers’ and employers’ organizations. We urge all actors to heed this call and take joint action that will help us avert catastrophe for the industry.”
- Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General
The International Textile Manufacturers Federation (ITMF) demands fashion brands and retailers to act responsibly and sustainably in its May 20th, 2020 press release.
"Responsible sourcing practices by brands and retailers are critical preconditions for socially compliant and eco-friendly production. Sustainability is not a one-way street; it can only be achieved, if stakeholders in the supply chain respect and treat each other responsibly."
- International Textile Manufacturers Federation (ITMF, 2020)
This virtual policy dialogue held by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) between April 27-28th, 2020 grouped experts to discuss the next steps for the development of supply chain transparency and traceability towards a sustainable recovery in the fashion industry.
Establishing sustainable value chains in the global garment and footwear industry requires the collaboration of all industry partners, governments, and NGOs to find reliable solutions and take massive action.
The COVID-19 pandemic a terrible and unprecedented crisis but also a driver for change. It could lead the global textile and apparel industry to become more responsible, ethical, fair, and sustainable.
What do you think about the impact of COVID-19 on the fashion industry? Let us know in the comment section below.
About the Author: Alex Assoune
Alex Assoune (MS) is a global health and environmental advocate. He founded Panaprium to inspire others with conscious living, ethical, and sustainable fashion. Alex has worked in many countries to address social and environmental issues. He speaks three languages and holds two Master of Science degrees in Engineering from SIGMA and IFPEN schools.