Underpaid workers, poor factory conditions, disposable clothes, unrealistic body images and impossible beauty standards – the fashion industry has no shortage of Questions. In fact, it’s an industry in desperate need of systemic change, in the face of both the escalating climate crisis and the challenges of day-to-day operations.
It is also one of the industries hardest hit by the coronavirus. From garment workers to business owners – not to mention an independent workforce of photographers, makeup artists, stylists and assistants – millions of jobs are at risk. Covid-19 has already given scourge marks the last push off the cliff: Laura Ashley went in administration last month, with Debenhams following close behind.
“Dead Stock” – the term for items that remain unsold after sales, and are sometimes even infamous burnt – accumulates. Fashion buyers don’t want risk more unsold items buying new season collections, and the labor of long production lines is likely to be wasted. The backlog continues to grow and as the novel coronavirus has spread across the world it had a ripple effect that touched almost everyone in the industry.
It is poignant that the first impacts of Covid-19 on fashion were felt during Milan fashion week. In an era when the streets of Italy’s fashion capital were buzzing with peacocks of influencers and street-style photographers desperate to capture their sartorial flair, events were called off, masks handed out and models sent walk down the podiums in empty rooms.
And yet, even as brands have been forced to lower their shutters, shut down production and incur gigantic losses, many have stepped up their efforts in extraordinary ways. Creators, big brands and factories have come together in the Covid-19 relief effort in a demonstration of solidarity that may come to define that moment in history.
In March, Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy ad it would transform its perfume factories into manufacturing centers for hand sanitizers, which it has since donated to the French health authorities. Prada donate intensive care units in Milan hospitals. Burberry, which predicted a 30% loss in revenue even before the UK lockdown was implemented, is funding search for a vaccine. The luxury brand has also donated to food poverty charities and repurposed its Yorkshire trench coat factory to make non-surgical gowns and masks for patients while adapting its global supply chain to accelerate the delivery of more than 100,000 surgical masks to NHS workers.
Talk to The independent, Caroline Rush, CEO of the British Fashion Council, said: “In times of crisis, the fashion industry is known to come together. This has been the case with the coronavirus. We are very proud and touched to see how emerging and large fashion companies come together to help produce personal protective equipment, thus strengthening the sense of community so needed; especially in the UK, where small independent designers face a very uncertain future.
Elsewhere, Chanel announced that it was working on the production of protective masks and blouses for use across France, while designers such as Giorgio Armani, Dolce and Gabbana, Donatella Versace, Moncler and the Kering conglomerate have all donated to the relief effort.
This philanthropy has not been displayed industry wide, the spirit; not surprisingly, fast fashion is lagging behind. Online retailer Asos has been accused by the GMB union of playing Russian roulette with workers’ health by failing to implement social distancing measures at one of its UK warehouses, or providing workers with disinfectant for the hands or protective masks (an accusation of the organization deny). New Look, meanwhile, suspended payments to suppliers for existing inventory, a move that a supplier Told the BBC will ‘devastate small businesses at a time when they need help most’; Bangladesh Garment Exporters Association estimates that more than one million Bangladeshi textile workers have not been paid following the cancellation of more than £ 2.4 billion in orders from Primark and Matalan, among other retailers. Phone inconsiderate responses only highlight the heartless production models that these brands are based on.
Maybe production models will be forced to change when we get through the other side of this crisis; some have certainly suggested it already. Last week, Giorgio Armani wrote an open letter to Daily women’s clothing, a reflection on the future of the industry. “A careful and intelligent slowdown is the only way out,” he wrote. “It will make end customers perceive its true importance and value. ”
Yes, the fashion industry is the subject of a lot of scrutiny – much of it deserved – but for an industry that has long been seen as frivolous, watching its members come together while facing their own crises should do. reflect the dissidents. For buyers, it became clear which brands we should be looking to support. Companies whose response to a global crisis has been to leave struggling workers are no longer worthy of our custom.