Has COVID Changed Fashion Forever?
From the perspective of a sustainable fashion journalist, educator, and advocate, I certainly hope so.
You might have realized like me that this new world dominated by the Covid-19 pandemic has shifted our lifestyles. Remote work, night curfews along with limits on socializing mean there is less reason for getting dressed, let alone dressing up. As much as we’d all like to wear ballgowns at home (like the almighty Vera Wang), the reality for many of us is that we just want stretchy pants (or no pants at that!) to suit our work from home lives for the unforeseeable future.
Covid has changed our fashion habits, which has reverberated throughout the fashion industry. And it’s about time. The industry has been dysfunctional for years, guilty of overproducing and exploiting environmental resources and human labor in the process.
As Covid disrupts the entire world, fashion’s dysfunctional nature has been exposed, and is now forced to reckon with itself. COVID may just be the tipping point that makes the industry realize that “business as usual” is no longer acceptable in a post-pandemic world.
Fashion can no longer be dirty
The World Bank cites that the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions, more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. Not only is fashion wreaking havoc on the environment through manufacturing, but the amount of travel industry players normally do for fashion weeks around the world (and the products that get shipped with it) also play a great part.
Luckily there are initiatives like Remake, a sustainable fashion organization based in San Francisco. Remake helps educate global consumers about the impact Covid-19 is having on the thousands of garment-makers working in the fashion supply chain. Thanks to their #PayUp social media campaign, Remake unlocked billions of dollars in payments that corporate brands were otherwise going to cancel for pre-ordered goods, including work already completed. The campaign helped bring awareness to the injustices that the men and women making our clothes face every day.
Most importantly, I would hope that the pandemic is influencing our fashion choices to live and dress more sustainably, and to buy less while choosing better. If you’re like me, this year may have inspired you to eliminate the excess and focus on what really matters. If you’re interested in reforming your fashion to fit a post-Covid world (and ease your eco-anxieties), here are a few of my recommendations to shake up your wardrobe for your best look.
Reflect: Only Buy What You Really Love + Need
When buying a new item, ask yourself these questions: Do you really love it? Do you really need it? And can you commit to wearing it at least 30 times? If you can say yes to all three questions, then you’re more likely to keep and use that item for a longer period of time, instead of it being a disposable purchase.
Re-Use: Buy it Secondhand, Especially Luxury Items!
Instead of buying it new, can you buy it vintage or secondhand? From thrifting to luxury consignment stores, there are many options to give low to high-end items a second life. Leticia Gonzales of La Cocaigne is a sustainable stylist in Paris that shows women how to turn their closets into a luxury treasure trove – all through secondhand purchases! Buying a secondhand luxury item is a win-win – it costs less than buying new, and it will continue to increase in value. En plus, we live in vintage paradise here. Many “Made in France” items from the sixties and seventies are available in Paris vintage shops and are of much better quality than the items of today.
Re-Wear: Shop Your Closet (Or Your Girlfriends’ Closets)
Can you stop for a moment and see if you already own your desired item in your closet? If not, can you consider gathering your most stylish girlfriends and organizing a quarterly clothing swap with them instead? The more we’re able to put a pause on consumption, the better it is for our planet. Plus, swapping unwanted clothes is a lot better than donating it to charities, as many of our unwanted clothes end up filling up landfills in other countries. Read this article to learn more about how to donate your clothes ethically.
Repair: Tailor Make It!
Most people discard an item if it doesn’t fit right, has a hole in it, or a tear. But how about taking a page from our granny’s book and repairing it? If you don’t want to do it yourself, you can call on Tilli, a French company that offers retouching services at your residence. There’s nothing more chic than having your own tailor, and services like Tilli make it easy.
Research: Educate Yourself On Ethical Options
Only if you really, really love it is my rule for an impulse buy. But if you know you need something ahead of time, I recommend doing your research. Remake’s Sustainable Fashion Guide offers some go-to brands that have been carefully vetted, and features French brands like Les Sublimes (French wardrobe staples) and Veja (ethical sneakers). They also feature People Tree of the UK for everyday basics, as well as Vetta, a great company if you want to purchase capsule items (solid foundational basics) for your wardrobe that you can wear over and over again.
I also recommend the Good On You App, which allows you to look up your favorite brands to see how they’re doing on the sustainable scale.
The sustainability journey isn’t perfect, so don’t put too much pressure if you can’t get it right every time.
As zero-waste chef Anne-Marie Banneau says, “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero-waste (or sustainability!) perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”