By Romita Roy
Art by Somya Bisht
In whatever phase of 2020 you’re reading this, post-lockdown, in quarantine, masked at the grocery store or in the new normal; one thing is for sure. Priorities have been reorganised, in life and lifestyle, and with that has come a change in perspective. In terms of fashion, the change has been a paradigm shift. And the end of skinny jeans as we know it is probably the only silver lining.
Mckinsey estimated “revenues for the global fashion industry (apparel and footwear sectors) will contract by 27 to 30 percent in 2020 year-on-year”. Closer to home, “a delay in exports orders has led to an 84% year-on-year dip in sales in the month of May, the Clothing Manufacturers Association of India (CMAI), which represents over 4,000 manufacturers, said in a survey.” Calling it a ‘Darwinian shakeout’, Business of Fashion predicted “massive waves of consolidation, M&A activity and insolvencies.” The situation remains pretty grim as I’m writing this, with the fittest of brands barely staying afloat.
In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a new trouser is the last of my concerns. And where would I wear it anyway? Not at my above-the-waist Zoom call, that’s where.
Clothes don’t feature at the top of my mindspace, and when they do, I still crave the comfort of elasticated WFH slacks. And once in a while it dawns on me how years of mindless consumption have affected my monthly budget, if not landfill waste.
Slow living: Rethinking ‘good-to-haves’
The pandemic has opened the eyes of young millennials (who don’t remember the 2008 recession job market) to how fragile an economy can be. This has further widened the line between the ‘need-to-haves’ and the ‘good-to-haves’, as the primary focus has shifted to weathering the storm. Priyanka Llama, founder of the label P.E.L.L.A, says “As far as fashion is concerned I do think it’s the death of the unapologetic fast fashion world. I do feel people will become conscious consumers practising slow living, consuming less, which in turn will create less waste. This Covid 19 pause gives us an opportunity to restart and replenish what has been lost, making us individual conscious disrupters.”
Does it fit the WFH bill?
Functionality has already been on the rise, with athleisure becoming mainstream, and Covid has hammered in that nail firmly. WFH essentials, and primarily loungewear, has been the word on the fashion block. Says Sagarika Bose, Head of CSR- Godrej Consumer products, “Pre-Covid we spent a lot of time choosing our clothes both while buying and planning our day, trying to keep up an image for the outside world. During the lockdown I lived quite happily in 3-4 sets of comfortable cotton garments, which I had owned for years and were soft and easily washable. Comfort and practicality became my main drivers and I aim for these to determine my fashion choices in the coming time as well.”
Radical transparency taken up a notch
Distrust about the sustainability of a fashion house’s supply chain has been the topic of discussion for a while, only made worse after the pandemic. The awareness of “How much global waste am I contributing to?” has become highlighted and large corporations have been put to task to share transparent details of their product lifecycles. Many content creators have started sharing their recycled garment DIYs, and the lockdown has made it easier to take up challenges like ‘no new clothes for a year’. Says Harleen Kaur, retail designer who crossed over to sustainable fashion, “When the entire world goes online, you barely make use of your wardrobe. (but realise that you have fallen short of pyjama sets) In the past, I have shopped recklessly and extravagantly. Investing in quality purchases that sustain longer will be priority post lockdown and I will tend to veer towards brands that give me the assuredness of a responsible carbon footprint. I will also be mindful of fabrics that can be recycled and upcycled easily.”
Sensitivity to labour conditions
Another issue bubbling under the surface was the condition of garment factory workers, and insensitivity to migrant labour during Covid has further aggravated this awareness. Says Sakshi Sharma, product development and R&D specialist at H&M, “The need to invest in mindful manufacturing has only become greater, along with creation of opportunities for those who are marginalised. Fair wages, safe working conditions and reasonable hours assure that the system runs efficiently and ethically.”
About the Author
Romita Roy is writer & illustrator based out of Mumbai. She is an advocate for sustainable fashion and slow living, and navigates the dilemmas of being a conscious millennial through her words and doodles.