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The New Normal

by Gary Kingsnorth, European Editor

The impact of COVID 19 has dealt a devastating blow to the fashion industry, which will bounce back more sustainable than before.

When Covid-19 hit earlier this year, the fashion industry was thrown into instant turmoil as priorities shifted. Fashion has long been at the receiving end of criticism, a sector that is one of the world's largest polluters including pesticide poisoned cotton often used in clothing manufacturing, sweatshop labor and transportation, and the industry has been slow to change. As the demand for cheap, fashionable clothing increased, fashion brands were often reluctant to change and adapt.

Often perceived as a trivial industry compared to those working on the front line during the pandemic, the industry is still one of the biggest employers in the world,with many people getting great enjoyment from clothing.

An industry that has been hit with a double whammy from the shift to online shopping and now Covid-19, the fashion industry needs to change and quickly. Some high-profile casualties include Gap, Forever 21, Macy's, Sears and Neiman Marcus. A combination of too many stores and a slow response to the digital revolution has left some of the old guards of fashion struggling to remain competitive.

The current pandemic has only added to the woes of companies already struggling to adapt. As we try and adjust to a new normal situation, consumers’ shopping habits and tastes will change, and the fashion industry is bracing itself for difficult months ahead as we try and recover from Coronavirus.

An industry built on glamour and aspiration needs to change, and the traditional fashion seasons of Autumn/Winter and Spring/Summer now feel like an outdated tradition. Consumers are rightly asking questions about how their clothes are made, and does the brand have good ethics? Are the fabrics organic, and do they have good working practices? Designers and fashion brands need to be open and transparent by building a more responsible business that can quickly adapt to changing consumer habits.

With brands hit by plunging sales during the pandemic, there will be less marketing budgets available, which in turn, will lead to less glamorous advertising campaigns. Instagram stars that don't have a strong message will be left struggling as brands support those with a strong social message or talent, rather than just looking pretty in clothing.

As an ex-fashion editor who would regularly travel to watch shows in Paris and Milan, I would often question why it was necessary. The industry hadn't changed in 100 years, but now we have a unique opportunity to transform for the better.

With luxury brands such as Yves Saint Laurent and Gucci announcing they are leaving the traditional seasonal catwalk calendar, this will encourage designers to find new inventive ways of staging their shows via digital and social media. A new way of working has arrived, one that will be embraced by fashion designers and brands, because those who don't adapt to this new normal will soon disappear.


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