Kim Kardashian famously said “we don’t typically like to wear clothes twice” and moments like these have given the impression that fashion is over focused on materiality. A 2017 survey found that 41 percent of 18 to 25 year olds feel pressure to wear a different outfit each time they leave the house. The past decade we have seen the rise of fashion influencers and fashion houses use hashtags like #sheinhaul trending on social media platforms.
Being able to spend 200 dollars on an entire new wardrobe versus a single garment is what fast fashion has provided for its consumers. But when the Covid 19 pandemic hit we went from having to get dressed everyday to sweatpants being acceptable work from home attire. This really shifted the way we understand fashion as we began to realize that maybe “less is more” afterall. We have only just begun to have conversations about the future of the industry and what it can (and is) becoming. Fashion houses are jumping on this bandwagon by producing smaller seasonless collections that value sustainability.
Like many others, the fashion industry has rapidly shifted in the past few decades. This shift we’ve seen in the industry can be attributed to the rise and demand of the fast fashion industry which is known for the constant production of low priced, trendy clothes. The success of the fast fashion business model is being able to continuously provide their consumers with new products at extremely low prices. Through the exploitation of people and resources the companies are able to keep costs low at all points of the supply chain and those in power are able to profit even more.
There is a reason why Amancio Ortego, owner of fast fashion conglomerate Inditex was eleventh on the Forbes Billionaires 2021 list. But this is not the way that we have always done fashion, in fact fast fashion is a result of the Industrial Revolution, really hitting its stride in the late 1990’s and 2000’s. The shift from a circular economy to a linear economy was the demise of the industry.
Their names really say it all. The circular economy relies on closed loops and this idea of ‘re’ that we have come so familiar with. Re-use, re-duce, re-purpose. Read more about how the circular economy wants to keep its components in the economy and it’s three driving characteristics are: closed cycles, renewable energy, and system thinking. These characteristics need to be applied along the entire supply chain from production to consumer use. On the other hand there is the linear economy which is what is being utilized right now in the fashion industry.
Take-make-waste is how it can be explained, and profit is the driving force. Textile companies are currently responsible for 1.2 billion tons of global emissions per year and the amount of clothing being produced has doubled since 2000. Although there has been a call for action from consumers, we have to ask ourselves if this is enough to create a shift large enough to change the industry?
Some believe that the fashion industry is too far gone to be fixed, but if we want to see and create big changes we need to remain optimistic. In their article “The Fashion Industry Is Ready For A Makeover: 4 Changes We’ll See In The Future” Forbes pinpointed four changes that they claim will change the fashion industry.
Brands are now using data collection to find out what their customers want. The benefits of this are sustainability and creating strong customer to brand relationships.
There is a demand for more environmentally friendly products and research shows that 88% of consumers want to see their favorite brands take a more sustainable approach. New sustainable brands and secondhand shopping are also consistently growing in popularity.
Online shopping has really become the new normal primarily due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and brands have taken this opportunity to become more innovative with their online spaces in terms of accessibility and support.
The reality is that the fashion industry is going through an enormous change (again due to the pandemic) and what we thought we needed before in terms of fashion isn’t the same anymore. The pandemic changed how we dressed on a daily basis and it is forecasted that some of these habits are going to be here for the long haul.
Before the pandemic we were accustomed to fashion houses releasing as much as eight collections a year. There has been a shift in fashion back to the good old days with only two collections a year (spring/summer and fall/winter). If fashion houses begin to take this approach then hopefully we will see a trickle down approach occur. And while some consider 2020 to be the death of fashion, we should be looking at it as an opportunity to come out the other side with a completely new approach and understanding. Some fashion houses have even begun to blur the lines in between seasons coming out with pieces “seasonless pieces” that scream versatility. Net-a-Porter showcased turtlenecks in their Spring/Summer 2020 collection as an easy transition piece between seasons. Designers are choosing to ignore the limitations of seasonality and designing pieces that favour everyday wear. This approach is much more sustainable as it steps away from the need to be constantly producing.
With trends constantly changing it can be difficult to stop yourself from buying the “it piece” of the month (or the week). So the solution is to ditch the trends and focus on timeless pieces that can last you a lifetime (literally). Short term fashion is often poorly made which makes it easier to discard and more difficult to donate or resell. Long term fashion may have a higher price tag but this comes from quality materials and the idea that you can wear this for years to come, and if you don’t find yourself wearing it anymore it can easily be resold.
Gen Z’s are the biggest fans of the ecommerce market. According to a survey by ThredUp 1 in 3 Gen Z’s are expected to buy secondhand clothing. The pros of shopping secondhand are that Gen Z’s are able to stay on top of trends sustainably and at an affordable price. The social media app Tik Tok is known for creating and encouraging users to participate in trends. Vogue reported on the influence that Tiktok played on the fashion industry in 2020. Hashtags like #upcycling and #vintage have over 18 billion views on the app and fashion brands that take a sustainable approach can often be seen trending. Additionally the influence it has on global fashion trends with the hashtag like #Y2KFashion having over 58 million views. It’s no coincidence that low rise pants and baguette bags have been recently trending.
The fashion industry is going to see some major changes in the next few decades and hopefully this means the development of a more (or complete) circular economy. Shifting values of what fashion is and means to us will be the driving forces.