The Coronavirus pandemic has profoundly shaken daily lives, markets and industry, with fashion being no exception. With stores closing across the globe, Forbes reported the online market has boomed, with 49% of consumers turning to online shopping as their preferred means of accessing goods. This, however, has not been without its impact. We have seen the decline and fall of Topshop; Paperchase has gone into administration and a previously waning Debenhams has been forced to close the last of its stores. Overarchingly therefore, fashion has undergone a shift from big to small, with independent brands and the resale market becoming the outlets of choice when it comes to purchasing clothes.
Whilst many of us miss the experience of in-store shopping, the shift of the fashion industry is, however, not all doom and gloom. With increased financial pressure, the fashion market may have experienced a decline in business, but the prevailing effect of economic hardship has been that many have become more mindful in their buying habits. The desire now is for quality, not quantity and more people are willing to spend money on high-quality brands rather than buying on the cheap. This has not only impacted the online market but also that of the instore fashion experience. Unable to try on clothes in-store and not wanting to go through the hassle of returns, many consumers have become more considered in what they buy. All in all, these factors have resulted in a slowing down of the fashion industry, with promise that the days of mass purchase are coming to an end.
The ethical ramifications of the move of fashion from big to small – with many independent brands becoming those of choice – are enormous. Lockdown has given consumers the time to consider the implications of their buying habits. Considerations such as welfare of workers within the industry; environmental impact of certain fabrics and the impact of international shipping have moved to the forefront of our minds. As a result, many have chosen to shop more sustainably and closer to home.
Similarly, re-sale platforms have reported an increase in sales. Depop and Ebay have become, for many, the gateway to the latest trends and brands. Following the heels of this is the prevailing mass of lockdown ‘wardrobe clear-outs’. This boredom fuelled activity has increased awareness of owning more than you can wear. Subsequent mass donations to charity shops offers those less economically viable the opportunity of owning quality brands for far less than they sell on the shop floor.
Whilst fast-fashion houses like Pretty Little Thing and ASOS continue to thrive, increased consumer awareness around cost and sustainability offers the bright prospect of a more ethically fashion-conscious generation of consumers.