The unpredicted arrival of the pandemic threw the world into upheaval. A standstill ensued and the world came to an abrupt stop. The retail industry proved not exempt, a notoriously fast-paced environment. Where the thrill of the ever-pressing ‘need’ for consumption is prioritised. Sustainability had little to no place.
The pandemic forced the industry to change its production process and centre sustainability across all areas. Contrary to historically where exploitative and harmful practices abused the environment, its resources along with those within or outside the production and manufacturing chain, were nothing but an afterthought.
2020’s holt, limited the industry’s access to resources, so the discussion and initial investment around sustainable practices was inevitable.
Sustainability in the fashion and retail industry became a buzzword.
How Change Happened
Fewer new product releases were the earliest signs of new beginnings and change.
Next came fashion shows. Live streamed virtual front rows were decorated with fashion royalty. From fashion bloggers, critics, and influencers alike. Live recorded commentary involved their following more intimately. A new interactive experience, unavailable before to those outside of the chosen fashion elite.
Designers joined virtual ‘conferences’ with relevant respected social media giants, such as Susie Lau, better known as @susiebubble on socials, a fashion blogger with great knowledge and skill on all things fashion and luxury. Again, adaptation created the opportunity for consumers and brands to interact a differently, closer than before.
During the following months, a ripple effect followed touching all areas of the retail industry.
Smaller sustainable fashion brands’ exposure grew. The conversation of local manufacturing arose. Calls to action materialised.
Cue the British Fashion Council’s ‘Fashion Awards’ that celebrated change-makers of all sizes collectively in a film format instead of its usual hierarchal manner. During the height of the Black Lives Matter protests, Aurora James’ ’15 percent pledge’, came to the fore. A non profit organisation that asks brands to pledge 15% of their shelf space to Black-owned businesses in the U.S, since Black people make up roughly 15% of the U.S population.
Vogue’s September cover ‘Activism Now’; “put a spotlight on people affecting change across different fields with different issues, from systemic racism to disability discrimination to gender inequality.” (Colón, 2020) This continuation from June was past due attention and was well received.
To read the Vogue ‘Activism Now’ cover click here!
Will Change Stay?
2020 granted an abrupt but urgent redesign. Sustainability viewed as an all encompassing, multifaceted idea rather than an unattainable fleeting concept.
Visibility raised. New solutions formed.
All creative efforts resulted in unanimous motivation to prioritise and rebirth sustainability in a new light. The welcoming of sustainability and fresh thought highlighted all the previous potential barriers that existed. The physical, cultural and financial.
Despite the fact that sustainability is fast becoming cemented in the retail industry since 2020. Are we in our daily lives, any closer to, or better at realising a sustainable way of life?