What is fashion going to look like when we come out of all of this? Malls were already dying, fashion weeks were less relevant, and of course the rise of fast fashion was not great for the industry. Now fashion designers and executives are WFH, furloughed or worse.
As someone who started her career in high-end fashion, I have always been enamored of and inspired by the industry. So, is this the opportunity for fashion to do what it does best—innovate, lead and inspire culture? I say HELL YES!
Fingers crossed, this is how I see it. The responsibility and opportunity of an industry:
Sustainability will truly matter. We have all become more aware of our impact on this earth and have begun to recycle, stop single-use plastics and buy more sustainably. We want to know the supply chain behind a brand, overall workforce conditions, and the environmental impact. Eileen Fisher has pledged full sustainability by 2030, and if anyone can do it, she can. She has already made great strides with her Renew and Resewn collections and has been working towards full sustainability. Fisher inspires us to not only think about the supply chain, which is critical for the future, but also, what can we do at this very moment? With Renew she is reinforcing the longevity of her brand and iconic designs, as well as thinking about fashion with a new lens via Resewn, a new deconstructed one-of-a-kind take on past designs.
Less but better.
This fewer but better movement has already started to take place with more thoughtful, simplistic, high-end accessory brands on the rise—like Cuyana. Their mantra has always been “Fewer, Better Things,” and everything they do reinforces that mission, from fabrics to silhouettes down to the details. They even partner with threadUP to help you pare down your closet to “fewer, better” and support the organization H.E.A.R.T. This movement has been gaining ground behind closed doors as we have all been in the same outfit (or a version thereof) for most of the pandemic, and it is, of course, our favorite thing(s). Many have Marie Kondo-ed their closet (yet again), but mostly we have all been shown what we need—or more importantly, what we don’t need. It’s hard to unsee once you have been shown the way.
Time and time again, fashion has led the way on innovation. In the last few years (and maybe beyond), that innovation has dwindled. Arguably this is where fast fashion has come in and shown more innovation—quicker response to the market than the old-school seasonal fashion calendar. Collections are presented more relevantly, going beyond the traditional fashion week calendar, incorporating social and digital first. Price point has also played a part, and we have learned the literal price of that. This is time for the Phoenix Rising. The fashion industry as we know it as been burning to the ground, and Covid is simply the final match. We need to create anew. The brands who rise will be the ones who not just question the past way of doing things, but completely ignore it and start over, mindful and relevant to the current day consumer and world. One of the biggest players in the fashion industry, LVMH, has been able to pivot, making masks and hand sanitizer in a matter of days since the corona shutdown. I have no doubt that the same group can figure out how to rethink the fashion calendar (and beyond) in the same amount of time or less.
This shift has already started, but it will be greatly accelerated. It will simply be unacceptable to not know where something is made and how it got to you—from food to fashion. Some brands have entered into the fashion space without any prior fashion credentials, leading with transparency as their headline, like Everlane. They show the breakdown cost and detail of every garment they make—from the material, to labor, to transportation and more. Everlane has even taken on one of the dirtiest categories in fashion, denim, and has created a LEED-certified factory that recycles 98 percent of its water.
Fashion brands were already understanding the need to identify their purpose and mission. Covid will accelerate that need. Purpose will no longer be a part of what a brand has and does, but it will be their reason for doing it. It may be a focus on transparency, or sustainability or giving back—or all of those things. This was already happening, in great part, due to millennials and Gen Z only supporting brands that align with their values and proving it with their dollars. The company “For Days” is a great example of this. You buy it, wear it, love it and then swap it back for something else you’ll love. They are closing the loop on fashion waste.
Fashion has always been led by the creative, daring and brave. That is exactly what we need to be—both as an example and an inspiration. Nothing has shaped culture and creativity like fashion. How will it re-emerge from the ashes? What will be your part in this?
Kirsten Ludwig runs IN GOOD CO, an agency focused on building brands that lead with purpose. The agency and its global collective have been fully remote for over five years.