It’s no secret that the fashion industry has been under pressure for some time to improve its devastating impact on the environment. Now, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has had its hand forced.
Mass production has slowed to a halt and fewer people are spending their money on fast fashion thanks to the lockdown taking away the need for a new outfit every weekend. Fashion Weeks’ are on hiatus and retail stores have closed, and most of the aspects of the industry that have the biggest economic impact have been put on hold – forcing the sector to do the very thing it’s been dragging its heels over for years.
With COVID-19 showing no signs of slowing down any time soon, it appears we’re all under lockdown for the foreseeable future, leaving the future of the fashion industry in even more uncertain waters. One of the biggest concerns raised is that the spread of the virus will mean companies will have put their future sustainability plans on ice. With more immediately pressing matters to hand, it’s understandable that many fashion businesses, no matter how big or small, are dealing with the immediate fall out from closing their shops, factories and ateliers.
Planning for the financial impacts will take plenty of strategizing, all whilst having no idea when the endpoint is. However, it would be fantastic to see companies come out of the pandemic with plans that not only protect them financially but also push their products and companies into a greener, more sustainable realm.
Unfortunately, many factories abroad, where all our cheap and affordable clothes are made, have been kept open churning out more fast-fashion items that people don’t need and risking their employee’s health and well-being at the same time. As consumers, being aware of where your clothes come from, the conditions that they’re made in and the regulations that are being ignored to provide endless new items has never been more important. Use your money to make a stand, and choose to buy local, vintage, and hand-made rather than mass-produced.
Now, more than ever, the vintage industry is thriving. It’s been having its well-earned celebration for quite some time now, with second-hand fashion and the anti-fast-fashion movement becoming the latest Instagrammable moment, and the success of books like Lauren Bravo’s How to Break Up with Fast Fashion (if you do one thing during this lockdown, read this book. It will change your life).
People are celebrating these preloved finds more than ever now, grabbing a bargain on eBay or Depop, and sourcing some hidden gems with online vintage retailers.
One of the joys of vintage shopping is not only the thrill of finding something truly unique but that the quality is often far better than anything you can buy in a fast-fashion store. Most pieces are made of high-quality fabrics that stand the test of time – after all, if you’ve managed to find yourself an 80’s leather jacket, it’s already lasted almost 40 years. Vintage items often become true investment pieces, too - vintage designer bags are a perfect example of a worthy investment.
The craftsmanship is amazing, and the value will only increase as time goes on providing you care for them properly. Treating your vintage finds with care is the key to their long life and will make sure that vintage bomber jacket or Fendi bag will last you another 40 years.
Thankfully, caring for your clothes is something people seem to be doing more of now. With more time than ever being spent at home, people are taking to their wardrobes to treat, fix, alter and customise their existing clothes, and opting to sell what they no longer wear rather than just binning it – we all need some extra money now, after all. These are the small changes vintage shoppers and second-hand savants have been trying to instil in people for some time – it turns out we just needed a global crisis to get around to it.
Even before our lockdown was enforced, there had been a huge rise in swap shops amongst friends. Clothes swapping evenings are the perfect way of getting something new for yourself whilst also breaking the fast fashion cycle. Instead of buying new and throwing out old, you bring items that haven’t seen daylight in months along and swap them for something of your friends’ that you’ve had your eye on. Clothes swapping means nothing is ever wasted, and you don’t need to spend your money buying something new that you might not wear more than a handful of times. Instead, you can wear it, enjoy it, then swap it onto the next person for something new – a far better cycle than buying and binning something after two or three wears.
Hopefully, this pandemic will give the fashion industry the cue it needed to look at its practices and figure out exactly how they can re-open and move forward with a more economically and sustainable approach. Until then, though, I think we’ll keep shopping vintage.