When Covid-19 hit, stores were closed down and sales plummeted. With consumers looking to keep a stronger hand on their finances amidst the unfolding uncertainty, we have witnessed an acceleration of engagement online and a shift to e-commerce. People are watching how a brand is responding to the situation and whether they are creating good and serving the community.
With consumers making far more considered choices about where to spend their money, a positive reputation could be seen as a brands biggest asset right now.
In the UK, for example, ASOS have donated thousands of items to the NHS including hand creams and clothing and offered 20% discounts to all medical workers. They've provided additional storage and inventory management for medical supplies. They've looked after their independent sellers by removing monthly rental fees for the hosting of their products on their site. Perhaps they can afford to do this more so than other smaller brands but its a huge step in a positive direction. This type of initiative and generosity from a big retailer that perhaps you wouldn't expect to show such a personalised approach, will be remembered by consumers in a time when giving back is key.
Scrutiny is finally being placed on brands that fail to think about the bigger picture and focus purely on their bottom line. When seeing sales plummet they reacted by cutting the production of their orders and avoiding payment for orders that have already been produced essentially pulling the rug out from under manufacturers. Many of whom rely on their custom and are therefore being left with no income especially in poorer countries lacking support from the government. In Bangladesh more than two million garment workers in the country have already lost their jobs or been furloughed without pay because of order cancellations worth an estimated $3bn.
Our production runs at Mangata are thankfully small and we have been able to continue working with our manufacturer developing our children's range with the team whilst they work from home. What we are seeing now with smaller brands is a rise in 'made to order.' The slow down of pace is changing consumers habits and this new way of living has made us realise we don't really need that item of clothing tomorrow. Why not just wait 3 weeks for something that isn't mass produced and ensure that companies aren't manufacturing any clothes that will go to waste. It is estimated that 85% of textiles end up in landfill as a result of discarded garments and over manufacturing of fast fashion. It seems Covid-19 has forced us to re-examine how we live and how we run these industries.
Gucci recently announced itself 'seasonless' and reduced it's fashion shows down from 5 to 2 a year. This huge market leader paves the way for a complete change in the production and consumption of fashion which could have an incredibly positive impact on our environment. The labels creative director, Alessandro Michele, made the announcement - “Above all, we understand we went way too far. Our reckless actions have burned the house we live in. We conceived of ourselves as separated from nature, we felt cunning and almighty. We usurped nature, we dominated and wounded it. We incited Prometheus, and buried Pan. So much haughtiness made us lose our sisterhood with the butterflies, the flowers, the trees and the roots. So much outrageous greed made us lose the harmony and the care, the connection and the belonging.”
We applaud the acknowledgement. This language resonates with us now as the world starts to take a different view, one that recognises the plight of our planet and the power of nature. There seems to be a shift in our focus from materialism to what really matters to us in life like our relationships, our freedom and fresh air.
This is a monumental step in the right direction for the environment but with a huge change like this within such a powerful industry we need to be careful of the knock on effect. These reigning brands need to make sure they aren't leaving the people at the bottom of the supply chain to take the financial hit. Going forward I hope that a move away from fast fashion will mean a more collaborative and fairer working relationship that focuses on quality and developing sustainable materials over quantity. Moving away from mass produced super cheap garments and being able to offer workers a fairer income that works for both brand and supplier.
I hope that our world after Covid-19 can see a positive drive towards sustained change in our industry that benefits and considers all parts of the chain from supplier to brand to the customer and to the future of the planet.