COVID-19 as a Reset for the Fashion Industry – Where Do Brands Go from Here?, Sophie Kweskin

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the way people live, work, and shop. This time of upheaval is a critical moment for the fashion industry to re-evaluate its business practices, as one of the most polluting industries. The purpose of this research is to understand the impact of the pandemic on fashion brands in implementing circularity in their business models and to encourage consumer engagement. Even prior to the pandemic, there has been a shift towards businesses becoming a genuine force for good in society. Consumers are increasingly exercising choices with their dollars that reflect the difference they hope to make. To address growing environmental concerns, brands are looking for ways to reuse or recycle garments and capitalize on the estimated 500 billion dollars of value lost annually in the underutilization of clothing (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2017). Circularity, the concept of reducing, reusing or recycling, presents a promising model for the industry to curb its environmental impact. Consumers play a crucial role in the shift towards circularity. The question is: will brands and retailers take the opportunity to reset and prioritize circularity for a more sustainable future? The study was conducted through semi-structured interviews with industry experts in fashion and sustainability. The findings reveal that sustainability remains a focus for the fashion industry, despite COVID-19, but wide-spread implementation of circularity remains in the distant future. In order to move the industry forward, efforts to educate stakeholders and present transparent messaging to consumers will be needed to drive real and lasting progress around sustainability and circularity.

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