How Is the Pandemic Changing the Global Fashion Industry?

Note: In the video “Textile” actually refers to “garment”

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Author: Sheng Lu

Professor @ University of Delaware

29 thoughts on “How Is the Pandemic Changing the Global Fashion Industry?”

  1. While looking at the numbers alone is one thing, there could be huge changes in terms of what we will be wearing in the near future in the developed world, which is something that the DW documentary seemed to only gloss over. Most people are not going to vacation spots as much due to travel restrictions. Things like night outs, parties, and concerts are in very small supply. Even most conventions have gone online. Most of these events help boost the fashion industry to make clothes that look good. For young men, that would be the button-down shirt, jeans/chinos, dress pants, and accessories like belts. For women, that would be fancy dresses, crop tops, shoes, and things like that.

    Now, most people are at home. Many have shifted towards buying home improvement and workout products more than consumable fashion geared toward impressing others. Much of it has shifted toward things like hoodies, gym shorts, sneakers, and athleisure goods. The shift in power might go away from brands like H&M at least in the short term, and further move toward athletics giants like Nike and Adidas, whose main suppliers are chemical companies like BASF. Economics goes hand-in-hand with psychology and sociology, and that might lead to consumer shifts.

    Another thing that caught me was how many companies have shifted towards virtual commerce and virtual trials. Warby Parker was advertising that their apps help you pick the right glasses based on they virtually look on you, which is similar to how Snapchat works with the baby screens and face swaps and stuff. However, I am skeptical as to how it actually pan out for others. People buy clothes based on how they feel on your body too. You can’t get that virtually.

    1. Thank you so much for your response, I just wanted to add to your comment. Yes, with things being shut down, there has been less demand for the fashion industry. Such as people are not going out because there is no where to go, thus no reason to spend money. So, consumers are focusing on buying other things like home workout equipment, even supplies for DIY’s in the house. However, this I think might be looking at the older generation. From my perspective, I still see a lot of consumer purchasing within younger generations. For example, we all know the app Tik Tok. Tik Tok has grown to be a huge social media platform where people do dances, share helpful tips, consumers show off what they buy, and even companies advertising new products. With this app, I have felt that with the younger generation, the purchasing behavior has not slowed. Once an apparel garment, an accessory or even a beauty product goes viral on the app, it is nearly impossible to find. Therefore, maybe the younger generation will bring back the demand the fashion industry needs to survive the effects from Covid.

      1. I did not think about Tik Tok’s effect on young folks and how that affects fashion trends. Maybe it’s because I’m an older person relatively speaking and am just not engaged on Tik Tok in general, which probably has the most addictive user interface that I have ever experienced. Thanks for raising that point!

    2. I agree with the shocking turn to e-commerce! Although online shopping has been present for years, it now has a mean streak of popularity due to COVID. With the closing of multiple brick and mortar stores, companies are turning to their e-commerce counterparts to keep above water.

  2. The fashion industry thrives on the global division on labor. So when the pandemic hit, different stages of the production cycle from fiber to the retail store were shut down and caused huge monetary losses. Customers are not as willing to go into stores and prefer to shop online. Retail is missing their in store entertainment to keep customers coming in. If customers are overall shopping less, that means that brands could pull production out of manufacturing countries like Bangladesh which will really hurt their whole economy because they are so reliant on it. Another example is in India where hundreds of factories had to close because of billions of dollars of clothing orders have been canceled. Now these factory workers live in extreme poverty. The economy has not helped them because money is being devalued and prices are going up. There are no unemployment benefits so they get absolutely no help and need to beg for jobs. The pandemic is worsening the massive equity gap between the west and the rest of the world.

    1. Alison, you make a really great point about companies pulling production out of manufacturing countries. Countries like Bangladesh are so reliant on these jobs that their economy would just diminish. Fashion brands who have lost so much money during this time, are struggling to pay workers which is causing many people to lose their jobs.

  3. The pandemic has forced everyone especially the fashion industry to restructure their operations to better adapt to the rapidly changing conditions created by the pandemic. Since the T&A industry relies on a global division of labor the impact of the pandemic started breaking down different parts of supply chains unleashing a sort of domino effect. There were large shortages in supplies and materials required for production, making it difficult for suppliers to fulfill orders and manufacture products. Factories had to shut down to reduce the spread of the virus which left many workers unemployed and without a source of income. Brands and retailers had to close their stores leaving them with months worth of inventory and more orders in the process of being delivered or manufactured. in turn, many companies canceled all their orders and some even refused to pay for products that were already made. Customers are also shopping less because of diminished income and since stores had to close customers had to shift their shopping habits to adapt to virtual channels. Many consumers have begun to buy products that can enrich their home life whether it be athleisure clothing, workout gear, game systems, home decor, and much more. I believe a lot of these impacts caused by COVID will linger as the pandemic comes to an end and companies continue to reorganize their business and supply chains to be more diverse and flexible.

  4. The pandemic in the world has alter the industry in every aspect. The textile industry was able to step forward in a time of need when there was an excessive demand for PPE and other supplies needed by frontline workers dealing with the brutal effects of COVID-19. These supply chains were built so quickly and if that was feasible, I believe these chains can be made permanent for the long term. If the government can implement the right policies to stray away from the overreliance on global supply chains, then the economy can thrive and come out of the trade deficit. The United States relies heavily on Asian countries however they are at an unfair advantage which harms domestic manufacturing. There are many solutions; short term and long term, that the government can implement to support the United States PPE manufacturing capacity so that there is a chance to grow in the future. First and foremost, if there are no incentives put in place now and we face another health crisis in the future, then we could face a shortage of supplies like we saw in the beginning of the pandemic. We rely on China mainly because of the low prices but there is far more to consider than just getting a good deal considering how their workers are being treated. COVID-19 has drastically changed the US textile industry and it really puts the industry in perspective because the pandemic destroyed the demand for apparel and textiles at its peak. Billions of dollars were lost as clothing sales fell because textile companies reached capacity and orders were being cancelled. Furthermore, many supplies in the world are having to close their doors or lay off workers which leads to less production and more work. In turn, the US should focus more on themselves and growing their own textile industry with the tools we have and reduce reliance on global suppliers. With that said, there could be a time when global suppliers can’t manufacture or ship supplies to us, so this is the time to make changes and invest to be able to supply for the country. If we start creating a strong domestic textile industry with what we have now, then post crisis, the industry will be able to pivot and survive

  5. Huge changes in the clothing industry have resulted from this pandemic. Relocations and travel bans have caused traveling to practically be impossible. Social outings and gatherings are in short supply and many retail companies have moved online. Having a lack of these places and events really hurts the fashion industry, which has led to the shift in the development of clothes that may be less appealing but focused on comfort. mahitvaddadi1905 made a great point when he said “Many have shifted towards buying home improvement and workout products more than consumable fashion geared toward impressing others”. I myself find myself wearing more athleisure goods because of not being able to go out as much.

  6. The pandemic has shifted the global fashion industry greatly. Companies needed to act fast in order to adjust to the rapid new changes. The urge for people to leave their homes diminished causing retailers to reconsider other options to stay afloat. Discount battles, reduced clothing options and fast fashion have all escalated causing consumers to chose which ones they prefer more. The DW documentary also talks about workers in Germany not returning to their offices. The urge to leave their homes has declined as well as the desire to purchase formal clothing. People have the desire to invest in home improvement options instead if apparel. When people are purchasing apparel during this time, they are looking for loungewear and casual clothing. All companies who usually do not sell these types of things are stepping out of their comfort zones and creating garments that people will actually want to wear while sitting inside and working from home. I believe some of these impacts will permanently affect the fashion industry after this pandemic passes. Some of these affects negatively tampered with the industry while others changed companies for the better as they are looking for new alternatives and methods to source, produce and design.

  7. COVID-19 has had a major impact on jobs, on social prosperity, on culture and creativity, and on the environment, and the fashion industry has been hit hard. Even if the COVID-19 crisis is lifted, the fashion industry will change dramatically in the coming years. We are living in an era where all industries are undergoing digital transformation. New markets, new technologies and evolving consumer demands present opportunities, but also risks. Digitalization is shaping the future of the fashion industry and inspiring the potential of fashion cities. With the advent of the fourth industrial revolution, artificial intelligence, 5G communication networks, the Internet and the Internet of Things, big data, robotics, 3D design and blockchain are not only affecting all areas of the fashion industry, but are also revolutionizing the industry. Cutting-edge technologies and virtual reality are being used in a variety of ways in the fashion industry, enabling production and distribution methods to be rapidly upgraded to keep pace with the changing tastes and fashion trends.

    Translated with (free version)

  8. Posted on behalf of jennnnaaa14
    Just like every industry worldwide, the Global Fashion Industry was greatly effected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The textile industry is one of the greatest leaders of globalization in our world and relies heavily on the division of labor divided between countries. In a period of time where the entire world cut off contact and interaction with one another, the global fashion industry was forced to adapt. The COVID-19 pandemic first hit in the country that dominates the textile and apparel industry. China was fighting the virus before COVID-19 was even discovered. This caused a huge ripple effect throughout the entire industry. When one part of the supply chain gets delayed it effects the entire production. In. addition, COVID-19 forced the closure of almost every event imaginable. Not only were brands losing money from store closures due to government regulations, but consumers were shopping less because there was no where to go. This caused a huge monetary loss for the entire world. When brands lost money due to store closures, they cut off production causing countries whose economies rely on this industry, such as Bangladesh, to suffer a huge economic loss. This pandemic has been a major reason why countries are considering pulling away from manufacturing in Asian countries and considering other options such as “near-shoring” within the future.”

  9. The global pandemic has really taken a toll on everyone and every business there is. We all had to change our way of living at a fast pace and it was hard for a lot of businesses, especially the fashion industry. Like everyone else, the fashion industry had to change their ways of operation in order to adapt to the problems caused due to the pandemic. The way in which some companies changed either was for the worse or for the better. If it is one thing that the pandemic did, it was that it showed us that we can adapt and change our ways in a time of need. Other opportunities have risen for some people and companies.

  10. The pandemic has changed a lot of the fashion industry. The clothing chains and in person shopping had to close when the pandemic first hit and they still have yet to recover. When malls closed, people turned to online shopping for everything. It was easier and way more safe and people began to like it a lot. Customers don’t want to walk around a mall scared to get corona or have trouble breathing from the mask when they could order the same thing from their bed. Mail and shipping slowed down a lot too from the pandemic so it is even harder for companies to get their products out on time. Many businesses and companies could not survive the changes and went bankrupt during this pandemic. The ones that survived, learned to adapt and showed how strong they can be. Another thing that has changed in the fashion industry is where manufactures are sourcing from. Sourcing from the same place is quicker, cheaper and more convenient.

  11. The pandemic has changed the global fashion industry in a variety of ways. For starters, since the pandemic came about last March, people have obviously been buying less clothes because they aren’t going out as much. On one hand, this can be seen as a good thing because it’s much less wasteful and better for the environment. However, consumers purchasing less clothing has a butterfly effect on other parts of the apparel production process. As mentioned in the video, not only will this loss of profit hurt the clothing brands, but it will also have a negative economic effect on manufacturers. Specifically, countries whose economies rely heavily on revenue from their exports. In addition, the rise of the pandemic has caused companies to have to shift many of their business practices and strategies to keep up with the times. For example, e-commerce and social media has been crucial for brands to stay relevant in a time of social distancing and national lockdowns. Many companies have not placed a lot of importance on breaking out into the digital world, but now, it’s not just a helpful tool – it’s a necessary part of creating or sustaining any business.

  12. While many industries were impacted by COVID-19, I think that the fashion industry has experienced the most change. Because of social distancing restrictions, traveling and social gatherings became virtually impossible. People had less of a reason to buy new clothing because they had no events to attend. Additionally, as more people were required to work from home, the need for work appropriate apparel declined. As a consumer, I have noticed a major shift in the demand for fashion-forward clothing and a stronger demand for comfort-wear. Because of the change in consumer demand, some retailers were forced to rethink their assortment in order to remain open and successful. While some retailers had to focus on their products, others payed more attention to their online platforms. With more people understanding the connivance of shopping online, businesses were pressured to increase online traffic by improving the quality of their website. I am interested in seeing how malls and traditional storefronts operate post COVID? Will there be more closures of malls as online shopping becomes the norm?

  13. The pandemic has changed the entire world immensely within every single industry across the globe, including the fashion industry. Pretty much every aspect of the fashion industry has been impacted from textile manufacturers, all the way to brick and mortar retail stores. People stopped being allowed to go into stores to abide by social distancing rules, and the e-commerce market grew exponentially because people were buying all of their clothing online. However, online shopping was not as convenient as it once was because shipping times were delayed due to hindrances in supply chains. Since people were not able to work in close quarters with others, there was a halt within the textile and apparel supply chains in every country around the world. People were not able to go into garment factories to make things, and people were not able to distribute the things that people were purchasing in the same timely fashion that they once were. The pandemic was something that no one could’ve prepared for, but it hit the fashion industry especially hard.

  14. It goes without saying that the pandemic has impacted every single aspect of our lives. However, COVID-19 has had an impact on the fashion industry that is much larger than most people realize. Many people are aware of how the pandemic has impacted in-person shopping, as they are finding themselves ordering online more and more. Especially during the first lockdown, in-person sales dropped significantly. People were extremely uncomfortable going to stores in-person, and found it much easier to order whatever they needed online. Because of this, stores had to completely recalibrate their online presences in order to keep up with the needs of the customers. However, this was not the only impact that COVID-19 has had on the industry. The pandemic also has had a huge and devastating impact on trade. Many countries had to close their borders completely, including trade ports. This had a large impact on almost every country, as they were not able to import many of the goods that they need. The pandemic also created strained relationships between countries due to a lack of trust on many parts.

  15. The pandemic seemingly effected every aspect of the fashion industry, regionally and globally. On a global scale, many Asian countries like Bangladesh and Vietnam struggled tremendously as many fashion brands and retailers canceled orders that were placed pre-pandemic. On the fashion retailers and brands side, many of their stores were closed or they just simply weren’t getting sufficient sales that would push them to accept new merchandise which would have been exported from these Asian countries, so in there minds, it was probably more financially logistical to cancel orders. However, from Asian countries perspective, it severely damaged not only their national economy but the livelihood of thousands-millions of garment workers and manufacturers. These countries thrive financially on the garment industry and many depend on that work, even though they get paid minimal wages, so by even a few western retailers and brands cancelling large apparel orders, it affected many businesses and workers in these developing countries. Another major change the pandemic had on the industry was the performance of in-person retail shopping. For the majority, consumers were only able to shop online during the height of the pandemic, and even when restrictions started to be lifted, not as many consumers were venturing out to retail stores. Personally, I prefer shopping in-store so that I can try on clothes before my purchase, but unfortunately, when it was finally time to go out and shop, I found that many of my favorite stores in malls were closed down or going out of business, most likely a result of the pandemic struggles.

  16. When the pandemic hit, the apparel industry changed dramatically. Many brands restructure their businesses and develop new sales strategies. Because people have always relied on the global resource sharing of T and A, under the blow of the epidemic, the previous clothing supply chain model has been severely damaged. The lack of clothing materials, the cancellation of orders and the issue of safe pickup have brought a devastating blow to the brand’s physical stores. At the same time,e-commerce enters the lives of consumers and develops rapidly. It provides a safer consumption model. I think consumers, brands and retailers should work together to cope with the “loss” in the apparel industry and protect employees in the apparel manufacturing industry. This action can ensure the rapid recovery of the domestic garment manufacturing industry after the pandemic.

  17. The pandemic has shifted the fashion industry to almost entirely an internet based industry. Due to people reducing their contact in stores and using the internet and social media as shopping sites, fashion companies have had to shift a lot of their store front efforts to building their online presence to fulfill the new need of this industry. Social media and online shopping was on a rise even prior to the pandemic so now even more so it has taken an important role in the industry. The pandemic has also changed the idea of discounts in that everyone is even more sensitive to finding clothing on sale. These sort of discount battles have begun and created a lot of strain on companies who are looking to stay afloat in these already tough times. The fast fashion industry has also grown even faster and larger as the pandemic has continued on. The perks of this industry to the common shopper is the extremely low prices and fast turnarounds. As this is awesome for the average consumer, it is also deeply hurting the fashion industry as a whole and creating a race to keep up between companies.

  18. Before the outbreak of covid 19 many US apparel business owners and CEOs were reluctant to move manufacturing closer to their shores despite humanitarian and environmental issues due to the rise in labor costs that it would likely cause. When Covid 19 hit many of these companies saw the downside of sourcing so far away. Not only does it mean a lack of control over the factories, but also the inability to get the resources they need when a crisis happens. While they may still care more about profit than the social and environmental issues I think that covid 19 showed them that making manufacturing closer to them could benefit them in ways they didn’t expect.

    Another major shift in the fashion industry that could potentially have long-lasting effects is the new focus on online retail versus brick in mortar. During the peak of the pandemic, many brands realized that the only way they could survive is by going digital. This means that not only are global consumers able to shop at their brands but also that they don’t have to hold unused merchandise before it is purchased by the consumer. Some brands have switched over to sending the clothing immediately over from the supplier. Realizing that this is an affordable way to sell merchandise, and consumers enjoying this way of buying I think that things will only continue becoming more digital

  19. The pandemic has drastically changed the fashion industry. Due to the pandemic, companies were forced to transition to faster production to adapt to the rapidly changing conditions. The vast amount of shortages of supply and material that were necessary for production made fulfilling orders and manufacturing products difficult. With lockdowns and shutdowns allover, companies and factories were forced to shut down. This led to a higher unemployment rate since so many workers were left off. In addition, with retailers and stores closed, consumers both shop less due to lack of income and rely on e-commerce. With people mostly staying home, the need for more clothing decreased since people haven’t been going out. The demand for comfortable clothes like sweatpants and sweatshirts has increased since everyone has been staying home. These changes will definitely remain post-pandemic. The demand for speed, efficiency, and quality is very high, and the pandemic proved that it was possible.

  20. The pandemic has altered how consumers shop. The consumer no longer is concerned with shopping merely in-store. The e-commerce experience has become of the utmost importance. At the start of the pandemic, stores were closed. In-person sales dropped dramatically. In some circumstances, this forced companies to their breaking point. In other instances, stores were able to revamp their e-commerce experience. As needs shifted, brands had to adapt and be willing to offer goods more sought out by the consumer. Another impact of the pandemic will severely impact developing nations. The consumers needs have shifted, and people are shopping less. Transparency now is a consumer want. With consumers buying less, they will be more selective over purchasing. In addition, developing nations are also suffering, as when the pandemic was introduced many retailers were unable to pay factory workers. The workers already struggle to survive, and the uncertain pandemic times have unfortunately resulted in them working for seemingly free in already unsafe, unsanitary conditions.

  21. COVID-19 has altered essentially every aspect of the fashion industry from supply chain management to sourcing to e-commerce to consumer demand. Not only are companies reevaluating where to source from and how to streamline production, but consumers are changing how they shop and what products they want. With the pandemic shutting everything down, physical stores had to close — leading to a large increase in e-commerce (more so than even before). Brands have had to build up their digital platforms so that they can still connect with consumers even if it is virtually. Creating personalized content for social media has been key especially since many young shoppers spent most of quarantine on their phones. Aside from this, customers, with nowhere to go and nothing to do, began buying more casual-wear and loungewear. And, during this time of self-reflection and expression, these shoppers saw the hardships caused by COVID and wanted to buy from smaller, local businesses. Though when things do open up again I believe shoppers will want to go back into stores, I also think COVID will have caused longer changes. Mainly, people have gotten used to the ease of shopping online and also crave the individuality and creativity that smaller brands can offer. The days of wanting to look like everyone else are gone. And, the other big long lasting change will be that companies will source from areas closer to home and make sure they are more self-reliant so that if a supplier’s country shuts down, they are not plum out of luck. Ultimately, COVID-19 has shaken down the fashion industry and forced it to rework itself in the face of hardship.

  22. The pandemic has changed the fashion industry in many ways but some situations that stuck out to me was the changes in what people will be wearing and how they are shopping for it. People are not shopping for special occasions anymore like parties, holidays or workwear because everything is being cancelled or shifted to online. Shopping for events helps the fashion economy for example i can think of countless times i have ran to the mall last minute for an event that i was going to attend or last minute vacation shopping. Also e-commerce was already taking off in pre-covid and even more so now with physical stores being shut down. Being at home people are going to shop for more loungewear and potentially home-goods and its all going to come from online. For some stores and people e-commerce may not be the best scenario considering many shoppers like to try things on and many stores need to make sales from in the shop. It will be interesting to see how situations play out in the long-run.

  23. The pandemic has drastically changed the whole world in different ways. The retail industry faced the biggest changes, as our lives revolve around purchasing goods and services, using them, and repeat. With Covid forcing us to social distance and at some point, to completely stay indoors for days, the retail industry, including the Fashion industry, have implemented digital shopping. For example, Instagram influencers were at a great advantage because people had nothing to do but watch and take in their content, which is why multiple companies moved to collaborating with some social media figures. I personally loved watching the fashion industry take a digital turn, it kept me in the loop when i was stuck outside of the country for a while: 3d fitting rooms, digital runway shows etc.

  24. The video speaks mostly on how covid-19 has affected the fashion industry. I think this video has showcased how hard the pandemic has hit the fashion industry and the number of changes and adaptations that the industry has had to make within such a short amount of time. The shift from brick-and-mortar stores to primarily online shopping was one of the massive shifts this industry has taken. Also, the lack of people buying new clothes has affected this industry, making it harder for stores to find a target market and people to buy the products. Also, the pandemic affected the factories and the workers in the apparel and textile industry, halting many products being made at the beginning of the pandemic only recently becoming more functional. This pandemic has made the fashion industry become more innovative and has made a major shift for everyone within the industry.

  25. I feel as though the fashion industry is making a huge change to online trade. In the video it is stated that due to the pandemic causing store closings, many consumers do not shop in store anymore because their experience is ruined by Covid precautions. I agree that the consumer market has moved to mostly online purchases and speaking from experience, I am one of these consumers that would rather shop online. The pandemic has prevented many customers from venturing to stores, trying on clothes, and purchasing what they like. It is very unfortunate, however, many consumers have become so used to having their garments shipped to them that they are no longer motivated to go shopping and pick out their clothes in person. In addition to this, the pandemic had caused a major crisis in many surrounding countries that supply to major sellers. Due to this, many countries are pulling out of their production agreements and moving production to their home destination. I think that this is a smart move because producers need to be able to survive majors tragedies and they have more control over events in their own territory. They can make the changes necessary to overcome obstacles and keep their companies in business.

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