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

9 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. 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.

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