Sustainable fashion was slowly picking up popularity in the fashion industry before the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic. The fast-fashion had dominated the fashion industry for more than a decade. However, with concerns regarding waste management and damage that it caused to the environment, the industry had started to look for alternative options to make fashion more sustainable.
Major brands of the world had launched a few experimental products using sustainable methods. Although this gained them popularity, the operations were not made sustainable to a large scale as yet. The brands had a timeline to gradually adopt sustainable practices by 2030. But the economic slowdown because of the pandemic has resulted in fall of demand, leading to huge losses in the economies. Garment factories across Bangladesh have reported a loss of more than $3 billion in cancelled and postponed orders due to decreased demand because of the pandemic. Owing to these circumstances, the industry is moving fast towards sustainability.
Andrew Busby wrote a Forbes article, “Prior to the coronavirus pandemic the direction of travel was beginning to shift away from mass fashion consumerism and brands were having to re-think their business models for 2030 and beyond. That kind of timeline now seems laughable. Most felt that this process would take years, but what the coronavirus has done is to shrink what might have happened in years to just weeks.”
In this context, let us understand the three ways in the fashion industry can take advantage of this new accelerated timeline to improve sustainability and prevent future supply chain catastrophes.
Communication and Care for Every link in Supply Chain
Companies with strong relationships with suppliers are more likely to keep commitments to them at trying times. One way this can be done is through local manufacturing partnerships. Local partnerships not only protects a company from being cut-off to manufacturing and raw material supplies during a crisis, but it also works positively towards reducing the carbon burden of the fashion industry.
Apart from this, a company needs to make sure to have clear, open lines of communication. Talking with suppliers and getting a stronger understanding of their needs can go a long way in building faithful and strong business relationships.
Circular fashion is when organizations create apparel and production systems “that maximize the value of healthy materials through multiple cycles of use before reprocessing them into new raw materials of equal or greater quality at their very end of life.” Brands such as Puma and Nike among others have introduced their circular fashion initiatives by launching sports apparel made of recycled materials. More brands need to adopt this technique. While it is a little difficult for big brands to adopt these systems, it provides for a great opportunity for MSMEs who can recycle or re-use fashion waste and convert it in new apparels. This, in turn, will lead to a lot more innovation in the industry.
Collaboration with Competitors
A stick alone is easily broken, but five together can pass the storm. This goes for every scenario. Every business is currently struggling to sustain. The only way to survive through the crisis is by helping one another and collaborating with competitors. Collaboration can help businesses reduce their production costs by sharing the same equipment and thus reducing resource wastage. They can also help each other by sharing valuable information that is relevant to them. In this manner, the market can start to function without rivalry, but with healthy competition.