“It’s the end of the world as we know it, time I had some time alone.” Who could have predicted that REM’s prophetic lyrics from ’87 would hit the nail 33 years later? The COVID-19 virus holds the whole world firmly in its grip, not only affecting people but also putting the reigning economic systems under pressure. The fashion industry specifically is heavily impacted. The epidemic escalated in the midst of the Fall 2020 fashion season, resulting in brands and design houses to interrupt their business and postpone upcoming runway shows. Major events have been cancelled, department stores across the globe have closed their doors. But just like REM ended the ultimate quarantine song with ‘I feel fine’ as a positive note, the crisis as well can lead to new perspectives for the fashion industry. Could this breakdown of the system possibly be a source of opportunities in the long term?
In recent years, the fashion industry has been making small and bigger steps forward to enhance its reputation of being cumbersome, conservative and burden our planet with waste problems. With the Corona crisis as a catalyst, brands are now challenged to speed up the process and consider wherever possible a reset.
Now more than ever, we can indeed see the seeds of a better future taking shape. A promise of a time when irresponsibility stops. The fashion industry is often blamed for not taking much social responsibility, yet we see the opposite happening now. People are collaborating, and learning quickly to find new solutions. Fashion brands are shifting their focus towards a common goal: answering the call for face masks and protective equipment. Perhaps we can see this period of joint, spontaneous efforts and public-spiritedness as a crucial test-run for a new attitude in fashion.
The age of the amateur
Renowned trend watchers all predict a massive shift in the industry after the crisis. Trend forecasting guru Li Edelkoort, has to declared in an interview with Dezeen, that now is the time for the industry to “jump off the carousel” and address its retail model “with more respect for human labour and conditions”. Overall, Edelkoort thinks that the current breakdown of the system could be a source for structural improvement, although the transition will be very tough. “If we decide to reinvent society and reconstruct and completely resync the systems, we could start with a blank page.”
A new era where individual creativity is increasingly prized, described by Edelkoort as the “age of the amateur”. Martina Olbertova, founder of Meaning.Global, agrees by stating in a Forbes interview that the health crisis “is a wake-up call to brands, serving as a great catalyst for brands to transition to the new paradigm faster than they probably would under normal circumstances.”
In the field of the luxury market, Olbertova notes that intrinsic definition of luxury is altering, away from flat materialism and its pretentious demonstration. Luxury brands should anticipate to this trend by injecting more meaningful values into their offerings that branch out into services and experiences – away from luxury as ostentatious symbols of wealth and power. “This is a time to create and strengthen brand perceptions, which ultimately creates value. And that’s all anchored in meaning,” Olbertova told Forbes. According to the German trend and future forecaster Matthias Horx, people will be able to cope with a different way of life. “Neuro-biologically, fear adrenaline is replaced by dopamine, resulting in us undertaking forward-looking actions. After a period of bewilderment and fear, an inner strength arises.” Regarding the economy, Horx believes the economy will survive ‘Black April’, although shrinking tremendously, with local production booming at the expense of globalization.
The habits, preferences and sentiments of consumers will change – and are changing already. This is only the beginning. Fashion needed to slow down and rethink itself a long time ago anyway. The time has come for the fashion industry to edit down the superfluous and regain its long-lost soul. One thing is for sure: change will no longer be optional, it will be the norm in the new world.