The Fashion Industry is Experiencing an Existential Crisis Due to COVID-19

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( — May 4, 2020) —  At this time of year, many of us would already have chosen the perfect summer wardrobe, with light preparations for sunny weather and vacations, however, the coronavirus crisis has devastated the global fashion market, BBC reports.

Sales of clothing fell sharply by as much as 34% in March, as most of the world’s population is unable to travel or even socialize due to restrictions imposed during the international pandemic isolation.

The fashion industry has been plagued by an epidemic of COVID-19 at every imaginable level – production has stopped, retail stores have closed, and demand has dropped dramatically.

With sales at such a low level, the question is what will happen to existing stocks of clothes that are just piling up in stores and warehouses.

“Unlike food or some medicines, [fashion] products do not go off. But many go out of style,” noted The Economist. “Sometimes, as with seasonal apparel collections, rather quickly.”

In an attempt to make some profit, many retailers are selling from large outlets practically everything they can online at significantly discounted prices. GAP and H&M, for example, offer seasonal sales, while Uniqlo promotes online selling of affordable comfortable clothing that people are likely to need at home, such as tracksuits and leggings.

As things stand, it is not yet clear if September Fashion Week will be held in London, Paris, New York, or especially at Milan, the EU’s epicenter of fashion and coronavirus pandemic that severely hit Italy.

Creators, for example, would be able to broadcast fashion shows online if social distance measures were still in place. May’s Met Gala, an annual highlight of the fashion calendar, has already effectively moved online.

Even when the pandemic of the COVID-19 has somewhat subsided, the question still remains how the fashion industry will function afterwards.

“I feel very strongly that when we come out at the other end, people’s values are really going to have shifted,” Vogue editor Dame Anna Wintour said last week.

“I think it’s an opportunity for all of us to look at our industry and to look at our lives, and to rethink our values, and to really think about the waste, and the amount of money, and consumption, and excess that we have all indulged in and how we really need to rethink what this industry stands for.”

The fashion industry is a major polluter, producing about 1.2 billion tons of carbon emissions per year – and for some time has been under huge pressure to become more sustainable.