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Deputy editor’s view: Cleaning out one’s closet  

How might the fashion world be different after the pandemic? The most important answer is that we really don’t know. We can’t predict the future, and most people are probably fed up with post-covid predictions right now. I think I am heading that way also. Nevertheless, it would be fascinating to guess what potential direction the sector could head in.

As I was writing this comment piece, news broke that US retail sales plummeted by 16.4% from the prior month in April. Clothing stores took the biggest hit with a 78.8% tumble. Other big losers were electronics and appliances (-60.6%), furniture and home furnishing (-58.7%) sporting goods (-38%), and bars and restaurants (-29.5%). This is not good for those who may lose their jobs.

Clothing suppliers are feeling the pain too. Bangladesh’s Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association has reported that orders for 983 million garments, worth £2.6bn, have been cancelled or suspended. Manufacturing facilities are designed to hold stock for just a couple of weeks. Hopefully, they could end up getting recycled somehow.

These figures and issues got me thinking about the future of fast fashion. Fashion is responsible for around 10% of the world’s carbon emissions and nearly 20% of the world’s water waste, according to several United Nations groups. An estimated 85% of the world’s textiles end up in landfills or incinerated. Fast fashion no doubt contributes mightily to this waste.

Being stuck indoors for most of the day gives you time to contemplate things and clear out stuff. life is often ‘go, go, go’, you don’t take time to pause.

Personally, I have accumulated so many clothes over the years. It’s partly because (and I know my friends will be jealous about this) I have stayed the same clothing size since the age of 16. So, practically everything I own since then still fits me. Hence, I don’t need many clear outs. However, when you realise you can’t find the item of clothing you are searching for, it’s time to let go.

It also makes you realise that you don’t need as much stuff as you think you need. Will other people start feeling this way? I think they will.

Yet, there are still spendthrifts out there. Media reports highlighted that online fashion retailer Boohoo has seen sales soar during the lockdown. In a statement, the firm said it had seen a rise in sales of smart tops, as people working from home needed to keep up appearances on camera in front of their colleagues.

The UK-based firm said demand for the items had contributed to a rise in sales during April.

Social media users in France took to Twitter on Monday May 11 to share videos and pictures of shoppers queuing outside fashion shops such as those of Zara and Louis Vuitton hours after their eight-week-long French lockdown was lifted.

Yet, in time, I think this great pause could be the thing that rehabilitates fashion and potentially inspire people to get dressed in a more mindful way. This could mean buying less and buying responsibly and sustainably. I see an opportunity for bio-based companies here.

Also, when we wear our clothes, we could end up appreciating them more. We could also recognise the humanity and value the creativity of the people who make them. Just a thought.

This post was part of spotlight week on bio-based textiles. Check out the special features on Bio Market Insights all throughout this week.

If you were interested in this comment piece, you may also be interested in the ones below.

Read: New report: Introducing bio-based and sustainable components to long-standing supply chains.

Download: New report – Standardisation and certification developments in the bioeconomy

Read: 5 Minutes With… Katharine Teague, Head of Advocacy and Sustainability at AB Sugar.

Read: The first ‘Cotton + Corn’ shoe from Reebok’s sustainable range hits the shops.

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