The Coronavirus has brought the fashion industry and the world as we know it to a virtual stand still. Now our entire industry is left wondering “where do we go from here?” Although this is a time of incredible uncertainty, this lockdown has allowed us at Denim Dudes the time to think, read and reflect upon the sort of industry this will allow us to build in the future. 

Over the next few weeks, we will be tackling some of the major topics facing the denim and apparel industry. We will be discussing factors that are likely to see permanent changes in the post-Coronavirus world and may be vital to sustain our community. We will be discussing over consumption, the rise of resale and peer-to-peer shopping platforms, overseas production and manufacturing, and how the apparel industry has truly come together to support one another in this time of crisis.

As the world we knew continues to change day by day, with no foreseeable conclusion in sight, we feel it is more imperative now than ever before to stick together and support this community that above all else, is driven by the passion and creativity of the individuals that make up our wonderful denim industry.

69 is now making makes from denim scraps, available to the public with the request of only an accompanying donation.

Let’s start the conversation with consumption.

In fashion’s recent history, the business model for mega-brands to both make and sell more for less has been getting harder and harder to justify. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is now painfully clear that brands that were once strengthened by their reliance on foreign production and the ability to sell millions of units at low price points, are showing points of weakness. 

“What is it that we are so eager to sustain? Is it the celebrity culture? The cheap habitual weekend purchases? The over-hyped fashion weeks? The haul culture and over-stuffed wardrobes? No, seriously, what is it with the current model of consumption we feel the need to so desperately preserve?”

These are the important questions asked by Otto Von Busch, a Professor of Integrated Design at Parsons The New Design School, when interviewed for Fashion United last year. His view on sustainability was also recently highlighted by sustainability platform, Future Dust.

Saitex, the worlds cleanest denim manufacturer, air drying Everlane jeans

It is a well known fact that the apparel and textile industries are the second largest contributors to the global environmental crisis. Mass production, over-consumption, excess, waste… This is not a new narrative in the fashion industry, but it has become a mainstream conversation over the last few years thanks to champions of change urging industries and consumers alike to make a serious shift in our methodology.

In early February we sat down with Maurizio Donadi from Atelier & Repairs and Eddie Hertzman from Rivet and Sourcing Journal, at the Project Trade Show in Las Vegas to discuss challenges facing our industry. It seems like a lifetime ago now, yet listening back to the audio of our discussion today, it was ominously foreshadowing of the current situation we are facing all over the world due to the Novel Coronavirus. As many of the world’s industrial titans are forced to slow down, we are beginning to question; could this lead to the end of over consumption, and help change our mindset in terms of the way we buy, use and interact with products, particularly apparel?

Maurizio Donadi, Co-founder of Aterlier & Repairs at our Project Tradeshow, Denim Room discussions.

Our conversation in Vegas covered the concept of over consumption, the implications and havoc our purchasing habits have had on the world. We chatted about sustainability; how a new generation of consumers and micro-makers are changing the way we interact with brands and products, and asked ourselves, how will these giant corporations continue to sustain the systems we’ve built over the last 50 years, while maintaining the relevancy and innovation consumers demand? One comment made by Maurizio Donadi is particularly poignant today:

 “It is impossible for the human race to be sustainable at this point in our evolution. From the moment we wake up in the morning, we pollute the world, period” 

At the heart of our industry, before fashion turned corporate, were individuals and their art. However, over the last three decades, mass production has taken over, with the fashion industry at the epicenter. With the new global economy, came the rise of fast fashion, excess and over consumption. We buy what we want, not what we need and we have started seeing garments as disposable products. How can we change our habits and promote a level of consciousness before we hit the check-out lines? Post-Corona, can we relearn to buy less?

As Maurizio explained during our discussion:

We need to face reality and say: do we really need 150 billion pieces a year manufactured for a population of 7 billion people in the world? Think about it. Fundamentally, bigger companies need to be smaller and more relevant, and smaller and more relevant companies need to be bigger. So we need to bring a balance to all of this because we are going absolutely nowhere.” 

These types of ideologies are now coming to the forefront of brand management as companies are forced to ask themselves ‘how do we continue to do business on a shoestring?’ Companies across the globe are currently in a flurry of cancelling orders, returning fabric and refusing shipments in a desperate attempt to keep their staff and pay their immediate overheads.

A Louis Vuitton store, boarded up do to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic in Soho, NY. Credit: Haruka Sakaguchi for The New York Times

Companies are not just facing challenges from a production standpoint, but on the other end of the food chain:, consumer demand. Right now people are more concerned with their health and focusing their spending on necessities like making rent, buying food and medicine… and of course the ever elusive toilet paper! 

Apparel companies that were in good shape pre-Coronavirus are expected to recover from disruptions brought on by the pandemic, but brands that were having a hard time before will likely face difficulties bouncing back. Pauline Brown, the former chairman of North America at LVMH may have said it best:

“Consumers are pretty unforgiving. As they say, you know when the tide goes out you can see who’s naked, and the tide’s going to definitely go out.”

The implications of the first Covid-19 outbreak in China were felt by the entire fashion industry. As Future Dust noted, “China is a vital part of the fashion industry’s supply chain, no matter how much high-end brands like to talk about prestigious local craftsmanship.⁠” In the coming months brands at all levels will need to re-evaluate their supply chain to overcome the effects of the coronavirus. This sudden need to adapt may allow unfortunate events such as the Covid-19 pandemic, to serve as a catalyst for change in the industry as a whole.

This could mark a new era in the age of over-consumption and consumerism. Maybe the Coronavirus will lead us to a fresh start this industry and our planet so desperately needs. After months of self-isolating and refining our need to purchase unnecessary products, maybe this will encourage us to realign our values and priorities, and we can teach ourselves to be happy with less. As the Tokyo based designer, Naohiro Fujisaki stated in a recent interview with Now Fashion,

“Even before all this occurred, the fashion industry had already reached a point in which change was needed, so this presents an opportunity for re-evaluation.”