I’m sure we are all tired of hearing the sentiments that Coronavirus has changed our lives and we are not yet sure of the consequences that this unprecedented period will have, blah blah blah. However, I do not wish to add to the depressing tone of a multitude of journalism, especially within the fashion spheres, that projects the end of the world as we know it: it’s all a bit pessimistic.
Let us instead look to the positives. Throughout this oscillating period of lockdown and freedom, there have been several outbursts calling for widespread change among this fast-moving industry; sadly not quite hitting home, considering the news of PLT selling clothes for as little as 4p. This will not be a rant on this particular topic, however, instead, I would like to point out the changes that are coming from the consumers themselves. We are beginning to slow down every aspect of our lives, including the consumption and continual turnover between buying, wearing and throwing away. This does not merely apply to where we buy our clothes and how often we buy them, but also our capacity with a needle and thread.
Even among our own humble circles, I’m sure many of you will acknowledge the upsurge in creatives who are mending, sewing and creating new pieces. While I make no pretence to assume how much people are now mending their clothes, I have seen that there are a larger number of people who are featuring their creations on social media and perhaps even selling them. There could be a huge number of reasons for this ranging from a sense of frugality and necessity to simply a desire to alleviate boredom.
While being a parallel I’m not too happy to draw, it almost calls to mind the wartime mantra, ‘make do and mend’. It’s not a fair comparison to make, considering the huge amount of suffering and pain caused by wartime in comparison to Covid-19. Yet, perhaps when we all band together and communities are no longer able to function as normal it brings to us a greater sense of creativity and innovation.
Yet, whilst the rise of sewing might have grown dramatically within the past few months, the root of this popularity can be traced further back. For example, Patrick Grant, creative director of Savile Row tailor Norton & Sons, who was also one of the Great British Sewing Bee judges, spoke to the Guardian: ‘it’s very therapeutic to make something with your hands. Sewing disappeared off the radar for 20 years but it, and craft in general, now feels a bit cooler. When I was a kid there was a stigma attached to wearing something homemade, but that has completely reversed.’
Likewise, it is not simply about sewing being more acceptable, it is certainly a reflection of our generation being hyper-aware of the consequences of unreasonable consumerism. As I mentioned before, it is apparent that major fashion companies are failing to address all our demands and needs: we might want to look fashionable and trendy, but this no longer is coming at any cost.
Vogue Business also calls attention to this phenomenon.
‘As digital natives that have grown up in a hyperconnected world, young people today have needs that aren’t necessarily met by the traditional fashion cycle’, says Dominic Rose, chief operating officer of the social selling platform Depop. And they don’t like waste. ‘[With DIY clothing] they can wear something a couple of times, sell it, use the money to buy something else, customise it. You have got those two forces acting in parallel.’
Alongside this, there have also been established so-called high-end fashion houses that have been encouraging this attitude by making videos to adjust to this demand. Perhaps though this is not simply a marketing ploy: after all, it is unlikely that people who feel compelled to sew out of necessity nor students are able to buy from such fashion houses. Rather, this might be a way to maintain wider interest; it makes people who can’t afford the latest Prada bag still feel part of the process. It cements the artistic nature of the fashion world which is often overshadowed by other factors.
So, what does this mean for the rest of us? This paradigm shift is a welcome relief for many of us: for those who want to learn there is now a multitude of easy videos and for those who want to sell, there is more of an appetite for these smaller businesses. Sadly, this may not translate onto the high street for the time being but smaller businesses are flourishing in this environment, accompanied by easy to use platforms to get their businesses out there. Social media, Etsy, Depop and other places are a great relief to those who wish to sell. It is impossible to assert to what extent this will be continued into the future and the extent to which these so-called ‘side-hustles’ will really take off, however, it is a positive step towards a slower fashion industry.
It was also noticed by Vogue Business that the vast majority of users on Depop are young people. ‘Activity on Depop is a good barometer of young people’s wants, as 90 percent of its 15 million registered users in 126 countries are under 25, with a third of 18-25 year olds in the UK registered on the platform.’ This ought to add more ammunition for companies to adjust to the needs of its main consumers: it should show that the adage that ‘change should come from consumers’ is feeling adhered to and that major brands like PLT. Boohoo etc. are failing to see this change.
So, let us not be so hard on ourselves. It is more cost-effective and environmentally effective to partake in this new recycling and creative movement, so let’s keep on improving our skills and stop believing that the situation we are in is impossible to resolve, because we are starting to resolve it.