Entertainment Style Kirstie Clements: The fashion industry’s victims of the COVID-19 pandemic

Kirstie Clements: The fashion industry’s victims of the COVID-19 pandemic

Fashion designers
There's no industry untouched by this pandemic – including the fashion world. Photo: Getty
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News that the international runway shows, such as the pre-collections and the men’s shows in Milan have been cancelled is not a surprise, but it also raises the bigger question as to what lasting impact this period of forced isolation will have on the fashion world.

Designers have often complained that the pace of collections is relentless, having to show two collections per year spring/summer and autumn/winter, as well as numerous smaller ‘pre-collections’, and we have seen many of them buckle under the pressure and burn out, often developing drug and alcohol problems.

There has always been a system in place where the buyers, editors and journalists from around the world descend on the glittering capitals during showtime, spending huge amounts of money on hotels, restaurants, not to mention outfits to wear to the shows and be photographed in.

But the value of that system that is now being questioned, with all its attendant waste and carbon points, when we are living in a digital world which is hopefully leaning more towards sustainability than excess.

The recent Melbourne Fashion Week barely took off before it too became of victim of COVID-19. Photo: Getty

I feel for the local Australian fashion designers, who have been up against it anyway, competing with the giant luxury houses and their millions of advertising dollars, and the fast fashion chains with their cheaper, on-trend offerings that have proved to be irresistible to the consumer.

I, like everybody else on the planet, have been spending a lot of time online, browsing the new collections that would have been hitting the stores this month, and was saddened to see that a lot of them were already discounted up to 30 per cent.

While it is obviously a win for the customer, it is not a win for fashion in the long run, because most of these mid-price point designers are trying valiantly to produce pieces that are ethical and sustainable, and of course to create industry jobs.

You can’t help but note that an unusual period such as this current quarantine also retrains our consumer habits. We don’t need anything dressy, we are worried for jobs, about our super, how to pay the bills.

The trend forecasters always love to bang on about cocooning at home, but here we are doing that now, seriously anxious about the future, so fashion is the first thing to go.

Straight to a sales rack is the fashion equivalent of straight to DVD. Photo: Getty

We are shopping for jigsaws, yoga mats, books, and crafts. I asked my son’s girlfriends what they had bought for winter, and the three of us sadly confirmed that all we had bought were tracksuit pants (at 30 per cent off).

The relative ease of Zoom meetings, (once everyone learns how the mute button works) may change the way some of us work forever, post-corona, so there will be less reason to wear anything but lounge wear, at least from the waist down.

I know for me I started the week in black and white silk lounging pyjamas and by Friday I had ended up on video cam wearing the pink T-shirt I slept in.

I feel an obligation to make at least one purchase, like a smart sweater, to help the fashion industry stay afloat through these times. My colleagues will probably appreciate it, too.