Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
why now, more than ever, is the time to embrace slow fashion
How you can use lockdown to rethink your relationship with fashion
By hannah rochell
14 january 2021
Being in lockdown during COVID-19 has given many of us the time to get around to the things we’ve had the good intention of doing for ages. Maybe it’s finally sorting out a decent fitness regime, reading all of those untouched novels on the bookshelf, or learning how to cook (not necessarily with exactly the same ingredients as the recipe, of course!).
And having spent all this time in our houses, perhaps we’ve been able to take a look at what we really need in life - the chances are you’ve been living in tracksuit bottoms and a favourite hoodie for months, so perhaps fewer new clothes is something to consider when we come out the other side of these strange times.
How fashion brands reacted to the crisis
One thing that’s been highlighted through its often dubious reaction to the Coronavirus pandemic is the fashion industry. Why was it, when busy pubs and restaurants were deemed dangerous enough for the UK Government to close them down, did fast fashion and high street stores still consider themselves “vital” enough to stay open, putting the staff that worked in their shops at risk of getting infected, as well as their customers? Remember, many of the high street’s most well-known names are hugely profitable and owned by billionaires, so let’s not use waiting for government bailouts as an excuse here - they could have afforded to close AND pay wages.
And how come when the UK went into lockdown that plenty of warehouses continued to function as normal, with employees still working in incredibly close contact, in some cases, even after multiple colleagues had been rushed to hospital with COVID-19 symptoms? Then there are the brands that “cancelled” completed orders from garment makers in countries like Bangladesh, refusing to pay for work already done, and in turn endangering the livelihoods of already vulnerable people and their families.
Who will you stay loyal to?
So here’s a question to ask yourself right now: what kind of fashion landscape do you want to emerge from this crisis into? Do you want to carry on spending your money with brands that put profit so far above the safety of the people who work for and with them they’d happily expose them to a potentially fatal virus? And if brands are willing to do that, what does that say about how they treat their workers under normal circumstances - are they in safe conditions, and do they get paid fairly? Probably not.
Who are the good guys?
It comes as little surprise to anyone familiar with sustainable and ethical fashion that the brands who always shout about who makes their clothes, how much they are paid, and how well they are treated - because it’s integral to their ethics - are the very same ones who shut down or modified production and distribution at the earliest opportunity during the outbreak in order to protect people. These are the companies with messaging currently on their websites explaining why your purchase will take longer to fulfil, or which specific member of staff is going in to work alone to send out orders once a week to minimise risks.
Look out for brands that are actually helping out
Many of these brands are also stepping up to help specifically with the shortage of PPE equipment, swapping sewing summer frocks to making medical gowns and using 3D printers to make visors for the NHS and care workers who have been left woefully short of protective equipment. Here at #TOGETHERBAND we started selling our #TOGETHERMASKs early on, and with every one sold we have been able to donate a medical-grade face shield to Médecins sans Frontières.
What you can do
So if browsing gets the better of you and you fancy treating yourself to something new when we come out of lockdown - we’re only human, after all - remember that you probably have more time now than ever to put in the research to buying your new clothes responsibly. And you really don’t need to buy a top this week that no-one will see for months, especially since your order may risk the health of multiple people in order to get it to you.
Instead, use lockdown to read up about sustainable brands, research fabrics and fibres, follow responsible influencers and unfollow those that push fast fashion, and make lists of the brands that fit with your ethics that you would like to shop from when this is all over. And since many sustainable brands are newer, smaller, and not owned by billionaires, why not place an order? Most are still open for business online but may not be able to get you your order until it is safe to do so, but by investing in them now, they will still be an option for later. If in doubt, add a note with your order or send an email saying you don’t care how long it takes to receive your lovely new stuff, so long as the people making and distributing it aren’t put in danger.
Stay home. Stay safe. And spend this time making sure that the people who make your clothes have been given that opportunity, too.
WHAT BOTTLETOP IS DOING DURING THE COVID-19 CRISIS
1. We’ve slowed down production
The livelihoods of our workers is very important to us, as is their health. That’s why rather than shutting down the entire atelier in Brazil our craftsmen and women are working from home to produce our BOTTLETOP bags.
2. We’ll still get your purchases to you
All of our London team are working from home and will get any bands and bags you order to you as quickly as they can.
This article was originally published in April 2020 and has been updated