There’s a sense that the Coronavirus outbreak has not just forced us to sit back, reassess the way we live, move and work, but that it’s also affected our perspective on our consumption habits. With several countries and regions on lockdown and social distancing now the order of the day, we’re significantly spending and purchasing less. When was the last time you enjoyed a gourmet cup of coffee or bought a fancy new gadget?
Even our wardrobes have been affected. If you’re more the type who treats themselves to a new blouse or fresh pair of sunglasses every other week, being in isolation will certainly have had an effect on things. However, some critics are of the opinion that this is actually a good thing and that it’s time to curb our addiction to material things. BoF contributor, Angelo Flaccavento says, “We are at a junction: we might all end up in a completely sanitised world of regulated seclusion and fluid-free digital connections, or we might rediscover what truly matters, and do away with the clutter, the overconsumption, the superficiality that’s been clogging our minds, and destroying our environment.”
It’s a nice thought – that is if you believe the world actually has a problem with superficiality – but could it be a little idealistic to believe that this epidemic will truly change a culture of hyper-consumption that the fashion industry has actively helped build over decades? Most especially in the West?
Cooped up within our four walls now, most likely forced to embrace minimalism in some way or another, it’s easy to think that we will all have learnt our lesson – “all we need is each other, not fancy things” – but how easy will it be to maintain this slightly hippie attitude when we’re back to being exposed to those fancy things on a day-to-day basis? Old habits die hard.
On the other hand, it will take some time for the fashion industry to pick back up. The crisis has hit hard, affecting both the supply and demand side, so naturally, the industry will need time to heal. When that healing takes place and, more importantly, our earning power has been restored to its rightful place, will we go right back to acquiring beautiful things just for the sake of their beauty – or maybe even go into overdrive now that we’re finally free?
Will we go back to flying thousands of miles for a 50-minute Summer/Spring show or embrace a more environmentally approach to enjoying fashion? When is the next time a doctor rather than 20-something influencer will appear on the cover of a high-end publication? Where does Fast Fashion fit into this new world?
According to Flaccavento, “this crisis is an opportunity to edit down the superfluous, to regain our long-lost soul, to do away with heavy marketing and the insidious economy of influencing.” It’s safe to say I’m not totally convinced there’ll be any soul-regaining, unfortunately.