Lockdown is causing customers to turn against “fast fashion”, with 35% of women saying they intend to buy fewer items in the future, according to a new report.
With the high street in crisis, stores are closed and unwanted stock is piling up – and it seems people’s habits are changing too.
The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce (RSA) has found an increasing number of Britons now want brands to focus on sustainability.
Josie Warden, associate director at the RSA, said: “The crisis can be an opportunity for positive change.
“The fashion system is a significant contributor of waste, carbon emissions and other pollution, including microfibres in the ocean.
“It is also an industry riddled with poor labour conditions.
“Concerns about these impacts are quickly rising up the public agenda and, in a similar way to the backlash we have seen against plastics, this is another issue on which citizens are demanding rapid change.
“The results of this survey provide cause for optimism. The enforced lifestyle changes have disrupted our purchasing habits and given us space to reflect on what matters.
“Our impact on the environment and society are clearly important concerns, particularly among young people who want to enjoy fashion more responsibly after the lockdown is over.”
In recent years, influencers on social media have helped to boost fast fashion sales.
But, during the lockdown many have had to get creative, focusing on loungewear and slippers, rather than summer dresses and stilettos.
It is estimated 350,000 tonnes of used clothing goes to landfill every year in the UK, so there is pressure for people to shop sustainably.
Eshita Kabra-Davies runs a new start-up called By Rotation. It is an app that encourages people to borrow others’ clothes rather than buy new ones.
She told Sky News: “The amount that we consume is very different to how our parents would have consumed things 10, 20 years ago.
“By using our app, fashion lovers can access quality designer pieces for a fraction of the retail price.
“You shy away from buying fast fashion pieces, that you probably only use once or twice before you throw them away or donate them.
“We are really promoting people to invest in quality pieces and share them with each other.”
The RSA report found that during the lockdown people are making do, by fixing old clothes and even producing their own.
Around half of those questioned have taken up alternative hobbies to shopping, such as exercise, cooking and phoning friends and family.
And there is now real pressure on brands to make long-term changes, so that they are more environmentally friendly.
People Tree is a company that has always had sustainability at its core, but insists there is a reason why more companies do not take a similar approach.
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Managing director Melanie Traub told Sky News: “If it was an easy thing to do, I think more companies would do it.
“You need to look at all the conditions, from the growing of the cotton, through to the manufacture, through to the conditions in the factory and the wages that you’re paying.
“There is a cost and it’s whether the consumer is willing to pay that cost.”
The coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly had an enormous impact on the retail industry. Some fashion shows have gone digital, stock is piling up and companies are having to rely on online sales.
But factories across the world are now starting to reopen. People’s habits seem to be changing, but will they last post lockdown?