A year like no other – that’s definitely one way to describe 2020. Although the situation seemed to ease in many places over the summer, at least in the short term, a lot of things are changing fundamentally. This was a year that saw many people all over the world having to hunker down in their homes. United in isolation: away from friends, everyday work routines and our usual leisure activities, being digitally connected became more important than ever. And that also applies to the fashion industry: while the city centres were virtually deserted, the significance of e-commerce increased rapidly. Brands and designers kept in touch with their communities via social media. And even though the shops have meanwhile opened their doors again, online sales channels and the combination of virtual and stationary have become indispensable parts of our everyday lives. Not least because hygiene regulations and contact restrictions may well be ramped up again during the colder months.
The boost to digitalisation within the industry is also apparent in the event sector where social distancing and travel restrictions have been posing new challenges for tradeshows and conferences. To offer labels and buyers a platform on which to communicate with their community, the organisers are focusing on new solutions: from hybrid concepts that combine online and offline elements, down to purely virtual formats that incorporate brands and the community, like the first Neonyt on Air in July 2020, for example.
The forced break due to COVID-19 has also caused a lot of people to have a rethink. What is really important? What do we really need? What are the repercussions of our purchasing decisions? These are all questions that can lead to more conscious consumption behaviour. Parallel to this, the pandemic has exposed the fatal problems of non-transparent and fragmented supply chains: countless workers in countries like Bangladesh, Myanmar and India lost their jobs when the big fast fashion companies cancelled orders on a massive scale. And in the factories where production continued, there was often little sign of any safety or hygiene concepts. But fair fashion labels like Armedangels, Lanius and Melawear are showing us that it doesn’t have to be that way: these Neonyt exhibitors declared months ago that they wouldn’t be cancelling any orders from their production partners and have set up new solidarity initiatives instead.
In these times of crisis, the business model of sustainable and fair fashion labels has a unique opportunity to really prove its worth. Through the close-knit and transparent cooperation of the brands with their partners in the supply chains, fast and flexible solutions can be found collectively. This newfound awareness and shift in values of consumers could also increase the demand for more sustainable products – with the focus shifting from “dressed for the moment” to fashion that is made to last.
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