During the last three months, I’ve spent my nights wishing The Six Million Dollar Man could swoop in to move our office. One guy, one mission, one contact.
Moving on a good day is a rotten task but during a pandemic it’s a nightmare. It’s close to impossible to stay socially distant and even though our movers were awesome, it was a challenging day to say the least.
Still, the worst part of moving is never moving day itself. It’s packing up all the stuff that’s accumulated over the years and getting it ready to load onto a truck. We spent quarantine going thru files, cleaning out bins and emptying cabinets.
It was a five-month-long nightmare of facing our biggest challenges and deciding if we were going to stay in the game or end it. Nothing was out of the question.
Thanks to this pandemic, every industry everywhere is going thru its own kind of moving day. Businesses of all sizes are grappling with how to survive and adapt to a new normal. No one wants to see people out of work or facing life and death situations but for fashion, a world-wide shutdown might have been the only way to get the industry to face all its problems.
The garment business has been on the brink of collapse for a long time and now all the world can see just how broken it is. Like so many big businesses, the apparel industry got too big. Even some of the brands that claimed to be “sustainable” confessed last year they were producing too much stuff. One even opened a few high-profile physical stores because they had to sell thru 20,000 tee shirts. They thought offering them online only wasn’t going to sell them. Not a great reason for opening stores. Perhaps those 20,000 tees had no business being made in the first place…
Thanks to a couple of months of lock down, we’ve learned that we don’t need all the clothes we thought we did pre-pandemic.
My husband’s grandmother owned just one dress, one pair of shoes, one coat, one hat and a couple pairs of underwear. She had the money to buy more but she chose to live simply. (Of course, she never worked out and didn’t need a pair of running shoes or leggings for her HIIT classes.) Chances are after living in the same joggers for the past few months we’re realizing we don’t need a closet full of athletic wear either.
Over-consumption has turned into the new smoking. After this pandemic, too much stuff looks stupid and companies creating it are in for an awakening.
Many of us are realizing we need to ratchet down our cravings for worthless, single use stuff and get back to basics.
We keep hearing how some businesses will never recover from this, but maybe they shouldn’t. Maybe some of the big clothing brands and department stores currently facing bankruptcy should have taken a closer look at the amount of inventory they were pumping out long before a virus halted their production and supply chains.
Luxury brands like Burberry and Stefano Ricci were known to burn their excess inventory after every season. That’s right… millions of dollars of inventory up in smoke just so they could sew another season of more stuff destined for the same fate. Then there’s fast fashion brands making cheap goods that are worn on average about three times just to end up in the trash.
But we can’t put all the blame on the brands. Consumers are a big part of the problem.
When we think a pair of shorts should cost under $30, we keep fast fashion in a race to the bottom. The game changed thirty years ago and the goal was to make as much as they could as cheap as possible. Fast fashion turned consumers into spoiled brats screaming for more, more, more!
Those supporting and buying brands that harm humans and our planet are like kids watching a bully pummel the nerd. Buying the stuff that is filling our oceans with plastic and creating over 13 million tons of trash is just as bad as making it.
Consumers must stop pretending to be innocent bystanders and start taking responsibility for what they’re buying. This “gotta have it and lots of it” mentality is harming all of us. Remember the recent toilet paper shortage?
Fashion got out of control because customers ignored the true cost of making clothing. Few thought about the person sitting at a machine, hours at a time laboring over that $10 tank top. Who made your clothes? Who made the denim that makes your jeans and who is the guy that sacrificed those workers’ health and the health of their communities by allowing those factories to dump their waste just anywhere?
Even the “sustainable” clothing brands like ME needed to change. Remember, recycled water bottles are still plastic, so when companies claim they’re using your old water bottles to make their leggings, those plastic leggings are on their last life and will hang around forever.
We had good intentions to put all that excess plastic to good use but now that we know recycled poly is not-so-great for the planet, we can’t continue to fool ourselves into thinking it’s OK to use it. Just like the smoker still buying his Camels knowing full well they will kill him, we can’t keep using fabric that’s choking our fish and entering our bodies. Just so you know, we stopped buying polyester of all kinds in July of 2019.
If a tiny company like MAJAMAS EARTH can make tough decisions, any company can. The only way for fashion to fix their problems and emerge from this crisis is to take their business down to manageable levels.
I see so many possibilities to resolve all the problems with fashion while cleaning up the planet and giving people an opportunity for work, but it must start with training.
The biggest obstacle to keeping fashion local is finding enough people willing to cut and sew it in the countries these brands are headquartered. With colleges and universities facing their own breakdown, now is the perfect time to encourage the next generation to enter the trades. We’re running out of talented Carpenters, Plumbers, Electricians and Seamstresses. We need more craftspeople. Plus keeping production smaller and local means there would and should be more environmental regulations in place which could drastically cut down on the pollution the industry is famous for creating.
Major fashion labels and fast fashion companies know changes like this will increase the cost of making clothes, which takes us back to the consumer. We’ve been brainwashed into thinking a tee shirt should only cost ten bucks and that’s a problem. It will take time to convince consumers that it’s better to have one beautifully, well made $50 tee shirt that will last rather than ten crumby $10 tee shirts that will fall apart after the third wash.
The world has been upended by this virus and every business is being forced to reinvent itself. Fashion, like every other industry, must emerge from this crisis in a new and better place. If a company can’t produce clothing with a lower human and environmental impact, then it shouldn’t emerge at all. I hate to see any company close and I know first hand how scary it is to face that fate but business as usual is no longer an option.
I’m confident the best ideas, inventions and innovations will come from this.
Maybe that’s why I keep repeating parts of the voice-over during the opening credits of the Six Million Dollar Man. “We can rebuild… We have the technology. We have the capability to become stronger than ever,” or something like that.
Change is tough but this pandemic has shown us it’s time to do just that. Companies and consumers must adapt. Any designer will tell you, “Less is more.”
Look at it this way, we aren’t broken, we’re just rebuilding. We can come back stronger, healthier and better than ever. Bionic? Maybe… Humans are capable of great things and if we can survive a pandemic, nothing is impossible. Oh, and I’ll take that bionic eye…
– Germaine Caprio, MAJAMAS EARTH Company Owner & Designer
Let ME know:
Have you changed clothing consumption habits during COVID-19?
Please share your own thoughts with us – let’s get a conversation started in the comments below!