Drawing a silver lining around the COVID cloud

An eternally optimistic fashion start up founder hopes for the best

Half of the world’s population has been into some degree of lockdown due to the COVID 19 pandemic. Much has changed in these days — our daily routine, our preferences, our behavior and our perspective towards the world around us. This change was sudden. No one was prepared for it. But also, it’s an adversity of this scale against which the humanity has united. Or such is the hope. It’s the universal fear that worked, not love.

World economists are predicting a global recession like none before. Almost every sector is going to be impacted brutally. The global fashion economy is no exception. If you were to google “impact of COVID19 on the global fashion industry” you would get scores of results; all of them emphasizing on how this pandemic has paralyzed the entire industry. If experts are to be believed, it’s going to take at least a year for the fashion economy to get back on its track. An industry which mostly works on moderately thin cash reserves, such a situation makes the very survival of several businesses doubtful.

Children working in a mill in Macon, Georgia | 1909

Perhaps there is hope if we change our perspective. COVID 19 has forced us to pause and introspect.

Fashion industry is the second largest polluting industry of the world, just after the oil industry. The exploitation of workers across different countries which manufacture garments and textiles are no hidden tales. The documentary, The True Cost, has delved deeper into the exploitation in the fashion industry. A vulgar display of consumerism has been going on for the past four decades in the name of fast fashion. Brands invest their resources in inducing thoughtless buying behavior among consumers.  Aggressive marketing and manipulative advertising almost compel the consumers into buying the products that were never needed.

This should stop. The pause in the industry’s global supply chain has provided us with the opportunity to re-invent the industry once more with greater consciousness. This is how we can take the leap:

1)      Reinvent the supply chain: We have to evaluate the actual demand and restructure our supply chain that promises minimal wastage of the goods in the entire value chain. “Made-to-order” could be one of the ways that industry should seriously think of now.

2)      Integrate technology: Today we do have technologies which will help us to predict demands more accurately both in terms of quantity and quality (like trends). Efforts should be made to make the integration of these technologies available to the larger part of the value chain.

3)      Resuscitate local crafts: This could be the best time to re-discover local crafts which are dying a silent death and give them a new life. A country like India offers a huge opportunity in this sector. This will help to reduce the dependency on other countries and at the same time will provide support to local artisans.

4)      Ethical buying: The current scenario—where our buying priorities have changed and fashion products do not hold the same importance as before—could be the best time to educate consumers about ethical buying and responsible shopping. It always has to start from the consumers first.

5)      Build resources locally: COVID19 has taught us a tough lesson — not to put all the eggs in one basket. Over dependence on a foreign country could be disastrous. It would be better if we source resources locally and fulfill at least a part of our requirement from these local sources on a regular basis.

These are trying times. But if the fashion industry is willing, we can turn this menace into a big opportunity. Small and medium scale businesses can begin the game. I hope to see an awakened industry and its awakened consumers once the dust of this pandemic settles to the ground and trust resurfaces. Are we ready to take the plunge?


Ankesh Dev is a fashion entrepreneur and co-founder of brands Moda Hombre and ACHIMI. A marketer by profession and a thinker by disposition, he is an avid proponent of sustainable fashion. He loves to challenge the status quo and explore new possibilities that promise a better future for us in conjunction with our co-existence with this planet.


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