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Will Our Relationship With Clothes Shopping Change After This?

Will Our Relationship With Clothes Shopping Change After This?

All imagery in this post is by Sarah Ellen Photography.
Shot on location in Shoreditch, London.

This is one of the weirdest times in history. We are living through a global pandemic, something on a scale none of us ever thought was real I guess, until now. It’s been a bit of a ‘cultural reset’ as described by the media – to disagreement or not. Everyone has got their own opinions, their own views and their own ideals for how they’re both coping currently and coping going forward. But something I’ve been wondering a lot is the impact on our view of fashion, and whether it will in the long run – change consumer habits? For the good, or for the worse?

I think one of the reasons why this has even become an argument as of late is because of the shift in the mentality toward our own personal priorities. When everything kicked in, we all entered our ‘survival mode’, ensuring we had food, shelter, warmth and everything for survival only. We still are really in this part, both mentally and physically – and therefore more ‘frivolous’ clothes purchases were pushed aside for the essentials. Sadly a lot of people lost jobs and income, and this meant less money to spend on the stuff we would have before. I think there will always be booming market for the beauty industry, but as the world was already beginning a journey into more sustainable clothing to help the planet anyway – will people’s habits with fast fashion change?

To delve deeper into this we must first really begin to explore the type of purchaser, and who/why they are purchasing. For a long time there was a huge generation of people – my age group – who grew up without access to online shopping and still now shop usually a mix of online and traditionally in stores. The youngest generation able to shop online really does the majority of their shopping online, usually influenced by online creators or their favourite online celebrity influencers. As young people become more and more aware of the weight of the world of global warming, I wonder if their mindset will shift away from fast fashion – much as our generation of 30-somethings quickly shifted and changed our minds away from our childhoods spent either at, or wanting to go to Seaworld. We realised quickly the error of our ways and changed our habits so drastically to the point where it is now shameful to go.

I often wonder about this new generation, and if they will too have a ‘cultural reset’ after this pandemic, and realise what’s more important to them is to travel and live sustainably. Perhaps they will drastically cut down their fast fashion footprint, feeling the weight of the guilt like we did after we found out the truth about Seaworld.

For me personally, my habits have completely changed. I wonder if I’m still in ‘survival mode’ or if my mindset changed when it became so drastically clear to me what was important in my life? Since lockdown began almost two months ago, I have made one online order for clothes – I bought a new t shirt from ASOS and a comfy sit at home jumpsuit. I am yet to purchase anything of this nature. Instead my money and focus has been going on both feeding and looking after my family, as well as looking to the future of my business and looking to invest in something – that became even more apparently crucial than ever before – to keep me in business during the pandemic.

I’m not sure the same can be said for the influencer industry, both still purchasing hauls in large measures and encouraging lots of spending through affiliate links. I understand for a lot of influencers this is their main source of income during this time, and I often wonder how the audience reacts to this. We are on one hand told to limit online spending to essentials, as not to put delivery drivers – and ourselves – at risk, but then we are also encouraged to continue spending to ‘fuel the economy’. Influencers more than ever are thrust under the spotlight, as their power can and has in the past launched a fashion brand to being the hottest new thing within moments. Something I have noticed on my personal feed is the affiliate links changing slightly, from fashion to food, or house products, or different things entirely. Are we entering not only a brand new era of fashion shopping habits but also a new era of influencer marketing – focussed less on what we are wearing and more on how we are feeling?

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Either way, it will be a really interesting time to see how London Fashion Week reacts to this, and how fast fashion retailers may shift their targeting. I for one would like to see more of an effort on sustainability, as well as influencers encouraging reuse, rewearing and restyling of old clothes – rather than consistently sharing new ones. I would also like to see fast fashion cut down on the sheer amount of clothes they sell online. Less clothing is less of an impact on the environment. The thing is, none of this is going to go away, and it certainly won’t when life resumes as before. The best we can do is hope that it’s shaken up the brands enough to make a change, even the smallest change can make the largest difference.

Will people’s mindsets shift after a period of losing our freedom? Will they change from caring about the clothes they wear more than the world they see or the house they live in? Will followers be sick of seeing the same affiliate links on influencers, and lean more toward a totally different style of influencer – and will there be disparity in this between age groups? Everything has really got my brain ticking out of curiosity. The thing is, there’s only one way we will all find out – and time will tell.

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  • I have to say that working for a fast fashion company has often left me with feelings of guilt. I know there are avenues the company is going down to try and improve their impact on the environment but it really is not enough. Lockdown has seen me purchase literally 3 tshirts and that’s it, and I think because people have nowhere to go and no nights out etc. there really isn’t a need to be buying new clothes all the time. What I wonder is, when things go back to some semblance of normal, will people stick to their current reserved purchasing habits or will they be rushing to the shops to get new clothes because they’re bored of what they’re wearing?

    • I totally feel your question – I wonder that too. Will it inadvertently cause a spike? The main thing to note from your comment is – you yourself must never feel guilty. That in a way is kind of what they want, to shirk the responsibility onto others. The only guilt should be felt by the company – not honest workers trying to make a living. If the company started to work on measures to be more sustainable – they’d not only be able to keep their staff but attract new customers who may warrant the need of new staff. it is never on your shoulders to feel that weight! I too have worked in a store – I worked at GAP when they had that huge scandal with the factory workers – and I felt awful, but it is not my weight to carry. The consumer must decide where to purchase, and the retailer must make a positive change. The onus is on them if this fast moving world moves on without them and they don’t keep up! You are doing great.

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