The Pandemic Transformed Fashion’s Sustainability Narrative in 2020

As 2019 drew to a close, the fashion tide seemed to be turning in favor of sustainability. After years of advocacy and education by activists, garment laborers, small brands, independent journalists and more, fashion finally began to acknowledge the need for a more environmentally conscious and socially responsible way of making clothing. 

Then 2020 happened, and suddenly the industry was plunged into crisis. Covid-19 spread throughout the wider world on a timetable that eerily mirrored fashion month’s progression: Though the season began with what seemed like a fairly standard New York Fashion Week, by the time Paris Fashion Week rolled around, attendees were booking early flights home as the threat of the virus loomed.

Those early weeks gave way to an utterly altered reality as the pandemic took hold. While the world scrambled to establish and uncover a “new normal” for life and business as the months without a vaccine stretched on, another question was looming for fashion: What would become of all the corporate carbon neutrality pledges? Would the sustainability “race to the top” continue, or be forgotten in light of the economic downturn?

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