Webinar: Impacts of COVID on fashion

Discussing the latest research

When: December 7th 2021, 16:00 – 18:00 (Geneva time)

Registration: https://www.eventbrite.ch/e/impacts-of-covid-on-fashion-presenting-latest-research-tickets-188924396957

Moderator: Dr. Claudia Henninger, University of Manchester

Image credit: HoneyBear

While quarantines, lockdowns, and strict COVID-related health safety measures are subsiding around the world, the pandemic is far from being over. It will continue to affect the systems of production and consumption globally. Initial impacts of COVID-related restrictions on fashion cannot be overstated: in 2020, there has been an unprecedented drop in consumption and production of apparel. While media coverage on the impacts of COVID fashion has been extensive, few peer-reviewed publications so far have explored the drivers and the impacts of this drop since the beginning of the pandemic.

This first public webinar of the International Research Network on Sustainable Fashion Consumption will present the findings from five research projects that have been conducted since the beginning of the pandemic by members of the network. Presentations from panel members will be followed by a Q&A session – questions from journalists and the media are welcome.

Project 1. Impacts of COVID-19 pandemic on fashion consumption across 9 countries

Speakers: Dr. Cosette Joyner Martinez, Oklahoma State University; Dr. Katia Vladimirova, University of Geneva; Dr. Samira Iran, Technical University Berlin

The pandemic of COVID-19 has caused major disruptions in people’s daily lives and practices all over the world. Work, shopping, and socializing moved into the virtual realm. Staying home, physical distancing and closure of most public infrastructure due to health protection measures created an unprecedented environment in which consumption practices of most people had to change. Consumers prioritized their health and well-being; many facing unemployment or drastically reduced incomes. Classic drivers of consumption, such as brand image, personality type, and status, particularly salient in fashion consumption, have become less evident in buying patterns.

This presentation will introduce the findings about shifting practices and attitudes during the pandemic among fashion consumers that have been observed in a collaborative research project conducted across nine countries (Switzerland, Finland, U.K., Germany, Iran, Czech Republic, India, U.S., and Hong Kong SAR) by the members of the network.

Project 2. Impacts of Covid-19 on management to eradicate modern slavery from global supply chains: A case study of Indian fashion supply chains  

Speakers: Dr. Mark Sumner, University of Leeds, U.K. and Dr. Hinrich Voss, HEC Montreal, Canada

The fashion industry has historically been exposed to modern slavery issues, with such issues particularly prevalent in Indian fashion supply chains. Although these issues pre-date the Covid-19 pandemic, this project explored the impacts of the pandemic on worker vulnerabilities to modern slavery. The project, funded by the AHRC through the Modern Slavery PEC, studied these impacts from the perspective of UK fashion brands, multiple tiers of the India fashion supply chains and industry stakeholders. During this session we will presentation the key findings from the project and explore implications for the industry and policy makers. 

Project 3. “The New Normal”: Sartorial and Body Practices of the Quarantine

Speakers: Dr. Liudmila Aliabieva, Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia

This presentation will focus on the collective monograph “The New Normal”: Sartorial and Body Practices of the Quarantine Era that came out as a result of a conference held online by the Fashion Theory journal on 10th June 2020 (published by the Literary Observer Publishing House). Covid19 pandemic gave rise to new ideologies, behaviours, and sensibilities. The situation of self-isolation and social distancing led to the emergence of new habits and rituals, our bodies mastered a new performativity, our wardrobes were reformatted, masks that instantly became part of a fashion statement came into use, we mastered a variety of online platforms, designers began to offer digital clothing, in which one could show off on Instagram, finally you could experiment with different filters and virtual backgrounds in Zoom, Teams, etc. Fashion industry had to abandon most of the usual formats and offer adequate tools for interaction with the consumer like total rethinking of the assortment and highlighting home clothes, fashion shoots through Facetime and the unprecedented inclusiveness of fashion magazines, digitalization of shows and clothes themselves.

Project 4. Changes in clothing consumption patterns based on shifting occasions

Speakers: Vilde Haugrønning and Dr. Kirsi Laitala, Consumption Research Norway, Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway.

There have been substantial changes in our social-, working-, and everyday lives as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the various related infection control measures. In this presentation, we will discuss how social distancing has influenced our everyday practices including leisure activities and clothing consumption patterns. Based on findings from a Norwegian nationally representative survey conducted in December 2020 – February 2021, we find that there have been changes in how and what we acquire, use, and dispose of clothing, while changes related to laundering were only minor despite the increased hygiene measures. During the pandemic, people had fewer occasions in their lives; there were less social and formal occasions that require particular forms of clothing. But there were also fewer ordinary occasions, such as going to work, eating out and travelling, as people were expected to stay at home. This triggered a more frequent use of home wear and higher acceptance of use of older garments, with less need for variety of garments, which again has consequences for the material flow of garments in and out of wardrobes. This shows how social occasions are important and determine our clothing consumption practices and needs for variety in clothing. We argue that a change in occasions affects how people wear, change and replace clothes and studying this change can lead to more knowledge about what drives consumption of clothing today.

Project 5. The Covid-19 Crisis as a Portal? Exploring three Cases as Opportunities for Fashion Systemic Change (work in progress, as part of the “Solidarity in fashion” project)

Speakers: Prof. Daniëlle Bruggeman, ArtEZ University of the Arts, Arnhem, Netherlands and Dr. Irene Maldini, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Building on the metaphor of novelist Arundhati Roy – who describes this pandemic as “a portal, a gateway between one world and the next” (2020) – this project explores three case studies initiated in the Netherlands to evaluate opportunities for systemic change brought about by the pandemic. The three cases are (1) Clothes Swap Circle, a grassroot initiative for clothing exchange based on circulating bags in neighborhoods; (2) #Payyourworkers, a campaign initiated by the Clean Clothes Campaign in cooperation with trade unions and labor right organizations to support garment workers, and (3) Feminist Needlework Party, an artist collective involving a wider community that uses textile repairing to discuss women’s role in care practices. The focus of these cases is varied, they are either wearer-focused, company-oriented, or driven by an artistic movement. The level of change promoted, and the impact of these cases, are also diverse. What they all have in common is that they have emerged or developed due to the specific circumstances of the pandemic.  In our comparative analysis of these cases, we build upon Donella Meadows’ systems theory (2008) as a theoretical framework to discuss different levels of change enabled by these circumstances.


If you have any questions or would like more information, please send an email to ekaterina.vladimirova@unige.ch