While the New Year’s season is when many consider implementing improved practices for the remainder of the year, it isn’t the only temple dedicated to reevaluating past lifestyle practices and habits. The idea of spring cleaning has become an age-old trend meant to inspire the concept of a physical cleansing of our environment. In relatively modern times, the term, hijacked has been esoteric to fashion and closet purging. Spring calls for a rebirth, a renewal, and a restoration, that is especially important, as it marks the emergence out of holiday season into a new year. Thus, the idea of spring cleaning is an annual undertaking that many choose to implement into their yearly routines. Historically, spring cleaning was attributed to a religious and cultural start traced back to the Jewish custom of preparing for the liberation that Passover brings in the spring and others saying it holds close ties to the Persian New Year, celebrated on the first day of spring. Regardless of this attributed tradition, many have adopted the seasonal belief of this ample time to dig through and declutter, and as specially related to our fashion and lifestyle essential, to spring clean closets. Nobody is exempted from the benefits of a thorough wardrobe cleanse, as many of us are often clinging to -yearly- old, unworn, unwanted, and/or regretfully acquired pieces.

However, the idea of spring cleaning closets might go so far to reveal an even deeper resolution or purpose as the current state of affairs has wildly impacted the daily lifestyles of just about every person. The fashion industry has been devastated by the sudden turn of events the global pandemic has brought on; people have had no choice but to prioritize financially and economically beneficial lifestyle practices as the COVID epidemic continues to take away ordinary luxuries we had been previously used to. When the fashion and lifestyle industry is concerned, the notion of minimalism as it relates to the production, appreciation, and collectivization of fashion as the freedom of ‘more is better’ is no longer a plausible lifestyle. However, while the turn to minimalism was initially under-appreciated and now relevant to several lifestyle epiphanies, it might prove to be an appreciated contribution to fashion consumerism post the COVID-19—pandemic/lockdown.

Be more with less.

The minimalist fashion movement is where it gets tricky. First, a necessary step to breaking it down is looking into defining it as it relates to different tranches, demographics, and consuming habits. Rather than being regarded as a fashion trend or style, the idea of minimalism in fashion could/should/would now be defined more so by the core foundation and purpose of its practice as a way of being physically minimal yet emotionally conscious. In other words, the minimalism fashion movement should/could/would be centered around the idea of being more thoughtful and, in return, have less tangible ‘materials’ or ‘stuff’ and appreciating the conscious effort to maintaining these bare necessities. The minimalist fashion movement prioritizes the idea of simplicity as opposed to being concerned with the excessive nature of fashion, both in practice or production and visual aesthetic. What that means for you can vary to some degree. Still, it typically focuses on either a wardrobe surrounded by simple silhouettes, patterns, cuts, etc. or simple in number and what it contains – or perhaps a combination of both. For the context of spring cleaning, focusing more on the idea of the latter and how the fashion movement is emphasizing this concept of reductionism is as effective as promoting these co-dependent ideas. More specifically, the “less is more” token trademark of the minimalist fashion trend could/should/would be manifested into specific trends more fittingly into labels like the ‘capsule wardrobe.’ This would/could/should mean that a consumer’s closet choice wardrobe style is limited to a set number of items, and the consumer is unable to purchase or add any other pieces of clothing unless they intend to replace something already existing in the closet to maintain that number. Typically, capsule wardrobes range from anywhere between 20 to 40, or perhaps even 50 pieces of clothing (not including undergarments). Likewise, to the movement, the idea of a capsule wardrobe is so that a consumer is more concerned about the simplicity in numbers of clothing items they should own. Not only is it challenging to keep a set number of pieces at all times and resist the impulse of buying and/or excessive shopping, but a capsule wardrobe takes in-depth creativity to pull off when it comes to creating as many stylish combinations as possible. While a capsule wardrobe is an essential branch of the minimalist fashion movement, the concept of being minimal in fashion is not only much more uncomplicated than it may seem but will/should/could prove to be a financially and thoughtfully more respectable way to approach fashion consumption.

As influential as it is, the fashion industry holds a quiescent but potent footprint on the global landscape; this historical and global influence marks it as one of the most critical sectors in any functional, economic ecosystem. However, what would it mean for the industry to run through the wringer of a historical moment? A question the industry must now face as a global health crisis wreaks havoc on all aspects of the world. Many are pushing forth the need for necessary changes and actionable processes the fashion industry must make if it were to survive this current crisis: from reconsidering the accessibility to fashion to the introduction of new fashion, as well as addressing the issues of materialism that make up a majority of consumer power. With such a physical and tangible blueprint, it would be near impossible to strip such aspects away without transforming the very foundation fashion relies upon. However, this idea – and perhaps potential solution – of minimalism and questioning how much we consume is very well a significant problem the industry must tackle sooner than later. 

A majority of the minimalist movement’s appeal is the way it functions as a counteract to the fast fashion and excessive trend cycles, events, collections, and other aspects of the fashion industry. This is seen through the movement’s practicality in the way it coincides with sustainable fashion and the slowly rising adoption of slow fashion. The minimalist approach in fashion is grounded in the idea that fashion choices, consumptions, and purchases to be carefully thought of as the point is to avoid excessiveness. Fashion (consumption) could/should/would be specific, intentional, and could/should/would be an overall investment. Less can most definitely be more when the pieces in your wardrobe are not only consciously purchased, but that they are genuinely embracing of an aesthetic rather than ‘in style.’ As a prospective question: could/should/would the minimalist fashion be a temporarily mending practice suited for the state of affairs post a pandemic? Or does it have a real potential in acting as a basis for how the fashion industry should/could/would function going forward?

The COVID-19 pandemic began with a few dozen instances halfway across the globe. Still, it slowly permeated into a global crisis fueled by the fear of how easily contagious and deadly the foreign virus has proven itself to be. With local and national authorities enforcing a city to statewide lockdowns with no foreseeable end due to increased positive cases and the inability of most health facilities to manage the ongoing situation, leading to accelerated global tragedies, and as it sadly relates, in fashion capitals of the world. Based on recent researches and findings, the unemployment rate in the United States alone as of early April is up to 13%, with 17 million Americans filing for unemployment benefits. As several industries lay off workers and pause operations in these unforeseen times, it question of how affected the fashion industry and how big of an impact this has and will prove to be in the future has never been more declared than now. From runway show cancellations to global designer stores and production lines shut down, the pandemic has caused a seismic disruption for those within the industry. Every person once essential to the functions of the industry – designers, art directors, and buyers alike – have been thrown into a sudden limbo; the unpredictability of the COVID-19 pandemic has put the industry on an unplanned pause. However, while professional 9-5 workers are facing the sudden whiplash of a complete disruption of daily routine due to some city-imposed lockdowns, creatives, freelancers, and those considered to be “digital nomads” are finding that even the social isolation reality is as complicated when it isn’t self-imposed.

Image source: Alexander McQueen. © photo: Andrea Adriani / Gorunway.com

The spring season as one of the most fundamental season for the fashion industry has deemed all operational and creative labor of the SS20 and the collections after useless and inessential, as the growth of the pandemic has caused brands, designers, and couture houses to close off their doors to customers, issuing various policies in the meantime. Many companies and fashion houses have announced within the last month a temporary halt in their production in facilities worldwide; others like Gap Inc., Levi’s, and HanesBrands have had to make the difficult choice of furloughing employees across the board. The worst-case scenario that major retail chains, like H&M, Group, Inditex Group, and Nike, Inc, etc., have had to consider is the thousands of layoffs and shut down their stores across the globe. And while the United States has still not issued an executive national stay-at-home order, with the number of infected cases reaching over 200,000 according to the CDC, many corporations and businesses have taken the corporate responsibility to enforce work from home policies on their employees. Those who work in fashion and other creative industries have, for decades, had the potential to work effectively under remote conditions, and not lost are the professionals with operational functions reliant on person-to-person contact to execute jobs and other responsibilities. With heavy reliance on technology, the newly implemented work from home policies and structures by most brands has become all the more essential to facilitate remote contact and attempt to continue business operations. Vogue branches in areas with governments enforced lockdowns, such as Vogue Italia and Vogue China, have released statements on their operational switch to video conferences and online meetings with staff, members, partners, creatives, and collaborators to maintain functionality.

Image source: Phllip Picardi and his colleagues meditating before a staff meeting. Gioncarlo Valentine for The New York Times.                                                                              Although both necessary, the question of which approach is more productive has become a question for most organizations and management heads. Professional 9-5’ers mandated to work in the office and in-person settings and freelance creatives or more generally, those who work on a self-responsible schedule are opposite sides of a working spectrum that have their appeals and disadvantages that change depending on who you ask. For freelance(creatives)and at-home workers, the flexibility in hours, comfort of their own space, and the lack of commute might be ideal when these factors or the lack thereof relies on productivity. On the other hand, others might be more inclined to work in a collaborative in-person environment and would much rather distinguish a separate space to work outside of their home. Regardless of which category the majority of fashion industry professionals and creatives fall into, the sudden shift to a day-to-day lockdown and enforced at-home workdays affects us all. When it comes to the fashion industry, working from home isn’t impossible. However, much of the industry heavily relies on in-person tangible work, from model fittings, photoshoot preparations, styling, to collection shows, and presentations. Companies and brands that have been fortunate enough to facilitate remote work are faced with the sudden externally imposed isolation. And for freelancers and creatives used to working from home, their opportunities for in-person collaboration are now temporarily foregone. And now we ask: what is the new(modern) trajectory of the fashion industry? And how will all aspects of the industry manage the new reality now and in the aftermath of it?

Image source: Getty Images / Barcroft Media.

With the global fashion industry facing one of the biggest hits since world war II, and with many fashion professionals confined to their homes facing a new reality: balancing the ability to self isolate and be professionally productive, all while still maintaining a healthy mental albeit physical state of mind, and body, has become a new objective. For some that have mastered the art of self-discipline and self-motivation un-reliant on the presence of a physical office environment, the advantage of past experience in developing habits to remain productive at home, and the downside effects of this lockdown prevent itself as a less impactful challenge than it is to dedicated professionals. Issues that traditional office workers may now have to face is the lack of stimulated development without the ability to make in-person connections and work collaboratively. The isolation work order of 2020 challenges several – century-long ideas: ideas on productivity, discipline, teamwork, collaboration, and application of resources. More importantly, it challenges the notion of creativity, teamwork, and productivity for professional 9-5’ers in a state of absence of a physical work environment. Testing how those who worked in professional spaces with others can or cannot maintain that same level of creative teamwork and productivity. At-home creatives, who either collaborate with others occasionally or work on their own pace, have had the time to develop their methods – but it may be much harder now for those working remotely for the first time. While creative work, as demonstrated by at-home freelancers, is certainly possible to accomplish at home, the loss of productivity can be concerning as many are getting used to the sudden change. Thankfully, online platforms that allow for secure remote collaboration, such as Slack, Discord, Zoom, etc., have been able to facilitate these new virtual structures and operations effectively but is still an adjustment to the lack of in-person connectivity.

Image source : Alvaro Reyes for unsplash.

Regardless of which of these (new) categories you fall into – the at-home worker or the 9-5 worker, or perhaps a blend of both – the temporary loss of the work-life balance that existed before the crisis and this new reality has become the new theory of assessment and comparative analysis for so many, especially in determining the correlation, true effects and causes of productivity in the workplace and the resources applied. The isolation order has been a problematic new reality to cope with. It’s a removal of the work-life balance you were once comfortable with – even if you already typically worked from home – and because the end of the pandemic is unforeseen, it has left many wondering if they’ll have to permanently adjust to remote work for perhaps the nearest future, or if the work they once loved doing in person will be one to temporarily or permanently forego. It’s a new truth, and while it may have put the norm on pause, it’s a necessary precaution to take to ensure that what was placed on hold may once start once again. From all levels of workers and from all branches of the fashion and creative industries, the isolation orders that have been put in place have flipped the functionality of the industry on its side and will be the initiation of an emerging and needed change from this point forward. 

When the ball dropped at midnight three months ago, it ushered a monumental and – the most- anticipated decade without any foresight on the possibility of a global pandemic. For many of us, a solace in the resolutions for the year 2020 had finally been realized two decades after the beginning of a new millennium. However, in the wake of what fashion analysts lackadaisically labeled as a media outcry, a global health crisis emerged and has become the most significant health crisis yet. The quick yet profoundly disruptive impact of the COVID-19 virus led to a worldwide panic, a global lockdown for households, and shutdown of businesses factories and businesses operate in most global fashion capitals: the greatest industrial hit since the world war II.

The overlying and underlying implications of COVID-19 have within a short time proven accurate in the past two months of its gradual impact, with the causation of a frightening new reality for the global fashion industry. An impact analysts estimate will detrimentally linger for the next few years (of deliberate marketing), with adverse effects on crucial sectors and channels in the fashion and lifestyle industry, production, and consumption. In the face of this new reality for most brands and businesses, is the uncontrolled pause in the activities of many large, medium and small fashion and lifestyle brands kindled by the digital age of social media and fast consumption. As many luxury and fast fashion businesses continue to face unexpected pertinent hits on sales, distribution, and production, concerns, and questions on the essentiality of current processes in an archaic adoption to old habits in the new age definition of the fashion industry have become urgent.

Here’s the idea: A global pandemic becomes a breeding ground for the aggressive application of sustainable fashion. In the latest special edition of a BoF Podcast, the Dean of Hybrid Studies at Parsons School of Design and trend forecaster Li’ Edelkoort, expresses her thoughts on the effects of the coronavirus pandemic brings to light what is wrong with society, and teaching us to slow down and to change our ways. This pandemic, as we know, has led to an unplanned industrial pause, a pause we would hope results in the careful consideration of strategies, schemes, and habits orchestrated and marketed into the consumer blueprints in the past decades.

With the global fashion industry facing its greatest crisis since its inception, the COVID-19 pandemic has surfaced urgent questions that needed to be asked in the fashion industry for years and counting. Overall, however, as examining the positives within becomes the beaconing hope for a crucial reset, many believe that the broken down systems as a result of this pandemic could be a blank canvas for deconstruction and reinvention of the fashion industry.