How to Be a Fashion Activist During the COVID-19 Pandemic

How to Be a Fashion Activist During the COVID-19 Pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to sweep the world, many things are changing. Industries are facing difficulties and many people are finding themselves in situations that they couldn’t possibly have seen coming. Businesses close as entire countries go into lockdown, and the economy is cracking under the pressure of this unprecedented crisis.

One of the things to change is the fashion industry. As a trade reliant on a constant influx of customer interest, as well as functioning factories and warehouses that employ lots of people, fashion is having to re-think its entire model to be able to have a fighting chance during and after coronavirus. Many ethical fashion advocates hope that a new, fairer, kinder fashion industry will emerge after the crisis, and as consumers, we have the power to help make that happen. Here are a few ways that you can affect the industry during this challenging time.

Fashion activism in the time of coronavirus | Eco Warrior Princess
Byron Bay conscious label Kopal is handcrafted by artisans in rural India using sustainable traditional methods, and the highest quality cotton and dyes. Credit: Kopal.

1. Be even more mindful of whom you support.

Many of us are bored in isolation and trying on new outfits can provide a welcome mood boost – but is it even ethical to shop at all during a pandemic? The answer isn’t simple. Even though it may feel frivolous, buying clothes might offer a struggling retailer a lifeline. This is why you’re seeing more brands offer discounts all over your social media feeds. But in a time when brands are called more than ever to make the right decisions to protect their workers, where you spend your money truly matters. Companies whose workers are striking because they are forced to work in unsafe conditions might not be deserving of your cash right now. Also, keep in mind that deliveries are best kept to a minimum to reduce risk for all parties.

2. Support smaller brands who are struggling.

When all of this is over, large companies will definitely have taken a hit – but there’s a chance they will be able to recoup after the crisis and be well-equipped to make a slow return to business as usual. The situation could look very different for smaller businesses, who are hit incredibly hard by the pandemic. So if you are in a position to shop, try to support smaller companies, and particularly those who have ethical practices and have minimal environmental impact such as Dorsu, RANT Clothing, tonle and Pure Pod.


3. Ask brands what their COVID-19 policy is in regards to workers’ rights and safety.

In the garment manufacturing industry, workers are often paid weeks after delivery, not on order. As many brands are cancelling orders following the pandemic, some of them are not paying for orders already made, which leaves factories having to lay off staff. Workers are left desperate. Nazma Akter from AWAJ Foundation – an organisation campaigning for workers’ rights – told Fashion Revolution, “These workers now don’t know how they will take care of their families in the coming days – how they will manage costs for food, rent and other necessities.

“They can’t even imagine what they’ll do if they or a family member needs medical treatment for COVID-19. The meager income these workers earned was barely enough to cover their living costs, and as a result, they have little to no savings set aside to deal with a crisis such as this.”

As a result, many fashion activists are calling on brands to honour orders already placed and pay the people who are urgently depending on the payments to survive.

Another issue is that companies have come under fire for forcing workers to perform their tasks in conditions that are increasingly unsafe. Issues include difficulties with practising social distancing in warehouses, not having access to hand sanitiser, and refusals to close despite government guidelines. So before you shop, find out how the company treats its workers in regard to the pandemic.

Garment workers in Bangladesh. Credit: UNSGSA.

4. Consider transitioning to a vegan wardrobe.

As we are learning more about this new virus, it’s crucial to know where it came from, in order to avoid future pandemics. Reports show that this particular disease originated in a market that sells both dead and live animals for food, which has prompted questions around our use of animals. Exotic animals aren’t just exploited for food – their bodies are made into handbags, shoes and belts for the luxury fashion industry. Brands like Victoria Beckham, Paul Smith, Gucci and Diane von Furstenberg have all banned exotic skins from their collections, showing that wearing animals is on its way out. Now might be a good time to learn more about the exotic skins trade and other animal-derived fabrics, and what the sustainable vegan options are.

Related Post: 10 Ethical Vegan Fashion Brands to Watch in 2020

Credit: Fashion Revolution.

5. Take your protesting online.

Can’t take part in protests with social-distancing rules in place? There are still many ways to stay active: sign petitions online (such as Remake’s #PayUp petition), write to decision-makers, participate in this year’s Fashion Revolution event online, get informed by watching fast fashion docos, eco fashion books and ethical fashion podcasts – and then make sure to inform others. The climate crisis and fashion’s ethical issues are not taking a break because of the pandemic, and neither should fashion activism.

Recommending reading:

Feature image via Dorsu.

Enjoyed this post & want to show your gratitude? Then please support Eco Warrior Princess on Patreon!

More from Activism