The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown fashion retailers in a state of frenzy, and the denim industry is no different. Shoppers, largely battening down at home, aren’t as eager to crack open their wallets for non-essentials, let alone splurge on bottoms that aren’t visible on Zoom calls. The coronavirus doesn’t appear to be going anywhere soon, either. With resurgent cases in countries like Germany, Spain and South Korea, where rates of infection were previously on the decline, a second wave that ushers another spate of lockdowns and store closures seems all but inevitable.
Denim companies must then make a decision, experts say: to see sustainability as either an albatross or a lifeline. While brands in survival mode might be tempted to jettison their sustainable investments, especially if they’re part of a standalone strategy that doesn’t have repercussions for other parts of their business, doing so would be a fatal mistake, according to Laura Balmond, programme manager of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Make Fashion Circular Jeans Redesign initiative, which aims to make denim production less wasteful and polluting.
“The pandemic has shown the fragility of today’s fashion industry and the risks it faces in the long term if it does not change,” she said. “The only way to ensure businesses can be resilient enough to tackle this type of situation without sacrificing their other priorities—like addressing climate change, waste and pollution—is to…put them at the core of their brand.”