SINGAPORE: With the Chinese language New 12 months simply across the nook, custom invitations those that rejoice it to buy garments. A spectacular new outfit, ideally with a number of pink, symbolizes a recent begin to the brand new yr.
So I did one thing I hadn’t achieved in a couple of yr: go to the mall for the only real goal of shopping for garments.
However as he examined rack after rack of garments, actuality slowly settled in. I did not wish to purchase something.
A pang of guilt additionally hit me as I remembered the few new attire hidden in my wardrobe, reserved for a special day that by no means got here after the pandemic.
I returned house empty handed.
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NEW DISINTEREST IN DRESSING
As I wandered the mall aimlessly, I observed how stalwarts like Cotton On and Nike had been bustling, whereas the fancier boutiques had been emptier.
For the latter, some consumers had been shopping the gross sales cabinets, however nobody was queuing on the cashier.
It is smart that nobody is shopping for fancy garments. Wanting again on the few occasions I purchased garments prior to now yr, they’ve solely been for purposeful wants: versatile primary clothes that may be worn at house or outside, exercise garments, and comfy nightwear.
Whereas this simplified ensemble has been liberating, I used to be wanting ahead to the Chinese language New 12 months, which for the ladies in my household is a time after we can congratulate ourselves on our new kebayas or fastidiously chosen outfits.
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However with the pandemic limiting the variety of visits we are able to make and the variety of folks we are able to meet, my will to disguise myself this yr has been exhausted.
It isn’t simply these new restrictions: the final malaise of COVID-19 has disrupted our relationship with clothes. Our newfound disinterest in dressing up has been mirrored in very low gross sales figures: Within the US, attire and equipment gross sales in 2020 had been down greater than 1 / 4 in comparison with 2019, the steepest drop in all retail sectors.
Likewise, gross sales of clothes and footwear had been additionally affected in Singapore. It began throughout the April 7-June 1, 2020 circuit breaker, which was a very dire interval for retail.
In Could 2020, year-on-year retail gross sales had been reduce in half, the worst drop since information started in 1986. Gross sales of clothes and footwear had been down by nearly 90 %.
This development just isn’t more likely to cease. As COVID-19 continues to disrupt commerce and journey world wide, McKinsey predicts that world vogue gross sales in 2021 may stay as much as 15% decrease than 2019 ranges.
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THE FASHION WAS IN CONSTANT OVERDRIVE
This collapse in retail has had enormous implications for folks and jobs.
Over the past yr in Singapore, the beloved Robinson division retailer has retired, together with clothes retailers Topshop and Esprit.
A part of this could possibly be an extended overdue correction, given the fixed saturation of vogue provide chains earlier than the coronavirus.
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In 2018, the typical shopper within the US purchased 68 items of clothes in a yr, carrying every bit a median of seven occasions earlier than throwing it away. A 2016 CNA survey revealed that the typical Singaporean buys 34 items and discards 27 per yr.
However the free fall in clothes gross sales has hit garment producers and staff. As demand for clothes plummeted, retailers canceled their orders, leaving clothes producers within the lurch.
Bangladesh, the world’s second largest garment exporter, misplaced greater than $ three billion in canceled funds. Greater than half of its four million-strong workforce was laid off and a whole bunch of garment staff clashed with police all through the previous yr in protests over pending wages.
With unpaid staff and unused clothes piling up in warehouses, the pandemic has proven the excessive level the place clothes was once produced, consumed and discarded.
Proponents of sustainability have lengthy criticized overconsumption of clothes. In accordance with the United Nations Atmosphere Program, as of 2018, the style business emits 10 % of the world’s carbon emissions, greater than worldwide flights and transport mixed (each sectors produce round 2 % of worldwide emissions every).
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OUT WITH THE OLD?
Nonetheless, these tendencies don’t mark the top of vogue.
In accordance with Singapore market researcher Blackbox, COVID-19 has sparked the growth in e-commerce, with the typical Southeast Asian shopper spending a 3rd extra on merchandise on-line.
Shopee, Singapore’s most visited e-commerce website, noticed an 82% quarterly improve in internet visits between June and August 2020.
And let’s face it. Even when the pandemic has killed conventional clothes retailers, we’ll proceed to purchase garments, simply possibly by our smartphones after getting used to getting all the things we wish by e-commerce.
Manufacturers realize it and are responding. H&M introduced that it’ll shut a whole bunch of its shops world wide, as a part of its broader technique to shift its operations on-line.
However what has sparked the pandemic could also be a deeper and extra invisible shift in shopper priorities and shopper consciousness that can reshape retail in broader methods.
Fifty-four % of Southeast Asian customers wish to purchase from manufacturers with sustainable practices, whereas 43 % of Singapore customers select to take action intentionally, in keeping with a UOB survey in December 2020.
READ: Remark: Why luxurious manufacturers are weathering the pandemic higher than different retailers
Sustainable vogue had additionally piqued my curiosity, and after I was on the lookout for blouses that had been presentable for work, Zoom calls however had been comfy sufficient to stroll round the home, I made a decision to purchase my first “sustainable” fundamentals: a brief sleeve shirt a curtain. Sleeveless.
They’re constituted of lyocell, a bamboo-based fiber that has a decrease carbon and water footprint in comparison with cotton. The model additionally strives for transparency and supplies details about the manufacturing unit it really works with and the wages of its staff.
The value tag was dazzling, however with all the cash I saved by eating out much less usually, and naturally shopping for fewer garments, my pockets did not damage an excessive amount of.
It additionally helps that these tops are extremely tender and breathable.
READ: Remark: Life after COVID-19: Vogue excesses stopped, purchasing habits modified perpetually
The joy of shopping for new garments is simple. Even when clothes gross sales stay depressed, COVID-19 is not going to extinguish our need to look good and experiment with new issues.
However that need in me wasn’t robust sufficient to shell out for brand spanking new garments this Chinese language New 12 months. So long as working from house stays the norm, house put on and sportswear can be my go-to alternative.
Perhaps what we should always actually say goodbye to is button-down clothes and collars, as we kick off the brand new yr with outsized tops and drawstring pants.
Hear infectious illness professors talk about the most recent COVID-19 restrictions and the way they is perhaps carried out throughout the Chinese language New 12 months on CNA’s Coronary heart of the Matter podcast:
Erin Low is an investigative author within the CNA remark part.