Fashion Must Be Redefined In The Post-Covid World
These masked times have unmasked quite a few realities. A summer without lawn launches, the sight of exorbitant price tags and those harrowing episodes of infinitely queuing up to behold the newest summer fashion collections, have managed to unveil the futility of it all. Of all the Covid-19 epiphanies, the ones daring the superficiality of our fashion cravings proves to be most hounding, bringing home the realization that beyond the basics, we can survive without any of those consumerism-induced excesses and over-indulgences.
Fashion and the industry that churns it are mostly about pomp and show; though who will we show off to when there’s no one around to see, resonates the strident lockdown deliberation. Cooped up inside the house indefinitely during that period of self-isolation, we might have missed the mini ramps that we paraded at weddings and bourgeois get-togethers, besides the luxury of retail therapies, but waiting in the wings was the revelation that resources spent on those apparels, accessories and make-overs might as well be put to a better use; one that the world is earnestly yearning.
Most fashion drives are focused on creating in our lives needs that barely exist. That next jora or handbag is never the last, or enough even right away, let alone in the long-run. Arduous advertising and marketing campaigns blowing the fashion trumpet, and, often, being more creative and costly than what appears to be the ‘spin-off merchandise’ that they tout, target unsparingly. The mind goes back to that perplexing moment of summer 2019, when while scribing a lawn collection review, I couldn’t perceive what made one designer lawn stand apart from the other; while whatever one wrote down appeared replete with redundancy.
I didn’t really know whether to blame my own stodgy appraisal skills or the fashion designers for their cookie-cutter creativity.
One of the reverberations of a compulsive fashionista’s pandemic musings proclaims that ‘fashion fascism’ forces itself upon us like an authoritative predator, with assertions that anything short of what’s ‘in’ is ‘out and outcasted.’ “Consumerism blatantly underpins the fashion industry, while the persistent desire for flamboyance and staying up-to-date fans its smoldering existence,” remarks an otherwise die-hard fashionista.
The need for sustainable, affordable fashion that doesn’t exploit nature or manpower has never been felt more strongly ever before. Going by one of the Covid lessons hinged on realism, there’s a need to slacken over-spending on atrociously priced designer wear to stay low key and divert spending towards more existential causes and needs.
Ethical fashion practices are a prerequisite to sustainability. Inadequate work conditions for artisans and labour employed in the fashion industry has always been a cause for concern. In the absence of any formal work contracts, thousands of textile factory workers have faced furloughs and layoffs without notice during the last few months of lockdown.
Many of them were not even paid their due salaries. According to National Trade Union Federation there are rampant labour violations at the garment and textile factories, including the failure to pay minimum wages, hours of forced unpaid overtime, and neglecting to provide medical leave or adequate breaks to workers, all of which was exacerbated during the lockdown.
In the words of labour activist Farooq Tariq, “Labour law violations have been exposed more openly during the Corona virus crisis,” a sad scenario, considering that the textile and apparel industry is Pakistan’s second largest employer after agriculture.
A lockdown relaxation prior to Eid ul Fitr in Punjab, though, didn’t fare very well with our lockdown awakenings. The relaxation was supposed to be a gradual, systematic resumption, where lifting of measures was meant to be measured. On the contrary, while throwing caution to the wind, the lockdown inmates hurtled out, their disposition devoid of any inklings of pandemic stirrings, as they rushed out onto the roads without reason or regard for ramification. The newfound freedom had to be exploited; scampering to the marketplaces, oblivious of any dangers, they crammed and shopped, rubbing shoulders and possible infections down each other’s throats.
Covid-19 and all of its learnt lessons were, hence, defeated by the designer lawn idée fixe. It was as if those luring lawn shopping sprees were, in fact, a cure, not a threat, for the Corona virus blitz. These women brave multiple hurdles every summer to catch glimpses of their favourite designer lawns, have taken pastings in the past, been dragged, abused and pulled at during catfights. From Lawn catfights every season to fighting Corona virus through defiance, these women are fashion’s incorrigible warriors. Fortunately, this time around some regard for maintaining social distance kept them away from interlocking into physical confrontation.
Moving towards virtual fashion shows, post-Covid, would mean no more of the vanity shows that are conducted in the form of actual fashion events. The who’s who of the city, the high and mighty gracing fashion occasions with their prized presence while donning the priciest designer wear, would no longer be a reality to add to the hyped value of brands, hence, showcased. Online events, if put through, will certainly eliminate a lot of elitism and cocky selectivity associated with hosting high-end fashion events, which might help stabilize prices and make them more realistically accessible. High-end or high-street, fashion will always be an indispensable part of our lives; fashion’s pretentious path, however, needs to be redefined as we embrace the post-pandemic new world order.
Faryal Shahzad is an entrepreneur and a freelance journalist based in Lahore.