The world as we know today is an extremely different place to what it was at the beginning of 2020…
A global pandemic of such magnitude left no industry unaffected. The fashion industry and apparel industry are among them. With forced shop closures as well as factories shutting down worldwide, paired with people spending much less due to loss of financial security and safety, small businesses are taking a hit. We spoke to Katya Akuma, Founder of Council for Fashion and Social Change on what we as a community can be doing to better support small fashion businesses during this time.
As a creative director, editor and artist, Akuma’s area of expertise is ethical fashion in all its forms, from slow design and heritage craft skills to recycling, reuse and alternative business models. She advocates for sustainable design practices and speaks around the world on the topic of sustainable fashion. She has served as a sustainable design advisor to women’s cooperatives, educational institutions, NGO’s and small and medium sized enterprises globally.
Katya provides the following perspectives on ways to support fashion businesses during COVID-19:
Times like this should make us value the concept of shopping better and help us make more sustainable choices. Step one is choosing brands that consider the planet and their workers. Nowadays there are many small fashion businesses that are known for well-made and timeless pieces, durability, and innovation. Choosing to embrace a more sustainable and lasting wardrobe makes sense both economically and ethically. If we choose to buy our garments with a purpose, we will eventually spend much less, and help the planet by reducing waste.
My personal choices are the companies that have close, transparent, and generally more ethical relationships with their factories and brands that provide durable, affordable, and timeless design. Here are few to mention: Amour Vert, Eileen Fisher, Re/Done and Chelsea King.
Shop directly from the designer
Despite individuals shopping much more on the internet and given that stores have shut, small fashion businesses are still encountering setbacks and obstacles. The best way to support such businesses is to shop from them directly or use online marketplaces where they pay lower fees/commissions which help them compete better with big department stores. If you are looking for local brands but don’t know where to start here are my favorite online marketplaces: Novica, Etsy and Garmentory.
Spread the word
While it does take a little more time to discover independent fashion brands, following your favorite fashion small businesses on social media is one way to stay connected and help them out by spreading the awareness and their work on your social media. With over than 150.000 followers and a large network of fashion industry professionals, Katya has firsthand experience helping small fashion businesses and emerging designers on her Instagram.According to her “Sharing information about your favorite brand is the simplest way to help. I usually share the initiatives that brands participate in, their design practices, short reviews of products and personal stories. While we may be stuck at our homes and the financial situation does not allow us to directly support small fashion businesses, using social media, our voices, choices and preferences can still be amplified and help indirectly by driving traffic and revenue to your favorite small fashion businesses”
What are you hoping for small fashion brands post-pandemic?
My hope is that we will see a shift in values, shopping habits and consumer behavior. While having been quarantined and experiencing a global crisis with devastating economic and social costs, I believe this pandemic has made us understand that instead of looking for material things, we should focus on empathy and human connection. When the time does come to make your next purchase, I encourage you to pause and consider who you’re buying it from.
Ask yourself if the purchase is going to support small fashion businesses that work so hard towards sustainable fashion future? Will your purchase be supporting minority business owners, who experience less access to capital than those more privileged, rather then supporting fast fashion brands that are only concerned about profit? We so frequently speak about the power of the consumer to transform the fashion industry in a better way and now is really the opportunity to do so.
Follow Katya Akuma on Instagram @katyaakuma and support Council for Fashion and Social Change on www.fashionandchange.com.