The Student
Fashion In Response To Covid: A Push For Sustainability
by Maya Sargent, 28/09/21

Whilst the recent summer Birkenstock trend signalled that maybe the world wasn’t quite ready to rid themselves of lockdown comfort fashion (The Cut reported that sales had ‘tripled’ to a remarkable ‘$800 million’), the recent displays at New York Fashion Week are a far cry away from my grey sweatpants. 

With an abundance of glitter, sequins and the most ambitious colours, clothes are saying ‘we’re back and better than ever’. The summer months had once promised us sunshine, freedom, a return to travel and so much more and whilst it succeeded to a certain extent, we were also trapped amongst grey clouds, rain, long motorway queues and lacklustre staycations. It is no surprise that we have big ambitions for the autumn months. 

Post lockdown fashion has embraced variation, a mixture of bright and more typically autumnal colours for the fall/winter season highlighting an ingrained desire to include personality, fun and humour into our wardrobes, even as we enter the darker months. 

However, most prominent in post lockdown fashion is a huge step towards sustainability; the impacts of the climate crisis are at the forefront of every agenda. Designers have chosen to promote couture this fashion season with even celebrities reviving vintage archive pieces for premiers and award shows. You only need to look at the recent VMA red carpet to see Olivia Rodrigo in Haute Couture 2001 Atelier Versace whilst Kylie Jenner recently showcased a 1987 Jean Paul Gaultier dress at an event. Post lockdown fashion is channelling the word ‘vintage’ and implementing a prominent message: to reduce fast fashion. 

This push for sustainability has been highlighted by a variety of designers. A recent Sunday Times interview with Demna Gvasalia of Balenciaga saw him state the importance of being aware of our ‘buying habits’. As a designer that now favours ‘couture’ over constantly striving for the ‘It bag’ and the ‘It shoes’, he stressed the importance of being responsible for his choices as both a ‘brand’ and as a ‘customer’.  However, trying to incorporate these values into your life as a young adult and a student proves rather difficult when we are faced with the overwhelming obstacle of the price tag. Sustainable brands such as Reformation offer competitive price tags that make wearing sustainable seem completely inaccessible on a student budget. Adhering to these ideals of couture are not realistic even though our generation has been responsible for the revival of Ebay, clothes swaps, thrifting and the creation of Depop so it is obvious that we care deeply about the ethos behind our individual styles.

Whilst my best advice as a student to embrace the push for sustainability, whilst still diversifying your wardrobe, is to utilise the incredible range of charity shops in Edinburgh as well as Ebay and Depop. We can only hope that as brands recognise the importance of sustainability, they also recognise the importance of accessibility as well.

Billie Eilish’s recent debut at the MET Gala, wearing Oscar de la Renta, is indicative of this generation’s pursuit for sustainability. Her collaboration with De La Renta premiered their recent message and next movement as a brand: to prohibit the use of fur. In a move that is incredibly powerful, De La Renta is calling upon other designers to do the same, whilst initiating a definite shift into a hopeful fur-free fashion future. 

After the events of the pandemic, it seems we have all had time to rethink our habits and recognise our intentions for our next steps in life: the direction we want to take, the person we want to become and how we want to be remembered. I have been thinking about this a lot recently and how this message intertwines with the scenes we have seen recently in fashion. A quote from a recent Harper’s Bizarre article about the Goodwood Revival springs to mind: “repairing and repurposing are the antithesis of the throwaway culture that we need to move away from” and in doing so we can be reminded that “speed, elegance, style and adrenalin never go out of fashion”. With a strong message, confidence and a conscientious mind, let your fashion vocalise your post lockdown voice, just ensure that there’s nod to sustainability, so fashionable darling