In New Zealand we’ve all felt the effects of Covid-19. It has been hard, and because you know how hard it has been, you can relate to other people around the world who are doing it tough, if not tougher.

The landscape of the fashion industry has changed dramatically over the course of the pandemic. Every single part, process and person within the trade has been affected.

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Pari has worked behind a sewing machine since she was 15, working 14 hours and six days a week. She is constantly concerned for her safety, always in pain and makes just enough money to get by.

Because of the change in landscape, we’ve also had to adapt, by creating a new Ethical Fashion Guide and report. It still has the same end goal in mind, just with a greater focus about what consumers and businesses can do better to look after vulnerable workers in the environment of Covid-19. Our hope is that when this report comes out, you will make a genuine effort to change your behaviours when it comes to shopping more ethically. It’s not easy, but I do encourage you to dig deeper, learn more, ask questions and help make a positive impact for vulnerable people who are doing it tough.

Here are five questions and answers to help you better understand the impact Covid-19 has had on the fashion industry. This will also give you a deeper look into why the guide has changed, what has changed in the guide and why Kiwis should care about ethical fashion.

1. How has Covid-19 affected the fashion industry?  


Within supply chains: 

• Factories have lost revenue due to government enforced lockdowns.  
• Workers have lost their jobs, been furloughed and suffered dramatic pay cuts.
• Physical distancing has limited production capacity. 
• Companies have cancelled orders due to reduced demand and financial pressure.
• Other workers have been forced to return to work, exposing them to the risk of contracting Covid-19.

For companies: 

• Suffered huge losses due to various production and trading limitations, such as product delays and government-enforced lockdowns.
• Under immense pressure both operationally, as many have had to issue redundancies, and financially, due to lockdowns and the change in consumer demand and behaviour.  

2. What are the Covid Fashion Commitments? 


The Covid Fashion commitments are six commitments that Tearfund and Baptist World Aid Australia are calling on companies to publicly make, to stand together with workers in their global supply chains and mitigate the risks to workers. 

These commitments are:

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After making a public statement, companies provided evidence as to how they’re upholding these commitments. This evidence was assessed for the Covid Fashion Report, to provide consumers with an insight into which companies have been supporting their workers through the challenges they are facing due to Covid-19. 

3. Why are the Ethical Fashion Report and Guide different this year?  


The regular Ethical Fashion Report research process is about assessing the systems in place across the entire supply chain. It assumes relative stability in that supply chain and a high degree of engagement from companies and/or public disclosure of ethical sourcing practices.  

These conditions of stability and capacity were not present in the crucial early stages of the pandemic, which overlapped with the research period for this report between March and July 2020.  

The Covid Fashion Report is therefore focused on identifying and recognising the immediate actions and initiatives that have been implemented by companies in response to the crisis, along with its impacts on the workers in their supply chains. 

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A clothing store.
 

4. What has changed?   


Rather than grading companies from A+ to F based on the criteria, this year we are focusing on the actions clothing companies have and haven’t taken to protect and support the most vulnerable workers in their supply chains and of consumers, and the choices we can make amidst the disruption of Covid-19. 

This year’s guide tells a story about us, as consumers, and the choices we can make, even amidst our own experience of the disruption of Covid-19. Instead of pages full of grades you’ll instead find tips and questions to help you take your next steps toward being more thoughtful and intentional when buying clothes. 
  


5. Why should the average New Zealander care about workers overseas when their own lives and finances have been disrupted in 2020? 


The unique part of all of this is that no one is exempt from the impact of Covid-19. Whether you live in New Zealand, or Bangladesh, we’re all feeling the fallout from the pandemic. We believe that this has gifted us with a unique understanding of what the other is facing, and therefore a renewed sense of comradery. We all need to stick together and help each other out, so we all come out the other side.  

We also need to be aware that many fellow humans overseas have not had access to many of the necessities that we take for granted; like money for food, water and housing, government support, healthcare, and the ability to take health precautions like physical distancing. Many garment workers are paid minimal wages, often not enough to allow them to save anything from their paycheck for future needs. Also, if they’re unable to work, most of the time they don’t get paid. So, when a lockdown is enforced this means going without any income for an extended period of time. Government support is extremely limited in many developing countries, so many workers have been left with nothing throughout the pandemic, leaving them to fight for survival.  

So yes, we’ve all been impacted by Covid-19 but we’ve been given an opportunity to extend understanding to our brothers and sisters across the globe, and be compassionate towards them. Once we realise we’re all in this together, and that some have much less than others, it’s not hard to care.

 

Be a part of our ethical fashion journey.

 

 

 

 

Find out more


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