The Round Up: Factory Worker's Plight, Fashion Takes Action

The Round-Up is ZERRIN’s weekly news digest on the world of sustainability, fashion and beauty, keeping you up to date with all the latest updates worldwide. From reporting on the green moves of retail industry giants to uncovering the latest updates from emerging brands, innovations and ideas, we’ll be sharing it all in this dedicated weekly update.

Coronavirus impacts garment factory workers high risk1. More and more factories close due to Covid-19, which means its workers face unpaid sick leave and unemployment. 

As the coronavirus causes orders to dry up, up to 40 million workers face losing wages and employment. Apart from China, factories in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Vietnam are already closing for a low supply of raw materials usually assisted by Chinese imports, and dwindling interest from western brands for new orders. With almost half the global population under lockdown or self-imposed isolation, it is clear more factories will shut and leave their workers without any protection. 

Many campaigners are demanding brands take responsibility and action for their supply chain workforce from falling into crippling poverty. A collective called the ‘Clean Clothes Campaign’ are making sure workers who have contracted the virus are offered sick leave with wages and assurance for their employment after recovery. Especially since most of the countries producing garments lack stringent policies to protect workers or pay them adequately, they fall victim to debt and defaulting loans, even with their already insufficient wages. 

Now more than ever, fashion brands must take responsibility for workers in their supply chain.

2. Vegan Fashion Week might be postponed, but founder does whatever she can to encourage the movement.

Vegan Fashion Week, scheduled for 4 April has been cancelled due to rising COVID-19 cases. The third edition of the event in Los Angeles was an attempt to bring the Californian city as the capital of ethical fashion in the world. The founder, Emmanuelle Rienda, hopes to take a raincheck on the event and have it in October if all losses can be recouped, and the venue fixed. The previous season’s event featured animal-loving designers and celebrities such as Mena Suvari, Emily Deschanel, Moby, Kate Nash and more to put a spotlight onto those brands pioneering plant-based alternatives. 

Rienda believes this virus is giving fashion another chance to rethink the ways of production and mindless consumption. Her personal ethos revolves around not needing animal products in our lives, and the ecological and economic disaster we are in stems from animal exploitation. She urges designers and brands to innovate without animal products, and envision a world where “we can care about sustainability and also ethics”. 

Here's what the platform is doing, and how Emmanuelle Rienda continues to keep the conversation alive.

Jenny Polanco, fashion designer dies from Covid-19

3. Jenny Polanco, the acclaimed Dominican fashion designer, dies from COVID-19.

Celebrated Dominican fashion designer and regular at Miami Fashion Week, Jenny Polanco is one of the first public figures to pass away due to the novel coronavirus. One of the six people to succumb to COVID-19 in the Dominican Republic, the designer tested positive after a trip to Madrid. Apart from being a favourite at last year’s Miami Fashion Week, the designer has showcased her work in Paris, New York and closer to home in Puerto Rico and the Bahamas. Known for highlighting her Dominican heritage within her drapey designs and chic woven handbags, Polanco will be missed by the fashion community. 

Read more of the tragic news behind Jenny Polanco’s untimely demise. 

4. Fashion companies are concerned about keeping afloat, but will this pandemic disrupt their sustainability commitments?

With the global health pandemic, economies are crashing and industries are forced to prioritize paying bills. With businesses coming at a turning point, they fear that without the wealth and profits to keep afloat, they don’t have the luxury to focus their efforts on sustainability. However, some industry experts believe the challenges of climate change and better worker policies are too urgent to ignore. If large businesses can use this crisis as an opportunity to transition into a well-rounded business paradigm, they can be the pioneers that lead the rest of the world in the conscious direction. 

Companies can rethink their supply chain and production methods by integrating sustainability deep inside. The fear of consumers falling back on low-quality and heavily-discounted clothing exists, but companies may reconsider their supply chain to strengthen home communities than depend elsewhere. If companies had seriously committed to sustainability before, they shouldn’t desert it in the face of this pandemic - but rather speed on through. 

Understanding how to be sustainable during an economic crisis is a challenge, read what experts have to say.  

Resale and rental fashion affected by covid-195. Just as the fashion rental and resale scene started to gain momentum, COVID-19 might just be the biggest obstacle they have to overcome.

We know the entire retail sector has slowed majorly, but rental and resale companies such as Rent The Runway and The RealReal are seriously impacted. This impact is coming from multiple dimensions, consumer and business-related. As events and galas are being cancelled, consumers have no occasion to rent clothes for. In addition, the shoppers frequenting these websites might not have disposable income than those purchasing luxury at retail price. So many non-essential purchases are being cut out of their daily lives. 

With everyone home and businesses forced to close operations, it’s harder for existing consumers to return their rentals. They then have to pay courier services that the companies are declining to reimburse. While the virus doesn’t necessarily survive on the fabrics, consumers are not willing to take the risk - affecting pre-owned and pre-worn sales. However, many still continue to dress up to work from home and there is a 52% increase in engaged shoppers between 9 to 5 for retail customer service platform, Hero. Only as the dust settles, and the cancellations stagger can we know more about the future of these sustainable companies. 

Find out more about the challenges of fashion rental and resale services.

6. When the going gets tough, fashion and beauty brands team up to solve shortages.

Redirecting manpower and energy from making clothes and beauty products, many brands are manufacturing hand sanitizers, face masks and scrubs for those in the frontlines. While Prada is the latest brand under LVMH to produce face masks, it’s not only those in luxury donating resources. The likes of fast fashion companies from H&M, Zara and Mango to beauty big names L'Oréal and Estée Lauder are doing their best to support healthcare in Europe. Especially as Vogue and CFDA repurpose their fashion fund into a COVID-19 relief fund, it’s very heartening to see these brands step forward and unite against the face of a global crisis.

Read all about the many companies reworking their resources to fight this global pandemic.

Fashion helps small business amidst pandemic7. A Common Thread, the fashion relief fund started by Anna Wintour and Tom Ford to keep businesses going

Here’s more on ‘A Common Thread’, the fund created by Vogue and CFDA. Initially formed as the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund after 9/11, A Common Thread focuses on raises funds for the American fashion community who have been impacted by COVID-19. This doesn’t only mean designers, but seamstresses, patternmakers, manufacturers and others in the supply chain. While there are no requirements to be a part of the CFDA, it is unclear what other criteria would be in place and the size of the grant. Regardless, the fund aims to bolster the back ends of functioning businesses, with some set aside for minority and women-owned small creative businesses currently in distress.

Here are Vogue and the CFDA repurposing an existing fund to help the industry get through the pandemic

8. Green, clean & cruelty-free: Your ultimate guide to natural beauty.

By now you’ve probably heard of terms like 'clean beauty' or 'cruelty-free'. You may even be using an eco-friendly skincare brand. But what does natural beauty really mean?

It doesn't have to be too confusing! We’ve demystified the common lingo and certifications for you from this new wave of ‘naturally’ marketed skincare. In this guide, you can learn about the difference between 'fragrance-free' and 'naturally scented', whether 'gluten-free' skincare is right for you & more.

Read on to find out what terms like 'organic' and certifications really mean.

Like this article? Then check these out too: 

The future of fashion is cruelty-free, read Naomi Bailey-Cooper’s interview.

Read all about our guide to Polyester

How to set up a sustainable fashion label




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