How Has the COVID-19 Pandemic Impacted Fashion in America?

The 2020 pandemic has rattled all facets of life. Emissions, retail consumption, toilet paper, as well as fashion. The incentives to stay in lockdown, social distance and financial difficulties contributed to stark declines in consumption rates early in the pandemic. Based off 2020 census data, a year-to-year comparison saw apparel and accessories sales drop 51% for the month of March and a whopping 89% in April of 2020 for Americans.

Due to the fashion industry’s massive retail presence, the decline in sales could be attributed to fewer storefront visits, less comfort in trialing clothes (fitting rooms, contact) and generally less traffic as more consumers stay at home. The question then arises; are these trends solely pandemic-induced or reflective of conscious change in consumer attitudes?

Dissecting the motivations behind observable trends is important to understand market directions as well as opportunities for improvement within the fashion industry. According to Cotton Incorporated 2020 Spring Coronavirus Response Survey 65% of consumers have become more concerned about sustainability issues (Fig. 1).

Figure 1 from

The trends in sentiment for environmental issues is a positive sign. The gap between consumer attitudes and behavior will be more challenging to bridge. As demonstrated by the figure the majority of consumers surveyed morally align with sustainable practices—however just 35% purchase sustainably made, circular or environmentally friendly products.

Where do opportunities lie for innovation? How would you incentivize a shift towards sustainable practice(s) within the fashion industry?



Ganguly A., Chatterjee D., Rao H. (2018) The Role of Resiliency in Managing Supply Chains Disruptions. In: Khojasteh Y. (eds) Supply Chain Risk Management. Springer, Singapore.

“Sustainability During A Pandemic”. Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor, 2020,

Sweet D.S. et al. (2014) Sustainability Awareness and Expertise: Structuring the Cognitive Processes for Solving Wicked Problems and Achieving an Adaptive-State. In: Linkov I. (eds) Sustainable Cities and Military Installations. NATO Science for Peace and Security Series C: Environmental Security. Springer, Dordrecht.

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