COVID-19 Impact & Influence on Textiles

While it’s too early to tell what the lasting impact of Coronavirus will be, a new reality is already starting to take shape in terms of the future of work and the relevance of textiles in our everyday lives. To better understand the current situation, and ponder repercussions going forward, we asked Textile Insight correspondents to weigh in. Here’s a recap of their notes from the field:

Louisa Smith, European correspondent, observes:

“Social distancing has led to a closer-knit society as a 'neighborhood' feel returns. These 'neighborhoods' had faded away to blanket layers of isolation as digitalization developed. Now this is changing with a cohesive approach of neighborhood forums and help groups popping up on social media.

Concerns about delivery time the disruption will bring to the fall/winter collections that normally drop in April. What will happen to retail anyway? In the UK self-isolation of up to 3 months is now a rule to certain demographics.

An interesting disruptive consumer is emerging: Late millennials and early Gen-Zers who want disruption, rebellion, and to carry on partying. If stopped, will they take everything underground?”

Debra Cobb, technology writer based in North Carolina, reports:

“There will continue to be opportunity for technical and functional textiles that improve our lives, and perhaps comfort or even protect us. Home furnishing textiles will be a growing part of this as we work from home, work out at home, and stay at home.

I believe that when all is said and done, and we've survived the inevitable recession, the apparel and retail business will be profoundly changed.

You would think that, with travel curtailed, it would be easier to pin people down. Not so...working at home seems to find them "distracted."

Suzanne Blecher, feature writer based in Hoboken, NJ, explains:

“Beginning last Saturday, March 14th, people were not allowed to eat in restaurants here. Bars not serving food were ordered to close. We are encouraged to practice self-isolation, meaning we should stay inside when possible. If there is a need to go outside, stay 6 feet away from others.

I haven't run outside in probably a year, but I've done it twice since this lockdown. This morning, at 8am, there were more people running along the Hudson River Pier (which overlooks Manhattan) than were going to the PATH train to work. We were all letting off steam — needed — and somehow all connected in this. I think we're going to keep seeing this surge in running — which hopefully will also be good for the sport and the brands entrenched in it. Exercise will be vital. In Hoboken, we know it's for our minds and our bodies, especially now.”

Kathlyn Swantko, Education contributor, based in California and North Dakota, writes:

“In the Los Angeles textile market, which focuses more on fashion than the outdoors, media outlets say that the Chinese factories are beginning to ramp up again. However, fashion-business analysts are divided on what will happen during this period. Overall, it is believed that the crisis will permanently change how fashion manufacturers conduct their businesses, and it remains to be seen whether the familiar supply chains of the past will ever bounce back to the way the businesses were conducted in the past.”

Kurt Gray, columnist, based in Colorado, describes how the textile industry might see its role shift with a “post-lockdown vagabond” movement:

“First is regarding the outdoor environment. Living outside in the Western U.S. during the summer requires robust sun, wind and storm protection. Simple things like umbrellas, awnings, and portable sun shades go a long way towards making road life comfortable when it’s sunny and hot. Thunderstorms are frequently exciting and contain enough wind and hail to test any tent or tarp. Expect to see increasing importance placed on heavier, stronger, more durable materials, sun-rot resistance, and overall dependability.

Secondly is the social aspect. Odor resistant textiles could promote peace and family harmony for those on the road. Easy care and odor-free fabrics will find favor along with high SPF ratings and genuine versatility. Nothing like living out of a duffle bag to focus your mind on the garments you really need.”

Kurt Gray’s Out of Context essay will appear in its entirety in the March/April issue of Textile Insight magazine.