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Last March, when the Covid-19 virus that had already swept across China was officially declared a global pandemic, few grasped the extent to which the fashion industry stood on the precipice of a paradigm-shifting year, but everyone seemed to understand that this was an opportunity for great change. Amid lockdowns and social distancing measures, stores were forced to close, sales plummeted, and shocks were felt across the supply chain as garment factories were shut down around the world. Across societies, stark economic inequalities were laid bare and exacerbated by the crisis. Millions of people across all industries and professions lost their jobs; millions more lost their lives.
From virtual fashion weeks to the booms in e-commerce and sweatpants, the fashion industry learned how to adapt to the “new normal” — and fast. Many saw an opportunity to reset a broken fashion system and build a more sustainable, inclusive way of operating. But the last year has also underscored deeper failings within the industry. While the pandemic has underscored broad social inequalities, fashion has had to grapple with its role in perpetuating racism and elitism — from boardrooms to magazine pages and contributing to a looming climate crisis.
In this week’s episode of The BoF Podcast, we reflect on the events of the year gone by, a period of sweeping change, uncertainty and hope in conversations with leading voices from inside and outside the industry.