Considering that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a colossal effect on almost every industry, whether that be unprecedented pressure on the health services, start-ups having to shutter for now or supermarkets needing to consider their re-stocking tactics and opening hours, it follows that the fashion industry would also be experiencing the effects of a global health crisis.
Though it has been dismissed as frivolous – if compared directly with the front line service industries fighting to keep people alive and fed – the fashion industry is a creative mecca and one of the world’s most significant fiscal heavyweights. The fashion industry’s deterioration would see a serious impact on the global economy, not to mention the furloughing or unemployment status of millions of artists, designers, tailors and more.
So, as the Covid-19 pandemic rages on, we’re taking a look at how the industry is reacting.
From the potential for a humanitarian crisis in Bangladesh, to billions of pounds donated by luxury fashion groups, here are all the ways the fashion industry is adapting under the strain of the coronavirus.
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Influencers And Celebrities Rally
While many of us non-‘essential workers’ may feel like sitting ducks during this pandemic, influencers and fashion-focussed celebrities have taken it upon themselves to find ways to contribute.
Stylists Anna Rosa Vitiello and Bettina Looney, for example, co-ordinated a wardrobe clear out on their respective Instagram stories, to raise money for both Doctors Without Borders and Help Them Help Us charities.
‘We wanted to create a fun and interactive way to help raise funds for charities who need our help during this time,’ Looney told ELLE UK.
‘Fashion is what we love and can also be the perfect vehicle for giving back so we found a way to combine the two and the response has been phenomenal. We will continue to host a sale each week on Mondays, for as long as we can, to continue to raise money and awareness and will also be working with some wonderful small brands to aid this.’
While luxury resale site Vestiaire Collective garnered clothing donations from the likes of Kate Moss, Thandie Newton, and Camille Charriere, to resell in aid of local charities including Fondation Hôpitaux de France-Paris, the World Health Organisation and Lombardy Regional Fundraising.
Fashion Brands Cancel Orders In Bangladesh
Due to store closures and sale downturns, Forbes claims western fashion brands have cancelled over $2.8 (£2.26) billion in orders from Bangladeshi suppliers, potentially sparking a humanitarian crisis.
At least 1.2 million workers in Bangladesh are said to have been directly impacted by order cancellations, and of the thousands of factories and suppliers who have lost their contracts: ‘72.4% said they were unable to provide their workers with some income when furloughed (sent home temporarily), and 80.4% said they were unable to provide severance pay when order cancellations resulted in worker dismissals.’
Thankfully, campaigners have already successfully urged companies (such as H&M) to extend some sort of compensation to their suppliers, and there is hope more will follow.
Fashion Houses Donate
Despite the extensive impact Covid-19 is predicted to have on the global luxury goods market, fashion houses are stepping up to donate in this time of crisis.
LVMH initially donated $2.2 (£1.78) million dollars to The Red Cross China and subsequently retooled their perfume and cosmetics units to manufacture large quantities of hydroalcoholic gel and pledged 40 million medical masks.
Kering and its houses donated to Hubei Red Cross Foundation in China and have since made donations to four major foundation hospitals in Italy. They are also joining LVMH in providing medical masks.
Prada‘s co-CEOs and chairman have donated intensive care and resuscitation units to three hospitals in Milan, including Vittore Buzzi, Sacco and San Raffaele
Dolce & Gabbana have donated to the Humanitas University for a research project hoping to help against the fight against coronavirus: ‘We felt we had to do something to fight this devastating virus, which started from China but is threatening all mankind,’ Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana announced.
‘In these cases, it is important to make the right choice. This is why we thought Humanitas University would be the ideal partner, whose excellence and humanity make it a special entity, with which we have already cooperated on a scholarship project.’
Moncler have donated to support the construction of a hospital in Italy. The €10 (£8.77) million donation will help towards the construction of 400 intensive care units.
Versace has also made a substantial donation to The Chinese Red Cross Foundation to help with shortage of medical supplies. Since their initial donation, Donatella Versace and daughter Allegra Versace have announced that they will be donating €200,000 to the intensive care unit of the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan.
Giorgio Armani similarly has donated €1.25 million to numerous Italian hospitals and institutions.
While Maison Valentino’s parent company donated €1 million to an emergency field hospital in Madrid, Spain.
Events Go Online
Though it feels like the rest of 2020 is cancelled, with events from Glastonbury to the Olympics being postposed and social calendars sensibly wiped clean, fashion is looking to other ways of keeping us connected, informed, and inspired through our screens.
Shanghai Fashion Week began 24 March completely digitally. Through the support of upcoming talent support platform ‘Labelhood’ 31 designers showcased new collections through social channels and websites. Womenswear label Shushu/Tong, stocked in Dover Street Market and the like, debuted a short film for their AW20 collection with others opting to live stream looks.
Independent Brands Do Their Part
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For the next three full weeks, we’re donating 100% percent of all threegraceslondon.com net sales to homeless charity Crisis, in support of their efforts to protect the homeless through the Coronavirus outbreak. “I know that, like me, lots of people are wondering what they can do to help their community in this time of urgent need. I hope that this provides a unique and meaningful way for shoppers to give back and have a positive impact on society’s most vulnerable – whilst also, of course, helping to support all of the amazing artisans across Europe who contribute to making beautiful garments for Three Graces.” – Catherine Johnson, Three Graces London Founder Click the link in bio to find out more and enjoy guilt free shopping. #guiltfreeshopping #Crisis #EndHomelessness #coronoavirus #solidarity
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Just a few of the wonderful brands doing so are Three Graces, giving 100 per cent of their sales made until 8 April to the Crisis charity. Three Graces founder, Catherine Johnson, said ‘Whilst we retreat to the safety and comfort of our homes, I want to spare a thought for those who don’t have that luxury’.
Sleep Society is donating 15 per cent of all sales to Mind – while we have the ever-updating news constantly at our fingertips, focusing on mental health at this time is arguably more important than ever.
Paula Knorr is donating 20 per cent of their profits to Sufra, a food bank and kitchen based in North London, who are relentlessly working to help those in need in such difficult times by providing with food and basic supplies.
Fashion Shows Cancelled
During the penultimate week of the AW20 season, Covid-19 made it’s way from Asia to Europe, and Milan fashion week became directly impacted.
Understandably, Chinese brands cancelled quickly and unanimously – Angel Chen and Ricostru were the first to do so during Milan fashion week. And in Paris, six Chinese brand cancellations followed, including Masha Ma, Shiatzy Chen, Uma Wang, Jarel Zhang, Calvin Luo and Maison Mai.
Among the first Western big-hitters to respond were Chanel and Armani.
On February 17, Chanel announced they would no longer stage their Métiers d’Art collection in Beijing in May.
On 22 February, and as the virus became more prevalent in northern Italy, Giorgio Armani cancelled on his invitees with less than 24 hours notice, asking them to watch a live stream of the show instead.
At Paris Fashion Week, Chanel, LV, Dries van Noten and Paco Rabanne’s shows went on – though the former two brands banned US staff from attending, and the latter two offered guests protective masks. The smaller independents Rosie Assoulin, Agnès B and APC did not show, and nor did the jewellery Maison Cartier, who stopped its Cartier Creations presentation.
On March 2, Gucci announced the annulment of its San Francisco Cruise 2021 show, due to happen on May 18. On March 16, both Chanel and Dior cancelled their early May shows, both due to be held in Italy. But Italian connection or not, Resort/Cruise shows were to be cancelled world-wide – such as Prada’s in Japan, Max Mara’s in St Petersburg, Hermés’ in London and Armani’s in Dubai.
International Fashion Weeks later in the calendar have been halted too: Tokyo (16-21 March), Beijing (25-31 March), Shanghai (beginning 26 March onwards), LA (end of March), Sao Paolo (24-28 April) and Sydney Australia’s 25th anniversary edition (11-15 May).
Physical Stores Close
Reports on the struggles of the British High Street have been commonplace for a few years now, with changing consumer habits, reduced footfall and rising overheads being cited for its decline. However, few could have predicted the current pandemic and its subsequent impact on the already fragile bricks and mortar institutions.
Infamous British department stores such as Harvey Nichols, Harrods, Selfridges and Liberty have also now shut up shop temporarily.
Selfridges led the way by announcing they would close on March 18, but hastened to add that ‘Selfridges employees will continue to be paid their contracted hours throughout our closure’. Harvey Nichols followed suit on March 19, and Liberty and Harrods on March 20.
John Lewis also announced that ,for the first time in its 155 year history, ‘during which time we have faced many difficult periods, including two world wars and the 2008 financial crisis’, that they would also be closing their stores on the same day Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the nationwide lockdown.
Most of these previously bricks and mortar businesses have assured customers that their online stores are functioning more or less as usual, with potential delays in delivery and extended returns periods, but as it stands no one has been able to give reopen dates as they will wait to see how the next few weeks unfold.
Predicted Financial Losses For Fashion Brands
With non-essential stores closed and job losses abundant (in the UK The Department for Work and Pensions received almost a million applications for universal credit in the last two weeks), it is unsurprising that fashion brands are expected to see financial losses due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the luxury sector, brands are predicted to experience a €10 (£8.78) billion decline in luxury sales this year according to a new report by Altagamma, BCG and Bernstein.
‘The industry could lose €30-40 (£26.34-35.12) billion in sales this year as the sector’s value drops to €309 (£271.30) billion…, a five-year low,’ the Business of Fashion reports.
Luxury brands are particularly reliant on Chinese consumers, who have not only driven 70 per cent of global growth since 2012, but have been the most affected by the Covid-19 outbreak thus far.
The British high street is similarly bracing for huge losses, with the chief executive of Next stating: ‘Our industry is facing a crisis that is unprecedented in living memory.’
This article originally appeared on ELLE UK.