By Charles Zha
Fashion has long been a debated subject of substance and exclusivity. The multibillion-dollar industry is built on top of seemingly fabricated and weightless fantasies. Some call it elegance, while others deem it overly abstract. For a long time, the fashion and luxury retail industry have hidden themselves behind sunglasses of exclusiveness and distance – until Covid slashed the vile in between.
Between January and March of 2020, according to BOF’s The State of Fashion 2020: Coronavirus Update, the average sales of fashion and luxury market dropped by almost 40% (Sahila Ozdil Jul 24, 2020). This number only increased later in the year. The decrease in sales in part is due to the closing of in person shops, as well as an emerging awareness to decrease non-essential spending.
The transition to E-commerce partially mitigates the damage to the fashion industry, but only for more affordable brands like H&M and Walmart. People are unwilling to commit to larger transactions online because they tend to try out the product at physical shops before making decisions. More expensive brands like Victoria’s Secret are losing customers to more affordable “rivals such as Target, Kohl’s, American Eagle and lingerie startups.”(Nathaniel Meyersohn, Nov. 2019). As a result of the pandemic, people are cutting down on non-essential spending. This means less spending on comparatively more expensive brands like Victoria’s Secret and canceling large orders of wedding dresses and designer clothes. Luxury brands are encouraged to adjust to more affordable prices to suit the online environment or improve their transaction security and fitting options online.
Many fashion showcases have turned to online and virtual events. At the Milan Fashion Week this February, Giorgio Armani chose to live-stream his new collection rather than invite visitors (Chadha, May 2020). Fashion shows have long been criticized for their lack of actual marketing values. Only a few selected designers and visitors are usually invited to these events. Even before Covid, Lingerie giant Victoria Secret had cancelled their 2020 annual show due to poor rating and low sales. Live-streaming runway shows might open the industry beyond designated experts and into the mainstream, as more people are able to access them. After the pandemic, more fashion companies might refrain away from physical fashion shows and transition to virtual shows. Virtual shows allow the designers to have more creative control over the show and is open to a larger audience. In the past, only about 200 to 400 photographers and designers were invited to watch the show live. As the pandemic moves everything online, it opens up the runway to audiences and buyers around the world. Over 10K people watched Chanel’s spring-summer ready to wear runway live on Oct.16.
Finally, Covid is incentivising the fashion industry to become more politically involved. The fashion industry has always been a pioneer in advocating for social changes, such as gender equality, expression, and body shape expectations. As a response to Covid-19, a trend of fashionable masks called “trikini” has since become a viral trend in Italy and other parts of the world. Promoting people to stay healthy and distanced while acknowledging creativity and expression.
However, Covid-19 might also make the fashion industry even more exclusive. The virus has significantly hurt small and medium fashion stores, who generally supply locals with affordable fashion options. The redistribution of wealth also makes high-end fashion luxury even less affordable for average buyers. In a zoom meeting with Rosario Toscaa, CEO of AKONI, a Swiss high-fashion eyewear company, Rosario states that extreme high-end fashion companies actually gain sales because rich people are getting richer from this pandemic. Big cooperation owners and rich buyers are able to take advantage of the pandemic to further accumulate their wealth. Their growing buying power means that high fashion will see no shortage of buyers in the near future. Average buyers, who shop at a reasonable budget of around $200, said Rosario, are the one most impacted by this pandemic. Most of their jobs are impacted negatively by the lockdown. As a result, smaller businesses who can’t transition smoothly to e-commerce are struggling to survive the lockdown as their customers are cutting their non-essential spending.
Many of the fashion industries’ existing issues, such as exclusiveness and declining in sales, are being brought into light by this pandemic. As people explore different options of fashion retails and experience the different effects of fashion influences during this unprecedented time, the future of the industry will be changed forever. This pandemic is a timely push to make the fashion industry in sync with today’s society and market. □
- Image source: BORA AKSU Spring/Summer 2021 (URL)
- 7NEWS.com.au (2019, November 22). Victoria’s Secret has cancelled its fashion show indefinitely. Retrieved October 16,2020, from https:// 7news.com.au/ business/ lingerie-giant-victoria’s-secret-confirms-it-will-cancel-2020-fashion-show-w-c-569643
- Chadha, D. (2020, May 05). The Impact of COVID-19 On the Fashion Design Industry. Retrieved October 16, 2020, from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/350190
- The Impact of Coronavirus on the Fashion Industry. (2020, July 24). Retrieved October 23,2020, from https://www.morethanshipping.com/the-impact-of-coronavirus-on-the-fashion-industry/
- Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the fashion industry. (2020, October 22). Retrieved October 16, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impact_of_the_COVID-19_pandemic_on_the_fashion_industry