COVID-19 And the (Immediate) Impact on the Fashion Industry

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As the coronavirus pandemic spreads, so does its impact in the world and everyday life. In the fashion world the effect of the virus has increasingly escalated.  In the first few weeks of the pandemic surge, footwear legend, Sergio Rossi, passed away from the virus in Italy on April 3rd, 2020. He was 84 and will be greatly missed by all. 

Regular events, like the Fall Fashion season, the Met Gala and the CFDA Awards, have been postponed indefinitely. Major department stores across the globe, including Macy’s, Selfridges and Saks Fifth Avenue, have closed their doors. As majority of the world sits at home anticipating more news updates regarding the coronavirus, the fashion world has had to also take a seat and wait. With most people either unemployed, working with a reduced wage or furloughed, the desire to shop for anything but food has greatly reduced. Fashion is no longer high priority in these uncertain times. 

Lockdown actions announced by governments all over the world have also put a restriction on retailers, impacting the fashion industry as we know it. Across the globe retailers are shuttering their doors to contain the virus and adhere to lockdown policies. In their efforts, retailers including Chanel, Ralph Lauren, Nike, Apple, Urban Outfitters, Abercrombie & Fitch, Glossier, Anthropologie, Sephora, Nordstrom, and more, have put a stop to physical sales. These retailers will now have to come up with innovative ways to encourage online sales in an attempt to navigate this increasingly difficult time and remain afloat. However, a potential rainbow after this storm, may be the anticipation to finally shop again, and for some the thrill of ‘freedom’ and ‘relief’ shopping, once this is all over. 

As well as the shuttering of retailers doors, many brands and major retailers have had to also shut their manufacturing facilities, furlough staff and in some cases file for bankruptcy. Some companies such as the Arcadia Group, the Topshop parent company have plans to cut the pay checks of its senior executives by 50%. Whilst also furloughing several of its employees who are now unable to work due to the store closures. Even the Chief Executive officer Ian Grabiner is forgoing a salary and benefits until further notice. On the other side of fashion, Chanel announced on March 18 that they will be halting production in their manufacturing facilities in Italy, France and Switzerland for the next two weeks, however, workers will still be paid in full for the next eight weeks. With the escalation of the coronavirus, Chanel decided to show its support for healthcare structures by donating 1.2 million euros and producing face masks to help combat the spread of the virus. The likes of Louis Vuitton, Burberry and Mulberry have also followed suit, with Ralph Lauren donation $10million towards various Covid-19 relief efforts. 

The impact of the coronavirus does not just end there. Multiple fashion weeks, trade events and shows have had to be cancelled or postponed indefinitely, leaving many designers exposed to ambiguity. Innovative means to ensure ‘the show must go on’ have ranged throughout the brands, now developing new ways to meet audience demands and adapting to this change. Some have, instead of cancelling, avoided physical shows but instead taken their shows online. An excellent example being Giorgio Armani who barred an audience for his fall 2020 runway show and as an alternative, posted a video of the show on the brand’s web site and social media platforms.

Going virtual has become a much-used phenomenon, transforming the way in which the fashion industry is consumed. Bridal Fashion Week was originally scheduled to be held between April 16 to 20. However, now the Bridal Council is requesting designers to present their collections via Zoom and other online platforms. 

With the world of fashion moving from reality to a virtual world, it leaves many important questions. Will this new shift become a permanent fixture for a more sustainable industry? What will life be like once this pandemic is over? How can the fashion industry prepare itself for the next time something like this occurs again? Currently, the global pandemic is still continuously spreading, indicating that there will be an even greater impact on the $2.4 trillion fashion industry. Will the fashion industry survive?

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