The coronavirus has hit 2020 in full force, turning our lives upside down and making almost every aspect of our society now alien to us. The disruption being made to our daily lives is clear, but the crisis is also having serious consequences on large corporations such as the fashion industry.
The media is now more exaggerated than ever, delivering updates 24/7 which seem targeted to instil a sense of dread and panic whenever we scroll through our Twitter feed or turn on the TV. But the big question is, should we believe everything we’re being told or is the media causing unnecessary stress? As well as asking the question; just how much of an impact the pandemic is having on the fashion industry?
Is our understanding of coronavirus being deliberately distorted by the mainstream media?
The media is continuously being questioned for conveying false truths and essentially being a source of propaganda. Like any previous global crisis, the media has a crucial role to fill in distributing information to us in the most centred way possible. Yet, we must remember that although the media is reliable in instructing us how to keep ourselves and everyone around us safe in times like these, the media does have the ability to exploit the severity of the situation in order to measure how we respond.
This is not to say that the pandemic is being presented as worse than it is. I think it is rather the opposite of that, as the media has been warning us of the dangers of the virus from January. Perhaps it was down to an attitude of distrusting the media that we did not act quickly enough, with 956,588 global cases now having been confirmed (at the time of writing).
To answer the question of whether the media is twisting the truth in regard to the pandemic; I would argue against, as the media has a duty to ensure they are presenting information as closely in align with the truth as they can. This is a situation where people’s lives are at risk and the media is surely more concerned with ensuring the protection of people’s well-being over exaggerating events for effect.
What impact is coronavirus having on the fashion industry?
From the cancellation of major runways to the closure of all high-street fashion stores; COVID-19 is causing disruptions left, right, and centre within the fashion industry.
The timing of the coronavirus outbreak collided with the preparations being made for the Fall 2020 fashion season, causing brands to postpone and even cancel all upcoming shows. With key events such as the Met Gala having been postponed indefinitely, the implications caused by the virus is making promotion within the industry much more problematic.
So, what affect could this have on how major fashion brands continue to operate? This will most likely see a rise in their online presence and that visual promotions such as runways and collection showcases could begin to take place virtually or will rather continue to be suspended until further notice.
High and low end fashion
With regards to the US and UK industries, major brands such as Selfridges, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Saks Fifth Avenue have announced the closure of their stores nationwide in response to the virus outbreak. However, all plan for their online retail outlets to remain functioning as usual. Even though brands have online promotion and purchasing to fall back on as a ‘safety net’, online shopping should not be considered a secure outlet to be solely relying upon. A study reported by the European CEO magazine in 2019 found that only 9% of luxury goods were purchased over the internet, meaning hard times could be heading for major fashion brands over the next few months.
In response to the news of high-street brands such as Urban Outfitters, H&M, Topshop, and River Island also having taken the decision to close all stores nationwide; global data analysts have estimated that fashion sales will fall by 20% or £11.1 billion this year. This naturally urges people to shop online, which is a positive for those retailers to keep their brand at the forefront during this crisis.
However, this is not the case for all brands as some companies such as TK Maxx, Next, River Island and Net-A-Porter have closed their online websites in order to protect the health of their staff as well as customers. The temporary reality for most high-street retailers could see production and customer interest coming to an extreme halt over the next few months much like the high end of the industry.
The shift to online shopping: positive or negative?
With the surge of people rushing to keep up their spending habits online despite the closure of all unessential high-street shops, we can propose the question of: is this really a good thing? On one hand, yes, it can be viewed as a positive as despite physical outlets closing, we can continue to fuel our shopping habits online. It also means that the fashion brands who are desperate to stay relevant and keep their audience interested, and to also help stabilise their rocky economic situation, are still able to do so.
However, in terms of the affect this will have on the environment and the increase in consumption of fast fashion, this can be viewed as a major negative. Due to the reliance on online shopping during this period we can expect to see an increase in the amount of cheaply manufactured and unsustainable clothes being bought, as fast fashion is as easily accessible online as it is in stores.
Nevertheless, amid this crisis most people will have not even considered shopping for a new summer wardrobe, as they’re concerned with greater problems. Coronavirus has proven to take a massive toll on the promotion, production, and overall functioning of the fashion industry, both high and low-end. We are curious to know what fashion and the industry will look like coming out of this pandemic, but we will just have to sit tight and see.
By Freya Higgs