Written by Laura White
The Future of Fashion
When it comes to COVID-19, where the global impact is enormous, our main attention immediately goes to the NHS, the vulnerable in society and, mainly, everyone who is socially isolated. People may be inclined to think about the hospitality sector, small businesses and the self-employed, but no one has stopped to think about the impact it may have on their economy and industry in the future, regardless of being able to work from home. In this case, what is the impact on the fashion industry?
Minimalism, Recycled Clothing and Depop
The mainstream media is starting to create a society full of people anxious as to how this pandemic will pan out. Media outlets are spinning the lack of words given by the government on how they predict the UK will come out of this, even though Boris Johnson’s words are the only thing we can seemingly trust. The lack of provisions set for all employees, with 5 million self-employed initially unaccounted for let alone those on zero hour contracts, has led to a high level of uncertainty amongst the British population and the fashion industry. The scarcity of funds may, in future, lead to a society steered towards minimalism, including recycled clothing or buying and selling clothes on sites such as Depop or eBay, rather than investing in new pieces. It may even lead to a resurgence in people becoming resourceful and remaking clothing to keep up with fashion trends, costing them significantly less than something brand new. The money which people put aside previously for indulgence with their disposable income, may now be focused on saving for future rent or mortgage payments. As Massimo Giorgetti questions, ‘will there be an appetite for shopping?’.
Production has completely stopped for luxury fashion in Italy by companies such as Chanel and Gucci and Burberry who have lost money in sales as stores shut down. Funding for further runways and production scale will be significantly reduced, so designers will need to consider the prospect that they may not be able to showcase their pieces anytime soon. Potentially, the next fashion week coming up in September may not go ahead as the 4 fashion capitals of the world have been affected. In particular, New York is the worst city in America affected, with currently almost 83,00 cases and 2,000 deaths, making it the epicentre of the breakout in the USA. Although, luxury brands are in luck with the reopening of their stores in Beijing, China’s economy is still in a crisis and they may not see the turnaround they hoped for with many ‘facing a cash crisis if sales do not rebound quickly’.
Is Retail Dead?
Retail companies, such as Primark, have closed all stores and cancelled future orders with a wide scale shutdown of all clothing stores around the UK. With the retail industry already on a decline before this global crisis, such as Karen Millen and Select Fashion closing down already in 2020, we may see further businesses start to become bankrupt or shut down completely. Retailers such as Debenhams, were already struggling before COVID-19. Will they be next? Supply chains have been disrupted, with many stores struggling before
closures to source stock as production shut down in China and so, it will be interesting to see how these retail companies turn it around. As mentioned in Vogue, the UK government has set provisions for businesses, such as paying 80% of employees wages and giving businesses a rates holiday, keeping small businesses and retailers afloat. The US was not so lucky with the Senate denying the $1.8 trillion emergency package for the economy, so we are likely to see a lot of American fashion businesses struggling during COVID-19.
Brand Scrutiny and Negative Press
Social media and newspapers have been particularly harsh, scrutinising companies like Sports Direct and Jack Wills, for staying open and potentially harming their staff, with large criticism from customers and the public. Specifically, headlines from Sky News saying, ‘Sports Direct hikes prices on sports equipment, documents suggest’ and the DailyMail, ‘Sports Direct factory staff claim they are STILL being forced to work despite boss Mike Ashley closing all UK stores after criticism for hinting employees were key workers in coronavirus crisis’. Brand names could be damaged after COVID-19 leading to reduction in sales with the media and the public trusting government advice. Media outlets are being overly critical and over dramatising their news coverage, which will lead to damaging effects in the fashion industry and will put brands under the microscope. Currently, with stores closing, staff isolating at home, intense media scrutiny and lack of information from the government, it comes into question if this is the end of the high street.
Governments presenting negative and racist propaganda with COVID-19 could lead to dangerous implications for China and its role in production within the fashion industry. Donald Trump calling the virus the ‘Chinese virus’ is very damaging for China’s economy and prejudice fueled by governments and the media has led to some discrimination of Chinese people. This has been evident for Chinese takeaways, as people refuse to eat from them, with many being grateful for the small number of orders they are getting. After COVID-19, this prejudice could continue and may put pressure on fashion brands to move production companies and locations to satisfy customers. Many retailers still need the low costs that China delivers, so they may move to countries such as India or Bangladesh, who have thriving fashion production warehouses.
The Money Makers
The fashion industry may start to profit off COVID-19, as media outlets are promoting people to be inside while giving them various ideas of things to do during isolation. Some ideas have included, changing your style or clearing out wardrobes, getting people to evaluate and change things within their lives. Even though stores are closed, online sales may start to rise as people cannot leave their houses and have more time to browse for new items and will be in for their deliveries. Lots of retail shops and online retailers are offering various discounts to entice customers to spend more money including, 20% off at JD Sports, 50% off on the new season collection at ASOS, and 70% of PrettyLittleThing to name a few. This brings into
question whether their efforts will be enough during this crisis. Will the fashion industry be saved by online sales? Will the future of fashion be online?
There is no clear outcome as to what will happen to the fashion industry with the government and the media fuelling public panic and with no end in sight. The real question is will COVID-19 make or break the fashion industry?