Fashion is one of the sectors that has been hit the most by the crisis: companies started to lose turnover already in January, as a consequence of the fact that most of the so-called luxury brands generated a large percentage of their turnover either in China either with the Chinese tourists in the world. Then came the fear of contagion during the fashion weeks (with Armani who first had a catwalk closed doors), followed by the closure of the shops first and of the production sites later; with many companies meritoriously engaged in the conversion to the production of medical gowns and masks and many generous donations from the major brands and designers. .
Overall, in a moment of austerity and a focus on inner values, fashion purchases may seem superfluous, frivolous, and unnecessary: leggings and sweatshirt are the official dress code of #stayhome and whole cleaning the wardrobes most of us have realized that they are already full of clothes and accessories. Eventually, the pressure towards a more circular and therefore sustainable fashion had already paved the way for the idea of “spending less to spend better”: less garments but of higher quality and with a more iconic style that lasts over time.
The pandemic gave the coup de grace by questioning the current system based on the continuous proliferation of collections (not only the two main seasons but also the pre-collections, the cruises, and the limited editions), where the fixed costs depend on the hundreds of stores, where there is a saturation of samples, garments, unsold items that generate costs, waste and pollute the planet. Giorgio Armani has written an open letter to the WWD Women’s Wear Daily magazine in which he invited the fashion world to rethink the times of collection in order to get back to the value of authenticity.
Made in Italy fashion, with its short supply chain, more sustainable thanks to proximity, and with a vocation for high quality production, has the potential to emerge reinforced from the crisis, provided that it does not limit itself to solving the important urgent problems but it will be able to create a more resilient business model.
How? First of all by rethinking the collections: less, based on perennials that will last over time, moving the presentations to digital (Ferragamo inaugurated in February an entirely virtual showroom that allows buyers to view technical data sheets, photos and interactive images in a 360 ° version of the products, in a private and user-friendly cloud environment); secondly by segmenting the offer according to the specific needs of markets and customers and selecting only the most relevant icons; so did Cerruti 1881 with the Fabric Portraits project developed during the lockdown.
Then getting the hammer down even more on digital, both on e-commerce (in China the salespeople have turned into virtual assistants) and on smart working and special projects. Here too it is worthy to notice how very traditional companies have been able to learn the lesson and start thinking digital. With over 350 years of history and the 1663 engraved in the logo, Vitale Barberis Canonico is the oldest woolen mill in the world. Many years of history in producing Made in Italy fabrics that are sold to the most important fashion brands for their formalwear. To help store managers to explain to their customers the quality of the fabrics in the suits they sell, Vitale Barberis Canonico created a few years ago the Fabric Academy; now the school has become digital, challenging the company to rethink the training experience from the touch to the sight and, in doing so, opening up new opportunities to reach many more people all over the world, also in the future.
Finally, when the stores reopen it will be necessary to provide customers with a reason why to go in the physical outlet compared to the alternative of safely buying at home. The magic formula can only lie in providing an experience. Integra Fragrances is a company that works to enhance sensoriality by perfuming shops; the COVID emergency pushed the company towards the search for a sanitizing molecule that can work at night using the same diffusers that perfume the air during the day: no longer just welcome and image but also health and protection.
But will we still want to buy something new? The phenomenon of revenge spending in China shows that consumption will eventually pick up again. Indeed there will be a desire for lightness and imagination following a period in which we were so closed in every way: after months in which the reality has been so heavy, the creativity will help us to have an alternative vision, like a window on a different world, hopefully more colorful and close to nature.