How has the spread of COVID-19 impacted the fashion industry?

Letter from Reformation team
Email from the @Reformation team, addressing the current COVID19 situation

Retailers faced the moral dilemmas of whether or not to shutdown stores, dismiss employees, or limit customer access. Patagonia announced on Friday that it would close its US stores and headquarters, and temporarily shut down its online shop, a move followed by progressively marketed, direct-to-consumer brands Everlane and Reformation (Business of Fashion). Tomorrow’s chief development officer Julie Gilhart co-ordinated a back-up plan: each designer would create an introductory video to present and discuss and their work. As for fast-fashion labels, 3,785 of Inditex’s stores are closed in 39 markets, though almost all of its China stores have reopened (Business of Fashion).
In Italy, millions of  people have been forced by the government to stay at home to contain the spread of COVID-19 following a dramatic increase in cases, which as of Sunday surpassed 7,300, according to a BBC report.

Lombardy and other regions in the north are home to many luxury names, including Prada, Armani and Versace, while international brands from Louis Vuitton to Stella McCartney rely on Italian manufacturers and suppliers in the production of their clothes, accessories and footwear.

About 60% of Italy’s textile and apparel manufacturing capacity is in the lockdown area, along with 10% to 20% of leather goods and about 20% of jewellery.

While the rapid spread across Italy has prompted other European countries to adopt similar drastic measures to help prevent the risk of infection, a lot of criticism has been levelled at  on the retailers that continue to operate over the risks they place on their workers.

@ajabarber via Instagram

“We are at war,” said France president Emmanuel Macron, addressing the nation. The escalation of the emergency in France has further intensified the pressure on the Italian luxury supply chain, adding order cancellations from French clients on top of those received from Italian and Chinese clients.

What to do next? Innovative strategies in a nutshell

Cancelled fashion shows and postponed working agendas have clarified the need for technology that facilitates an alternative to in-person fashion shows, presentations and showrooms. Multiple sources, including live streams, online slideshows and Instagram directs, are now beneficial tools to enable users to follow runway content.

Following shows remotely raises concerns that the in-person ‘visceral’ and unique moment will be lost; however, there are early explorations of how fashion events could pivot to digital, a move that could become increasingly common.

Fashion Innovation Agency has worked on a number of projects that use augmented, virtual and mixed reality, a group collectively referred to as cross reality or XR, creating a sense of immersion and connecting people more than ever. Vogue Business reported that this year, YouTube’s new fashion vertical, /Fashion, has live-streamed more than 40 runway shows, including newcomers Bottega Veneta, Jonathan Simkhai, Tod’s, Marni and Lanvin, gathering over 4million views. In China, live streaming is already a popular way to shop and see collections, withbrands embracing local platforms.

Last September, Gucci’s first Livestream on Chinese platform Weibo brought in 16 million viewers

When it comes to showrooming, an ‘exhibition mode’ would allow viewers to swipe to see new designers, save what they like, and immediately access an order form. This would allow organisers to view who has checked in and what they are interested in. The quality of content is also crucial: brands need more immersive, interactive and explorative camerawork. This could be combined with  sensory experiences, like smelling something simultaneously, or fabric swatches.

In 2014, editor and stylist Mary Fellowes was editing content for fashion show venue Milk Studios. In place of guest editors, she commissioned a drone to cover the shows by flying among the models backstage and in the front of the house (Vogue Business).

Moreover, in direct response to travel restrictions, designer Steven Tai released his lookbook online, using technology that allows viewers to digitally spin images of models a full 360 degrees, and showcases additional detail by highlighting fabrics and construction, going beyond the issue of static imagery content, allowing customers and viewers to control each part of the piece they are viewing.

Companies have invested in 3D-designed garments and digital showrooms that allow samples to be created and viewed digitally: @LouisVuitton quickly digitised its collection so that its site visitors could zoom in to each detail. Virtual showrooms, where buyers can view and order designs remotely, are on the rise, leading the way to transparency, quicker order turnaround times and easier communication. Some technologies that might further mimic physical events are on the horizon: holograms, or hologram-like content, can make it seem as if a person or object is in a particular environment. Haptic gloves, for example, could replicate the sensory feedback one might get from touching a garment, with gestures such as nods or waves allowing buyers to move. A brand could allow the viewer to watch a model walk a traditional runway just as they would in real life, turning from right to left as they passed. Brands like Rag & Bone, Balmain and Diane von Furstenberg have tested VR fashion week content, while Ordre, the 360-degree image company, also offers virtual reality showrooms. In 2018, entertainment industry veteran David Nussbaum, who has created live ‘holoportation events’ for celebrities, worked on a large-scale hologram runway show for Christian Dior. The project filmed 68 models at Paris’s Musee d’Orsay, turning them into 20-foot holograms.

“I think the most innovative retailers are understanding how these digital and physical channels work together. I think people who are talking about the retail apocalypse and the end of the store are incorrect - yes, there is a shakeout happening on high streets, but in all of those places where you see stores closing, you see new ones opening up. Having a physical presence is a really important part of creating that connection with the customer”

Imran Amed for McKinsey

Here at SteffyB; we will continue to work remotely and to promote the Evolution / Revolution of the fashion industry day by day.

Stay safe and take care of yourselves <3

Follow us at @steffybfashion and

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