Here’s how Corona has changed the fashion world


The spread of the virus has not only paralyzed areas of private life, but also entire sectors of the economy, thus making us rather rudely aware of existing grievances. But don’t worry, this won’t be a moral pamphlet – neither on the pandemic, nor on the fashion world. But an honest look at the current state of the fashion industry and, by extension, its new opportunities. We asked leading industry experts what impact we can expect to see in fashion

MH: How has Covid changed the fashion industry?

August Bard Bringéus, Co-Founder of Asket: “The fashion industry is facing an existential crisis. The pandemic has further exposed the major flaws in the global fashion system, as entire seasonal collections have been wasted and orders cancelled. Thus, it has drawn attention to an already vulnerable area of the supply chain. With the fashion industry in the spotlight more than ever, there has been much discussion about how it can perform better, for example through permanent collections and digital fashion shows. We hope for profound changes, but fear that much of the discussion is just empty promise and that many brands will revert to old habits as soon as the situation allows it.”

Professor Karin-Simone Fuhs, founder and director of the ecosign Academy of Design in Cologne: “The Corona pandemic is an opportunity for a new fundamental view in the fashion industry. Retailers in particular have been feeling the effects of customer reticence in recent months. In the future, the entire industry will have to think about deceleration and its own self-image.”

MH: What do consumers value?

Tim Brown, co-founder and co-CEO of Allbirds: “At the moment there is a lot of support for businesses that live their values honestly. People are more aware than ever of their health and well-being and, accordingly, are placing more value on products that support that.”

August Bard Bringéus: “There are plenty of reports showing a shift in shopper mindset toward more ethical and less environmentally damaging practices in the fashion industry, especially among Millennials and Generation Z. And at the same time, sales are booming for ultrarich fashion brands. It’s an oxymoron, because despite good intentions, it also shows that price still trumps consumer conscience.”

Professor Karin-Simone Fuhs: “There is a tendency towards increased quality and high-end products. Despite, or perhaps because of, the financial uncertainties, people are not making mass purchases in these turbulent times, preferring instead to invest in fewer, more durable, timeless pieces.”

MH: How is purchasing responding to this changing marketplace?

David Tyler, professor of fashion technology at the Institute of Fashion at the Manchester Metropolitan University (UK): “Unsold merchandise will be sold cheaply online, so every day will be Black Friday. But it will also be important to land new partners and capital to achieve new orders. Companies with flexible production systems and low inventory levels will have an easier time, as they can take smaller orders and produce as needed.”

August Bard Bringéus: “We anticipate that many buyers will change their habits and shift their focus to ‘comfort’ to cater to the work-from-home model. For example, interior products will also be added to the portfolio to take advantage of the new home office model.”

Lars Braun, owner and CEO of BRAUN Hamburg: “Trends that have already become apparent in recent years are now taking hold much more quickly. The entire casualization can no longer be stopped. But still beware: The customer will also crave and look for a nice suit again. Especially now we have to show all our strength. Although all the manufacturers want us to sift and assemble our collections on online platforms, we are still shopping every thread by actually picking it up in our hands.”

MH: Will the fashion system be decelerated?

Tim Brown: “We have always advocated mindful consumption. As a vertical retailer, we have never been beholden to wholesalers or quick sales, because that ends up leading to low prices and an inferior quality mentality. I think we are finally seeing that this system is not sustainable and are thinking about what a better future – for us and the planet – can look like.”

Professor David Tyler: “There is talk of a more sustainable fashion sector, but that will only come if consumers buy clothes that have key sustainability features.”

August Bard Bringéus: “The fashion industry currently shows no signs of slowing down. Recent reports reveal that the market is expected to decline over the next two years, but then recover and grow by 7% by 2023 – this growth is driven by the current business model of constant renewal, which many established brands still rely on. This is why we do not have seasonal collections at Asket. We strongly believe that moving away from seasonal systems, producing prudently and redistributing value across the entire creation chain would be good for the industry.”

Professor Karin-Simone Fuhs: “Although this cannot be answered with certainty, I do have hope that such a development could occur. Personally, I’m a big fan of second-hand fashion, which is not only easy on the wallet, but also increases the useful life of products and puts a stop to acceleration. A great example of how trend-consciousness doesn’t have to mean constantly buying new things and chasing after trends is the “CONTINYOU” campaign created at ecosign, in which a student upgraded the image of secondhand clothing in a cooperative project with the consumer advice center NRW.”

MH: E-commerce vs. retail trade – is e-commerce pushing the classic retail trade into extinction?

August Bard Bringéus: “E-commerce is booming. This trend was already apparent 5 to 10 years ago, but only accelerated with the lockdown. A recent report by Bernstein Trends predicted that the growth rate of online fashion will triple this year and account for more than 20% of total sales – the equivalent of 5 years of growth in just 6 months. Brands that have a strong e-commerce offering are certainly doing better in the face of the pandemic. That said, there is still room for brick-and-mortar retail, and if done right, the two platforms can harmonize.”

Lars Braun: “No, certainly not. However, it will still make life a bit difficult for traditional retail. In the future, there will only be stores in the fashion segment in the city center that also have a competent online approach.”

Conclusion: quality and sustainability are in demand

The pandemic has thrown the industry into turmoil. Retail and industry are trying to remain flexible and respond to customer needs in order to avoid overproduction and crippled capital. The growth of e-commerce offers the opportunity to rethink retail spaces and make stores, for example, storytellers of products or even places of – now much missed – encounter. Multichannel sales can generate useful synergy effects in the future. The trend is towards relaxed styles and homeware products. There is a discernible demand for quality and sustainability on the part of consumers, even if the price often determines the purchase of a product.

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