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COVID-19

How the pandemic is changing high fashion

Erika Beras May 27, 2020
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Gucci's Spring/Summer 2020 runway show in Milan in 2019. The brand announced it is officially abandoning the traditional fashion seasons. John Phillips/Getty Images for Gucci
COVID-19

How the pandemic is changing high fashion

Erika Beras May 27, 2020
Heard on:
Gucci's Spring/Summer 2020 runway show in Milan in 2019. The brand announced it is officially abandoning the traditional fashion seasons. John Phillips/Getty Images for Gucci
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Gucci is the latest fashion designer to announce that the pandemic is forcing it to change the way it does business. The brand announced it’ll stop showing new designs at fashion weeks worldwide, and eliminate three of the five fashion shows it’s traditionally held every year.

Other designers are calling for radical change in the industry, while a number of brick-and-mortar retailers — most notably Neiman Marcus — have filed for bankruptcy.

When Gucci announced that it was slashing the number of fashion shows it’ll hold, it wasn’t surprising to people who watch the sector.

“The shift hasn’t really begun with COVID, it was perhaps accelerated by it,” said Jennie Vry Liu, executive director at the Yale Center for Customer Insights. 

That’s because “having to come out with new fashions every single season in a hope that these fashions will sell is a problem for businesses, they’re overproducing,” explained Jeff Galak, a marketing professor at Carnegie Mellon.

Fashion had already been under pressure to change, said Thomai Serdari, who teaches luxury business marketing at NYU. To become more inclusive and to reduce its carbon footprint. And the fashion calendar year — planned far in advance — feels outdated in the age of fast fashion like H&M and Zara. 

“A lot of the influence comes from online channels,” Serdari said. “People were eager to see what new things were coming out from brands that were going direct-to-consumer and that had already bypassed the traditional channels of marketing.”

Traditional channels like fashion shows. Then there’s the shuttering of retailers. Sucharita Kodali, an analyst with Forrester, said that means Gucci and other brands have to figure out how to make up the sales they would have made through those stores. 

“Brands now have to sell their own merchandise, putting pressure on them to try to be more efficient,” Kodali said.

And with many brick and mortar stores closed, that’s going to take some creativity.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?

Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.

How has the pandemic changed scientific research?

Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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