COVID-19

For Fashion Week, the industry tries to reinvent itself

Erika Beras Sep 24, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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Models pose at the Rebecca Minkoff presentation on Sept. 15, during New York Fashion Week. Arturo Holmes/Getty Images
COVID-19

For Fashion Week, the industry tries to reinvent itself

Erika Beras Sep 24, 2020
Models pose at the Rebecca Minkoff presentation on Sept. 15, during New York Fashion Week. Arturo Holmes/Getty Images
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We’re in the middle of fashion week season: New York’s and London’s have wrapped up, Milan’s is going on right now and Paris’ will round out the sequence next week.

The runway shows have been scaled back, socially distanced and mostly virtual. The slimmed-down events are one indication of how the fashion industry’s scrambling to make sense of a world under lockdown.

In the program for his New York Fashion Week event, designer Tom Ford wrote that at the height of stay-at-home orders, he felt fashion should simply go into hibernation for a year. He’s not alone in that thought. Susan Scafidi, founder and academic director at the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham University, said these fashion week shows are “in some ways a placeholder.”

“At the moment, the way we dress is really the way we don’t dress anymore, Scafidi said. “Fewer places to go, fewer formal events, a significant percentage of people still working from home.”

She said that means designers and the companies that distribute clothes have to evolve.

Last week, Rent the Runway, known for leasing workwear and formal wear, said it is getting rid of its unlimited subscription. Retailers that sell high fashion have shuttered. Supply chains have been backed up. Thomai Serdari, luxury marketing professor at New York University, says there’s “a general feeling of uncertainty.”

“We don’t know where we’re going to manufacture the product, we don’t know what the product will look like. We don’t know what our life would look like to even imagine the product,” Sedari said.

The products for now on the virtual runway: couture masks, flowier, comfier clothes and home decor. Laticha Brown, a professor at Fashion Institute of Technology, said designers are using this time to rethink what they want to create and what consumers will buy. Brown said her own style has changed now that she spends lots of time on video calls.

“I’m looking at neckline, so am I wearing a crewneck or V-neck,” she said. “I want to make sure perhaps my necklace is a statement necklace something that they can actually see.”

That’s influencing what she and other shoppers have been buying.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

How are Americans feeling about their finances?

Nearly half of all Americans would have trouble paying for an unexpected $250 bill and a third of Americans have less income than before the pandemic, according to the latest results of our Marketplace-Edison Poll. Also, 6 in 10 Americans think that race has at least some impact on an individual’s long-term financial situation, but Black respondents are much more likely to think that race has a big impact on a person’s long-term financial situation than white or Hispanic/Latinx respondents.

Find the rest of the poll results here, which cover how Americans have been faring financially about six months into the pandemic, race and equity within the workplace and some of the key issues Trump and Biden supporters are concerned about.

Are people still waiting for unemployment payments?

Yes. There is no way to know exactly how many people have been waiting for months and are still not getting unemployment, because states do not have a good system in place for tracking that kind of data, according to Andrew Stettner of The Century Foundation. But by his own calculations, only about 60% of people who have applied for benefits are currently receiving them. That means there are millions still waiting. Read more here on what they are doing about it.

What’s going to happen to retailers, especially with the holiday shopping season approaching?

A report out Tuesday from the accounting consultancy BDO USA said 29 big retailers filed for bankruptcy protection through August. And if bankruptcies continue at that pace, the number could rival the bankruptcies of 2010, after the Great Recession. For retailers, the last three months of this year will be even more critical than usual for their survival as they look for some hope around the holidays.

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