Fashion insiders—from CEOs to buyers and creative directors—are charting a path forward for the industry, as GlobalData forecasts a $297 billion hit to the global apparel market this year.
The coronavirus has disrupted the sector’s supply chain, causing catastrophic delays to spring product shipments. But the learnings from this unprecedented period of upheaval have been instrumental, fashion insiders say.
In an open letter to the fashion industry at large, leaders from brands, retailers, showroom operators and factories pleaded with their peers to permanently adjust the seasonality and flow of footwear, apparel and accessories beginning with fall 2020 lines. The effort, documented at rewiringfashion.org, outlines the need to “slow down and rediscover the storytelling and magic of fashion.”
“We agreed that the current environment although challenging, presents an opportunity for a fundamental and welcome change that will simplify our businesses, making them more environmentally and socially sustainable and ultimately align them more closely with customers’ needs,” the signatories wrote.
Labels including Acne Studios, Burberry, Carolina Hererra, Christian Louboutin, Jil Sander, Proenza Schouler and Tory Burch joined retailers such as Nordstrom, Bergdorf Goodman and Selfridges in advocating for shifting selling seasons to align more closely with consumers’ spending patterns.
Their recommendations included pushing the fall season to August through January, and the spring season to February through July. Brands and retailers would need to “create a more balanced flow of deliveries through the season to provide newness but also time for products to create desire.”
End-of-season discounts would take place in January for fall product and July for spring lines, allowing more time for full-price selling. While many retailers already reserve their biggest blowout sales for these months, a reliance on a steady stream of discounts throughout the season to spur sales devalues products that could be sold at market price.
Nearly 200 signatories, including consulting firms and notable fashion publications like British Vogue, also implore the industry to work toward a more sustainable footprint by revamping its supply chain and sales calendar.
Brands and retailers need to address the creation of waste through unnecessary products, fabric and inventory, they said. The industry should also travel less frequently, make use of digital showrooms, and adapt the format of fashion shows to lessen its carbon footprint.
“Working together, we hope these steps will allow our industry to become more responsible for our impact on our customers, on the planet and on the fashion community,” the signatories said, adding that such efforts would “bring back the magic and creativity that has made fashion such an important part of our world.”
Sustainability has been a hot topic amid the unfolding pandemic. Last month, Boston Consulting Group (BCG), the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and Higg Co outlined “how sustainability in fashion is at risk in a post-crisis world.”
In the report,”Weaving a Better Future: Rebuilding a More Sustainable Fashion Industry After COVID-19,” Saitex CEO Sanjeev Bahl noted how the coronavirus emergency “has forced all of us to take a step back and reset our priorities.” Companies whose operations can demonstrate verifiable people- and planet-friendly practices will “have an edge” over business-as-usual models, added Bahl, who founded the B Corp-certified denim manufacturer that makes for brands such as Madewell and Everlane.
Javier Seara, BCG managing director and partner and global leader, fashion & luxury sector, described the COVID-19 disruption as fashion’s “moment of truth.”
“Companies will need to change and are already changing their businesses (every day) to adapt to the new reality,” he said. “Relentlessly incorporating sustainability practices into these changes will be the critical factor that separates winners from idlers.”
Additional reporting by Jessica Binns.