Can Luxury Fashion Ever Regain Its Luster?
The industry is trying to reach customers amid a severe global recession that has brought mass layoffs and plunging sales. Traditional fashion weeks might be out of step.
By Elizabeth Paton
This is usually a busy month for the luxury industry. Not long after glossy fashion magazines publish their all-important September issues, thousands of retail buyers, journalists and clients embark on a tour of New York, London, Milan and Paris.
Rolling from city to city to attend fashion weeks, they decide the trends that will power a global luxury goods market worth hundreds of billions — in 2019, 281 billion euros, or $334 billion.
Not this year. The ground beneath the industry is heaving under the weight of a pandemic that has caused a plunge in sales, shocked global supply chains and pushed American household names such as Brooks Brothers and Lord & Taylor to bankruptcy.
Those shifts have prompted big questions about the business model of luxury fashion. Should fashion weeks be dismantled and rebuilt? Are cycles of new items every six months still the best approach, at a time when garment overproduction is under scrutiny, restricted lifestyles are commonplace and runway spectacles can feel out of step in a world with different priorities?
The second quarter of 2020 was the luxury fashion industry’s worst. According to estimates by Boston Consulting Group, global luxury sales are set to contract by 25 percent to 45 percent this year, with industry growth unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels until at least 2023 or 2024. At a time when many companies are battling for survival, many designers feel they cannot afford to skip an opportunity to show new wares.
So as the latest fashion week season began in New York last week, blockbuster catwalk shows and big crowds were out, replaced with a handful of small-scale or online-only presentations. In Italy and France, some brands have said they plan to host larger physical events, despite having only a handful of international guests, a number of high-profile designer absences and rising infection rates in Europe.
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