Change in the UK fashion industry has been a long time coming and the pandemic has become the catalyst for this long-awaited change.
It may be a crisis too many, but it is obvious that the pandemic has allowed for an industry reset. The time for industry giants to step back, reflect on their and plan how they can change for the better.
Designer Prabal Gurang commented that “The rules were set in the industry a century ago, and we’re still following them…This pandemic has allowed us to reimagine everything.”
Many new designers and independent brands have started up over lockdown. Amongst the hardships and difficulties that the pandemic has presented. It has also given creatives and entrepreneurs time to sit down and make a start on their next big project.
“The rules were set in the industry a century ago, and were still following them…this pandemic has allowed us to reimagine everything” –
One way the pandemic has made a positive impact on the fashion industry is the shift in focus to online presence. The internet has become the only way consumers can shop, leading to innovation in how they can stand out from the crowd, transforming their website or social media into the new local shopping mall. As journalist Segran explained in the fast company article “The pandemic has forced designers to rethink how they reach customers.”
As fashion is such a physical product, this includes not only the items but also the catwalks, the stores and overall retail experience. More and more fashion conglomerates are noticing this shift to digital; which is increasing investment to put the industry back on its feet.
As a result, more digital jobs have now been created within the fashion industry. There are currently an average of 555,000 people employed in the fashion, textiles, and fashion retail in the UK according to Fashion United.
Big online fashion brands have rapidly grown over lockdown as journalist John Arlidge states in the evening standard “Both Richemont and Alibaba, have invested £820 million in Farfetch (an online luxury fashion retailer) to help to grow sales in China. Farfetch’s market value has risen more than fourfold over the past year to reach almost £15 billion.
Louis Vuitton vice president Michael David its first “chief omnichannel” (online and offline sales) director, is expected to move all LVMH brands onto a single, global e-commerce and technology platform”, reflecting the shift to online within the industry.
This world of physical and online are being put to the test and it may not be as simple as one solution or the other. Robert Gentz co (CEO of Zalando the online fashion brand) explained “The future of the fashion industry is no longer about either offline or online. The boundaries between the two are blurring. Today is all about how to bring those two worlds together.”
Now, companies are having to invest more into online innovative ideas such as digital catwalks, showrooms and the ability to ‘try clothes online’. Companies are also opting into ‘live stream’ looks to promote their collections.
Farfetch have recently released a new online system, enabling the consumer to change the size of the model in the picture to see what clothing could potentially look like on relatable body shapes.
Fashion startups have also been looking into real time body tracking for augmented reality fashion, allowing the consumer to try on clothes virtually through an app. Amanda Cosco shared this concept via LinkedIn with Cleometrica and replicant.
The pandemic has stripped away many layers of the fashion industry, revealing a number of negative aspects. The overproduction of fashion garments has been enormous, with over 2.8 billion orders being cancelled during the pandemic. Magazine Elle reported ‘Big and small brands are aware they overproduce and the negative impact it has on the environment, yet they continued to do so, until now’.
This industry being exposed for its purposeful overproduction and fast fashion has meant the world is taking notice and people are starting to make conscious decisions to change, through less consumption and the slow fashion movement. Many brands have been forced to slash prices by up to 70 percent to clear the backlog and there is a concern that customers may not be prepared to pay high full prices again.
The latest Black Friday Event in November of 2020 saw fast fashion retailers selling clothes as little as 0.8p. Pretty Little Thing received back lash for this, with the public questioning their morality ethics and the way in which they are overproducing their stock. Boohoo (the same company which owns PLT) has also been accused of other ethically wrong statements. Sahar Nazir explains in the retail gazette that BooHoo have been, “Accused of slavery for paying garment workers in Leicester as little as £3.50 an hour”.
The stigma around fast fashion has surfaced during the pandemic, with people sharing and talking about changes using the hashtag #SustainableFashion; aiming to reduce greenhouse gases, carbon emissions and unnecessary clothing styles.
#LovedClothesLast movement has also become popular, as Consumers are starting to adopt a longevity mindset in terms of clothes, realising that new outfits are not a necessity for every occasion. Fashion bloggers have been assisting these movements by creating hashtags and campaigns; raising money for charities and coordinating wardrobe clear outs.
Although this sustainable clothing movement is raising awareness, the next step is making the changes. The catalyst of the pandemic has meant we can finally begin to rid ourselves of fast fashion. It had become an unconscious habit to buy an outfit for every occasion, but people are now starting to think before impulse buying.
The pandemic has offered a direct relationship from Designer to Consumer. Rather than being able to sell through shops, Designers are investing more energy into creating a relationship with their end customer. This is resulting in a more personal relationship. Segran stated in her Fast Company article “Many brands have chosen to cultivate a more direct relationship with their customers digitally, selling the products directly through their own online stores.”
Furthermore Designer Gurung supports this by stating that “at the end of the day, the consumer is the one we need to talk to”. In this way, embracing the digital world to reach consumers is key.
Farfetch CEO Jose Neves says “Fashion is a physical object: We’ll never be able to entirely digitize it, the way Spotify did with music nor Netflix did with movies. But fashion needs to embrace digital if it is to survive.”
“The future of the fashion industry is no longer about either offline or online. The boundaries between the two are blurring. Today is all about how to bring those two worlds together.”
We have been actively helping the fashion industry get back on its feet by offering COVID-19 testing solutions to large blue-chip companies such as Urban Outfitters, Mulberry and New Look, as well as many fashion influencers. The aim is to ensure models and production teams can shoot in a safe environment, and are meeting all COVID-19 regulations.
Strong, loyal relationships have been built with these brands and employees have been given the opportunity to go back to work and resume ‘business as usual’.
As a nurse led company, we aim to provide an impeccable service based on care and excellence, and will continue to provide a bespoke clinical solution to all industries, in the hope to see the economy booming as it once was.
To read the full article about how Wren Healthcare have helped the fashion industry thrive again, click here.
If you have a similar story related to any positive impacts of COVID-19 and would like to share, we would love to hear from you!
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