As the fashion weeks kick off in New York this week, the rest of the world is left grappling with the debilitating effects that the coronavirus has generated. The virus, which has claimed as many as 1,000 lives in China alone with the number of confirmed cases across the country exceeding 42,000, has taken its toll all over the world. As much as the virus has impacted economies around the world, significantly in the travel and retail industries, it has also affected the fashion industry… in more ways than one.
Lesser attendees in fashion weeks
The fashion weeks in New York and upcoming London, Milan, and Paris will be missing many, if not most of, China’s buyers and also editorial and influencer representation due to travel restrictions. British organisers has stated that for London Fashion Week, the attendance from Chinese buyers, journalists and stylists is expected to be “significantly reduced”, while their Italian counterparts estimated that about 1,000 Chinese from the fashion industry are likely to miss out on shows held in Milan.
Several Chinese brands have also cancelled their shows in the fashion weeks ahead. Amongst these brands are well-known ones like Angel Chen which is dropping out of the Milan Fashion Week due to factory closures in China preventing them from finishing their collections in time for the event.
The National Chamber for Italian Fashion (CNMI) predicted the epidemic could cause a 1.8 per cent drop in sales for the Italian industry in the first six months of this year. CNMI head Carlo Capasa says he would do his utmost “to convey the emotion and content of fashion to those who are far from the catwalks”. Many brands in Milan and London are combating the situation by ramping up their digital and virtual efforts, with many doing live streaming of their catwalk shows. Some Chinese brands, however, are still pushing ahead their shows, like Mukzin and Sheguang Hu who said that their New York shows would go as planned.
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The closure of stores across China
Due to a decrease in footfall and traffic, and also to protect the company’s employees’ safety and wellbeing, international brands in China are rapidly closing down their stores and outlets. Most astoundingly, the tech giant Apple has announced that it will shut down all its corporate offices, stores, and contact centers in mainland China starting from 9 February.
Other brands such as Adidas, which operates around 12,000 stores in China, has announced that it was shuttering a “considerable” number of stores throughout China, while roughly half of Nike stores in China are temporarily being closed and some remaining opened with reduced operational hours.
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The Burberry Group has also announced that 24 of the 64 Burberry stores in Mainland China would be closed. “The outbreak of the coronavirus in Mainland China is having a material negative effect on luxury demand. While we cannot currently predict how long this situation will last, we remain confident in our strategy. In the meantime, we are taking mitigating actions and every precaution to help ensure the safety and wellbeing of our employees,” said Burberry CEO Marco Gobbetti in a statement.
Fashion to the rescue
Despite the doom and gloom, the fashion industry is actually trying its best to help make the situation better. Many fashion companies have come forward to offer donations; LVMH has already donated $2.3 million to the Chinese Red Cross Foundation, while Kering and L’Oréal have made significant contributions to relief organisations.
Other fashion brands like luxury jewellery brand Swarovski have also come forward to help in donations, contributing nearly half a million dollars to help in fighting the disease, while Versace has come forward to pledge RMB 1 million to the Chinese Red Cross Foundation to support the coronavirus relief efforts and to help alleviate the urgent medical supplies shortage.
Hopefully, with the help from these fashion giants, China and the rest of the world will be able to tide through the epidemic.