Considered as one of the most polluting industries, the fashion business is poised for change with COVID-19 making it more sustainable, affordable, and ethical.
Gone are the days when models would walk the ramp showcasing the latest designer wears in glitzy fashion shows. With the pandemic taking over our lives and livelihood, one of the major industries that has suffered a huge setback is fashion. Insiders predict that Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown have set the clock back for the industry by at least 10 years.
The designers are still counting their losses and trying to predict consumer behaviour even after the restrictions are lifted. Speaking to The Economic Times, veteran couturier Ritu Kumar says that the fashion industry has never been affected in such a severe manner before. There have been times when several countries did suffer from recession but the whole world shutting down together is unprecedented.
Watch: COVID-19 and the future of fashion
The Bleak Future of Fashion Industry
Now, designers across the globe are trying to predict how consumers would behave post-pandemic. Whether they will be keen on shopping or will they want to live frugally and save money for future emergencies. If the latter is the case then the long-term fear of the virus will put a crunch on turnovers and cash flow across the fashion industry.
A BBC report says that the sale of clothing fell by 34% in March as people were stuck at homes. The report adds,
COVID has hit the fashion industry in the worst possible manner as production has ceased, retailers have closed and demand dropped.
Terming this phase as a time of existential crisis for the fashion industry, Imran Amed, the founder, and CEO of The Business of Fashion tells BBC that the fashion industry relies heavily on physical retail with 80% sales happening in actual stores. However, people are just not interested in buying clothes due to the pandemic and fashion has become an afterthought.
It comes as no surprise that reputed fashion brands are struggling to survive as there are no buyers for their supplies with some big brands like J.C. Penney, Brooks Brothers, and Forever 21 filing for bankruptcies and other budget brands offering discounts.
What post-pandemic fashion careers may look like?
Ever since COVID-19 became a pandemic taking a toll on the world economy, fashion companies and retailers started laying off their employees, furloughing others or shutting shop altogether. It is time for businesses to re-evaluate the ways in which the fashion world will operate. Now there will be more focus on e-commerce, social distancing, and growing customer emphasis on budget and sustainable shopping. Due to a shift in consumer behaviour, fashion brands across the globe will have to respond and adapt to survive the new world, which also means the creation of new jobs.
A Business of Fashion report predicts these jobs that will be in demand during and after the pandemic:
Virtual Showroom Designer
Due to growing health concerns, the post-pandemic world will see people travelling less and continuing to shop online. As a result, online shopping tools like virtual showroom will gain prominence where shoppers can browse through clothing samples online, while luxury brands will become more dependent on tech-powered showroom alternatives to manage their wholesale networks across the world.
Smart Inventory Manager
Due to a large amount of unsold inventory, retailers will look for automated inventory management services that coordinate stocks with the help of data-driven bottom-up operating models that can precisely predict demand. Hence, there will be a demand for professionals with strong analytical skills to take on this responsibility.
Computer Generated Imagery artists have been in the picture for quite some time making short films or advertising for brands. However, due to lockdowns, this technique has gained traction where brands like Vogue Taiwan and Paper magazine reportedly released CGI covers in their last few issues.
80% of fashion businesses based in the US and Europe are in financial distress due to The Business of Fashion and McKinsey & Company’s The State of Fashion 2020: Coronavirus Update. Hence, now the brands have to up their games to plan a recovery that is quick as well as risk-free. Hence, they want data specialists who can study consumer behaviour and understand what customers want. They need data editors to analyze the data and maximize its potential.
The Future of Celebrity Stylist
Celebrity fashion stylists, who were earning about $50,185 annually by dressing celebrities for red carpet events or glamorous events, are finding difficult to sustain with no events, parties, or promotional shows happening. Sharing her frustration with Marie Claire, Elizabeth Stewart, who styles the likes of Viola Davis and Gal Gadot, says that she has not worked since March 13. All the assignments that she got for international events in April and May have been cancelled.
Bollywood stylist Akshay Tyagialso talks about how COVID-19 has shaken the industry and shares with The Quint about the need to adapt and grow.
Watch: Celebrity Stylist Left Without Work
The Way Forward
The fashion industry has a huge task in its hand to reimagine and reinvent itself and think of ways to bring back the customers. Practical, cost-effective, and affordable fashion will be the need of the hour. Also, the industry will have to work in a manner to ensure safety for both its employees as well as customers. COVID-19 will give way to comfort over style, minimalism over luxury, and safety over overcrowded fashion shows.