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How the Pandemic has Changed the Fashion Industry

By Karina Wensjoe

Large and small businesses everywhere are facing a major downfall. During the coronavirus peak in March, several conglomerates were forced to close their stores, ateliers, and events in regards to social distancing mandates being implemented worldwide. As a result, luxury and retail fashion brands were forced to file for bankruptcy to save their franchise. Retail companies alone faced a 16.4% drop in sales. Affordable trending companies T.J. Maxx and Marshall’s filed for bankruptcy back in April. The luxury department at Neiman Marcus, claimed for Chapter 11 protection to maintain their company afloat. Even Chanel halted production in ateliers located in Italy, Switzerland, and France. The list of fashion industries is infinite.

Runway shows used to market released lines were postponed or canceled. Marketing for brands proved to be more difficult since new merchandise wasn't either being designed or mass-produced. Although fashion companies have been able to deal with previous obstacles, COVID-19 demonstrated a mortal challenge. Not only did the pandemic hurt major industry manufacturing, it substantially affected the working class. El Corte Inglés—a popular Spanish fashion chain—for instance, was obligated to lay off 22,000 employees in the wake of the pandemic. Cosmetic brands also faced the same agony. President of Estee Lauder, William Lauder, was forced to cut 50% of employee stipends. Furloughing employees became an international crisis. The entire world was experiencing chaos.

From a personal standpoint, at the start of the pandemic, my time as an intern at Modern Luxury Magazine was unexpectedly terminated. Shortly after, editors and writers of the company were respectively laid off. The repercussions of fashion magazines and industries in making such decisions seemed insurmountable. The pandemic has done a great deal of damage economically but has not become impossible to outweigh. Many conglomerates have jumped back into their routines and are working on recreating their forgotten image. New York Fashion Week did not fail as they still performed their runway shows in September. Big-name brands, such as Rebecca Minkoff, Alice + Olivia, and Nicole Miller, were in attendance. Easy to stream and entertaining to watch, events such as NYFW did not fallback from the pandemic, proving the runway can still be showcased in a socially distanced fashion. In light of the chaos, several luxury and retail brands began to spread awareness by designing and selling unique face masks. The mask methodology became a savior that boosted designer sales, providing a safe, reputational solution.

E-commerce was seen as the alternative for many fashion brands but even that objective faced conversion traffic in the bargaining sphere. Although these facts seem hopeless, the existence of fashion is impossible to fade. Consumers are hasty to continue buying and industries are passionate enough to keep on designing and manufacturing. As we face one of the most difficult challenges of our generation, big and small businesses refuse to face defeat. The fashion industry as we know it will continue to prosper whatever curveball comes their way.

Karina Wensjoe is an editorial intern who is knowledgeable in all things travel, beauty, and sustainability.


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