Arts and Entertainment

The Fashion Industry During the Coronavirus

Coronavirus has impacted the fashion industry by canceling shows, changing consumption patterns, and revealing deeper issues.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

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By Jenny Chen

The fashion industry isn't exactly known for being in touch with the lifestyles of everyday people, and discussing spring fashion trends while millions of lives are in jeopardy is frivolous to many. The coronavirus pandemic heightened during the Fall 2020 shows, leading to many cancellations, and has only gotten worse. All of the upcoming summer events have been cancelled, from Men’s Fashion Week to the resort 2021 shows. Haute couture ateliers in Paris and Milan aside, the coronavirus has brought an economic crisis that has damaged the fashion industry. According to experts, average market capitalization of apparel, fashion, and luxury has decreased by about 40 percent since January—a greater decline than that of the entire stock market. People are losing their jobs, and many companies are going out of business.

Many say this pandemic is simply revealing the hidden flaws of the fashion industry, and this is the perfect opportunity for everyone to re-evaluate the slowing business market. Even before the coronavirus hit, the ever slowing growth of the market combined with heavier competition presented a challenging year for the fashion industry. Due to the current global nature of the industry, companies are dealing with damage control for all parts of the fashion supply-chain. From workers in developing countries to store closures around the globe, people cannot go to work, and shoppers are more frugal than ever, leading to huge drops in profit. Low-wage employees in countries that manufacture the products, such as Bangladesh and India, are suffering from job scarcity, which leads to death and widespread starvation. This only serves to highlight the larger ethical problems in the industry and the repercussions of not holding companies accountable for their methods of production.

Despite these issues, customers continue to purchase from these places. Shopping and consumption have already adjusted to the new normal of social distancing, in which the internet is more important than ever. Having accessible and efficient online stores is critical for a brand’s survival in the upcoming months and will continue to remain critical in a post-coronavirus world. The shift in shopping from store to online came with a sharp increase in discounts, since companies are losing money with overstocked products. These lower prices are accompanied by the unstable financial situations of most consumers due to the pandemic, as well as shoppers’ increased urges to buy out of boredom.

As far as high fashion, designers are taking their shows to our screens. Former editor-in-chief of “Vogue Paris” and current global fashion director of “Harper's Bazaar,” Carine Roitfeld is an industry icon who has just set the blueprint for fashion shows to come. As a fundraising effort for amfAR’s (American Foundation for AIDS Research) coronavirus research, Roitfeld put together the first self-filmed fashion show ever on May 1. Complete with a star-studded lineup, the show featured models styling outfits from their own closets. Though the show aimed to raise awareness, it serves as a precedent for the rest of the fashion industry. All across the world, people are stepping up to help during the crisis in any way that they can. Countless brands have offered their factories to aid the government in stopping the spread; from Alice + Olivia to H&M, companies have begun producing masks, hand sanitizers, and other key commodities to fight the virus.

The landscape of fashion may be altered permanently in a post-coronavirus world. In the aftermath of WWII, the industry experienced a lot of changes, not only in new silhouettes and styles, but also in clothing production. According to financial experts, the coronavirus could have the biggest economic impact since WWII, so it’s likely we’ll see a similar transformation in the wake of the pandemic. Companies with the best response to the pandemic will be the ones to survive; others will go out of business. Industry leaders will spark conversations about consumption and the globalization of the industry. While there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the future of fashion, one of the world’s largest and constantly changing industries, one thing remains for certain: whether for better or worse, things will never be the same.