The COVID-19 pandemic made the whole planet hold its breath and wait. And as a result, many aspects of habitual human life succumbed to inevitable changes. Small to large businesses suffered losses. Fashion industry was no exception along with entertainment, travel and restaurant industries .
The rules of the game are changing right here and now, and consumers are setting the trends. People began to question all those excessive amounts things that they posess – how much stuff is really needed for life: food, services, goods, entertainment? And among all of this what really has a true value?
The need for new clothes faded
At a time when, instead of the usual offices, cafes and co-working places, the premises of one’s home became an “office” of some kind or another, the majority of the world’s population stopped needing new clothes and footwear. Whether this trend will continue after the pandemic is not known yet! But it is precisely the change of consumers’ mindset that makes brands reflect on a fact that maybe a new strategy will be needed soon. What kind of client will return to them after the pandemic?
The Customers Set a Vector
Perhaps there will remain consumers who will buy things without hesitation and throw them away just as recklessly. Undoubtedly, there will remain an audience that prefers luxury goods. Others will have more rational approach to the amount of things in their wardrobe – buy better and wear longer. Surely, there will also be those conscious customers who will find it important to see the brand’s values, the conditions under which the company’s employees work and whether they receive fair wages , brand’s environmental impact. All these important issues will affect the decision of customers to support the brand, buying its products or not.
So, how will the fashion world change ? What should companies expect from customers, and vice versa? The editorial team of Prime Time magazine reached out to several foreign brands and asked them about it.
ÀLEA PROJECT (Italy)
ÀLEA brand is one of those conscious streetwear brands that combine catchy design and sustainable initiatives. All clothing is produced in Italy to support local suppliers and producers. ÀLEA pieces are made from organic cotton, certified GOTS and dead stock to create sustainable collections.
The thing that distinguishes this streetwear brand, besides their conscious approach to production, is design of clothes. ÀLEA brand uses deco motives and modernism of the 60s skillfully intertwined with MAC movement concepts. This creates an unusual combination of contemporaneity and retro.
Stefano Pugliese, one of the founders of the brand, said that they presented their FW2020 collection in Paris to the buyers from major boutiques worldwide and received brilliant feedbacks from them. But due to the pandemic, all orders were blocked and the team decided to skip on SS2020 collection and concentrate on their work for FW2021 collection.
Meanwhile, the brand is focused on attending some of the most important international fashion contests, such as the “European Social Innovation Competition” and VOGUE “Who Is On Next?”.
In terms of marketing and communications, the ÀLEA team is focusing on improving Instagram pages to increase engagement with the audience. Also, according to Stefano, the company plans to strengthen relations with editorial and interact with opinion leaders in accordance with the brand’s values.
The brand will continue to work in the concept of sustainable fashion – to produce clothes with zero impact on the environment and people, as well as create new initiatives in this direction.
You can buy ÀLEA Project products on the official website https://www.aleaproject.com
As a little girl, Clémence Cahu often visited her father’s factory in Normandy that produced XXL bounced castles made of waterproof hyper-resistant PVC fabric. A great deal of time later, Clemence being a stylist and an art-director realised that an ultra-durable waterproof polyvinyl chloride, from which these bounced castles are made, can be a perfect material for bags. She shared this idea with her cousin Océane, and so began the history of the Cahu bag brand.
Cahu brand produces a variety of bags and small accessories in various sizes and colors. Products are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is very resistant to tear and wear. The lining is made of either leather or 100% cotton. Details of bags and accessories are made of high quality leather.
The founder of the brand Clémence Cahu has shared with us: “Before the pandemic, 20% of sales were in-store and 80% were made online (except for special pop-up stores period). As of now, when our stores are closed, we sell online obviously, we have some delays, but all orders are shipped to our customers”.
After Celine Dion appeared with Le Dame bag, the brand had a lot of feedback from both customers and companies. “We are going to take advantage of this period to strengthen our relationships, to inform our customers about the release of new products and try not to miss the excellent opportunities for cooperation in the coming seasons.” – continues brand founder Clémence Cahu
According to Clémence Cahu, Asia is a main customer of the brand and as the Chinese shoppers have returned to luxury boutiques, Cahu needs to catch up and supply products to customers there. Therefore, the Cahu team works in parallel on the digital, the commercial future and on the management of the ecological aspect of the brand as well.
“Cahu team will make sure to focus on social media in order to show our community that we are still there. But also, find new customers in markets that did not seem to us to be of priority but which, given the current context, may emerge. Our goal is to show that Cahu is active during this dreary period and that the brand will be even stronger and ready to respond to market needs as soon as it returns to normal.” – summed up Clémence Cahu.
You can buy Cahu products on the official website https://www.cahuparis.com/ or by visiting a boutique in Paris at 16 Rue du Grand Prieuré.
Lowie brand from South London was established in 2002. It started with knitted accessories and has grown to become a vibrant womenswear brand with thoughtfully crafted clothes released throughout the year. In them, one can feel the love of the founder Bronwyn Lowenthal for color, design, craft elements and traditional methods such as hand embroidery, knitting and hand screen printing.
Lowie strives to be as ethical as possible and to highlight issues of sustainability, transparency in production and renewability. The brand uses environmentally friendly fabrics, produces them with low energy consumption and works with artisans and manufacturers that they trust and who, in turn, pay their workers fair wages.
The founder and creative director Bronwyn Lowenthal told us that before the pandemic, company’s online sales accounted for about 20% of the total turnover. During the quarantine period, there were hopes that the situation would change and statistics would increase, but surprisingly that did not happen. “I was hoping that during the quarantine period online sales would increase, but the growth was very slight. We decided to make discounts on our products, and although we sell more products as a result of this, this does not mean that Lowie makes more profit. We had to cancel part of the production of goods that was planned for the end of summer, and I have not yet decided whether we will reduce production in the winter or not,” says Bronwyn Lowenthal.
The brand is actively working to extend the life of its products and, accordingly, reduce the amount of clothing that gets discarded is tons annually and lands in landfills, just because consumers are unaware that it can be repaired and worn further . Therefore, Lowie provides a lifetime repair service for its products. “At present, for the lockdown period, we do not accept clothes for repairs in the stores. But, if the client’s knitted item needs to be repaired, we ask to send us a photo, then we select the yarn and send it to the client. After that we teach him or her one on one how to fix the item, communicating via video call, ”-says Bronwyn Lowenthal.
You can buy Lowie products on the official website ilovelowie.com or by visiting boutiques in London at 115 Dulwich Road and 25 Westow Street
ISTO is a brand of modern basic apparel for men and women, inspired by the “slow fashion” movement. It focuses on independence, quality, sustainability and ethical transparency. The brand has a physical store in Lisbon, an online store isto.pt, as well as select stores worldwide.
ISTO clothing is made from 100% organic or natural materials from GOTS certified suppliers in Portugal. Moreover, ISTO develops completely transparent relationships with consumers – they know how much each product costs and what the margin is, since this information is publicly available on the site next to the product description.
Since 100% of the company originally belonged and still belongs to its founders, this affects all business operations and decisions: with whom the brand works, how it works, how it looks and what products it releases. The only one who can influence these decisions is the consumer.
The founder of ISTO, Pedro Pahla, told us that before the pandemic, the company’s sales were around 70% in the physical store and 30% on the Internet. But, since the physical store was closed on March 15, the brand suffered significant losses. “However, we are seeing good sales growth on our website (220% since the beginning of the year). For us, this is a very good indicator in the current environment. In addition, we just released an expanded line of clothing for women, which is a plus for our brand. It’s also very interesting to see the pretty good support from our Portuguese community” – shared Pedro Pahla.
In addition, the founder spoke about the specifics of interaction with opinion leaders: “Since the launch, we tried to choose our “real” influencers. We work with Portuguese artists, chefs and the communities with whom we feel connected. I think this is an important strategy. ”
You can buy ISTO products on the official website https://isto.pt/ or by visiting a boutique in Lisbon at 26 Praça do Príncipe Real.
ANDREW COIMBRA (Canada)
The clothing brand ANDREW COIMBRA was founded in Toronto in 2015. Its main focus is on a simple but powerful design, cut and construction. Designer Andrew Coimbra creates clothing that will “grow up” with its owner – items that go beyond time and can be worn both by men and women.
ANDREW COIMBRA creates collections from luxury textiles. But the focus is made primarily on finding deadstock. Thus, a beautiful fabric is literally saved from unnecessary disposal to a landfill. Thanks to these efforts, up to 50% of the final collection is sewn from dead stock inventory. The final component of the integrity of each product is that it is designed and skillfully manufactured in Toronto, Canada, which emphasizes the label’s commitment to sustainable and ethical production.
Paulette Weiss, who is responsible for the brand’s press communications, told us that before the pandemic, ANDREW COIMBRA sales were almost exactly 50% online and 50% instore. “The situation changed during this fall/winter 2019 sales season, when customer activity began to decline, which, unfortunately (and quite understandably!) is completely connected with the COVID-19 outbreak. Now that most of our customers are at home, our online sales have grown by about 10-15%”
Some other factors of the “new” realities of the brand during quarantine: recently ANDREW COIMBRA was selected as one of the 20 finalists in the competition Not Just A Label x Swatch On. Also, there was an online promotion for accessories, which lasted until May 8, 2020. The brand provides free delivery with a promotional code, and 50% of the proceeds from all orders will be donated to the United Way of the Great Toronto Area to combat COVID-19.
“If we talk about our marketing plans, they are still under consideration, as we are developing the spring 2021 collection. The brand will focus on creating beautiful, timeless and easily transformable clothes that will resonate with our community. Obviously, our online presence is now an important aspect, since we do not know what activity buyers will have in the upcoming season and how long they will stay at home. ” – said Paulette Weiss.
ANDREW COIMBRA does not actively cooperate with influencers and mainly does it on an individual basis, as it prefers a more organic relationship. The ultimate goal of the brand – is to create an online presence that reflects the community of which ANDREW COIMBRA is a part.
You can buy ANDREW COIMBRA products on the official website https://www.andrewcoimbra.com/
New realities for fashion
In some countries, businesses are starting to return to work. Their owners do not yet know what to expect from customers, as the latter are still reluctant to renew their consumer habits.
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the unknown future, fashion is the last thing people think about. Many brands may not be able to return to the market, especially those who conducted sales only through boutiques and did not have an online presence.
And only one thing is clear at the moment- brands that quickly managed to adapt during the crisis, responded to the situation and maintained communication with their community of customers most likely will continue to work and create for them in the future that will hopefully be bright again.
Written by fashion-editor Anna Konstantinova for PrimeTime magazine