COVID is definitely going to change things. And we can't even imagine the full extent of the changes.
I'm hearing that it will be very bad for most established fashion brands. Already, many brands that were short on cash are now closing shop and laying off their employees.
And that's just the beginning.
Even before COVID, brands were having a difficult time getting product produced on time and exported out of key sourcing countries in SE Asia. Now, brands and retailers have canceled half to all of their 2020 orders, which puts the factories/manufacturers in a bad situation.
The Opportunity for Fashion Brands in COVID
If we're able to see the bright side in all this, I think it looks good for smaller and younger brands -- brands that do not yet have much overhead costs or many employees.
While the reduction in demand from large apparel players will impact upstream vendors (some of which may go out of business), others will be open to working with new brands. Since factory production capacity will free-up, it will be cheaper to produce. They will be open to smaller order quantities.
And you will not be competing with as many larger brands since they will have less supply of finished goods.
How Should Fashion Brands Respond to COVID?
But to take advantage of this, it seems like you will have to:
Quickly understand the new market demand - What will people want in a current- and post-COVID world? Where will there be pent up demand for products/purchasing?
Be empathetic - Show customers that you understand their concerns. They are afraid for their retirement & savings, they or their loved ones are being laid off, they are afraid of the virus - loved ones may even be dying - they cannot afford their next rent payment, etc. You, your brand, your ethos, and your messaging need to align with their very real needs.
I'm sure there's more as well, but those are the two things that seem to immediately come to my mind.
Is Circular Fashion & Secondhand the Answer to COVID?
I'm placing my bets on used/secondhand clothing.
It looks like COVID is triggering a significant recession that may be unparalleled in our lifetime.
Given that, people will be unemployed and have less disposable income. So they will want to make extra cash when possible -- possibly by cleaning out their closets and selling used goods. And others, who need to buy, will look for lower-cost/discounted items, and will therefore turn to the secondhand economy.
Of course, it's impossible to predict any of this with certainty.
Has your brand signed the 2020 Circular Fashion Pledge? We're building a coalition of small and medium sized brands that want to change the industry -- and the world. Join us.