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Excitement. The thrill of walking into a pristine, beautifully presented and colour-coded store. The feeling when you get your hands around the last pair of shoes calling out your name, signalling to you from the other side of the room. The feeling of relief when you realise that the items in your arms that are almost draping along the shiny floor are 50% off and in your size. Will we ever feel this way again?
I remember my first luxurious handbag. I was in Capri, Italy on vacation; a fashion-obsessed 16 year-old girl, window shopping the most beautiful stores in Europe. The scorching Italian sun burning my fair skin along the Amalfi Coast. The individual boutique shops were my little escape from the paradise outside. But, little did I know the paradise that was waiting for me as I walked through the glossy glass doors. The perfect air-conditioning, the smell of fresh leather and floral eau de parfum. Heaven. I could not imagine a world more perfect.
2020 has made this feel like a lifetime ago. With the rise of online retail due to the lockdown, we have additionally seen a rise in the number of high-street companies falling into administration: companies such as Intu Properties, the major shopping centres that are around the UK as well as smaller companies such as M&Co. Luxury brands have suffered as well, with many cutting and discontinuing production of certain goods, such as Patek Philipe’s luxury watches. Chanel, Gucci and Hermes have also had to shut down factories in Europe. Mckinsey reported that sales for this year’s spring/summer season were 70% lower than last year, not surprising considering shoppers could not go out to view the latest items in store. With most goods in general, not just fashion, there has been a noticeably large fall in inventory in many shops. At the same time, the BBC News reports a ‘devastated economy’ and ‘exceptionally low GDP rate’, however, from walking up and down the high-street ‘post-lockdown’ you wouldn’t believe the number of shoppers, spending tonnes of money! At the moment nothing is straightforward, everything is contradictory.
From Fendi to Prada, Chanel to Dior, the luxury fashion industry has drastically changed this year. Yet, the autumn/winter season coming up means one thing…Fashion Week! Unfortunately this year, my love for the runway must be put on hold as the fashion calendar has been turned upside down; with no catwalks for designers to display the new Haute Couture, they must look at new and innovative ways to showcase their new collections. Many see this as a problem, I on the other hand think it’s a fantastic opportunity to be different and creative and actually boost the luxury industry’s reputation, becoming stronger than ever. Dior created a beautiful fantasy film, for example. Hermes presented its spring/summer menswear show digitally and Chanel presented its cruise 2021 collection on a pre-recorded video. I think in today’s times where we rely so much on social media anyway, digitalising fashion shows is not the end of the world, especially for ordinary people who can’t necessarily get tickets for the live version in Paris or Milan. The main concern though is whether this will mark the end of ‘runway fashion’ all together now that the industry can come up with so many interesting ways to display designs instead. I truly hope not! Vogue Magazine stated that New York Fashion Week this month has been cut back to three days with fewer guests. However, brands such as Gucci, Michael Kors and Saint Laurent have already opted out of the ready-to-wear shows. With big brands like this cancelling, will others follow?
It is fair to say that individuals are being more cautious with their money in light of the economy, however, there will always be a market for luxury goods regardless of whether fashion shows have been postponed: many luxury goods, such as jewellery, watches and possibly to some extent even handbags, are seen as an investment. I believe that when it comes to luxury it’s about the experience. In my opinion, if the industry were to ever fail and become predominately online it would suffer compared with the high-street brands. This is because when you walk through the doors of Prada looking for the latest Italian leather bag that you saw off the runway, you go there for the experience. This includes the way you get treated and the way you are made to feel inside the pristine store I described, which is not quite the same as clicking a few buttons on your selfridges.com app.
I, for one, am very excited about the future of the luxury fashion industry. I believe that it gives everybody the same opportunity and experience when it comes to digital fashion shows, hopefully opening up the industry to make it more inclusive. It gives businesses the chance to be creative and re-brand themselves. Hubert de Givenchy once said, ‘Luxury is in each detail’. Many luxury brands continue to go the extra mile during the on-going pandemic to keep their staff and others safe, as well as planning for the future of their companies, especially with the many fashion weeks coming up and unsold stock to contend with when the lockdown began. Whichever way you view the situation, everyone is having to adapt right now. We may have to delay shopping in luxurious stores, missing out on the full experience, but it is exciting to see what these stores will do instead for the near future. Will we have online consultations or in-store bookings for the smaller scale stores? We will have to see. I have no doubt that the industry will be successful in navigating for the future and when we eventually go back to ‘normal’, whatever that may be, runway fashion will continue to lift off and be the highlight of many models and influencers fashion calendar.