Adapting To Uncertainty In The Fashion Industry

Michaela Vybohova is the CEO of Michaela V Inc., a New York-based shoe company focused on creating comfortable yet stylish women’s footwear.

This has been a defining year for industries, companies and brands around the world. The coronavirus pandemic has ushered in new ways of doing business, as restrictions have rendered traditional models ineffective. The luxury fashion industry is no exception.

Prior to the pandemic, luxury brands were enjoying ongoing growth. In 2019, for example, one of the world’s leading luxury products group, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, recorded revenue of 53.7 billion euros, which was up 15% compared to 2018, a press release from the brand said. In the current economic situation, I believe it’s possible that 2020 will not match those figures, especially as many customers have shifted their priorities to purchasing necessities and shopping more cost-consciously, according to an April report by Accenture.

The pandemic is also affecting professionals in the fashion industry in ways you might not expect. For example, as a model and the CEO of the women’s footwear company, I’ve seen many of my friends who are models or photographers and use a visa to live in the U.S. unable to travel back to their homes here in the U.S. when travel restrictions began.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom for the industry. According to Elle, “Despite the extensive impact Covid-19 is predicted to have on the global luxury goods market, fashion houses are stepping up to donate in this time of crisis.” A couple of examples the fashion and lifestyle magazine reported include LVMH donating $2.2 million to The Red Cross in China and manufacturing hydroalcoholic gel and medical masks; leaders at Prada donating intensive care and resuscitation units to hospitals in Italy; and Dolce & Gabbana donating to a research project hoping to help combat Covid-19.

From my perspective, this showcases the industry’s resilience and also hints at its optimism that the market will turn around again in the future. Personally, I believe the brands that will thrive are the ones that can quickly adjust to the current situation, particularly in the way that they advertise and connect with audiences.

The reality is that many people are going out less, and retail has taken a hit. Some big brands are breaking leases on their brick-and-mortar stores. I’ve seen others that are putting their marketing budgets toward online advertising to help prevent major losses. During this time of social distancing, when it’s difficult to have live fashion shows and photoshoots, creating impactful virtual experiences seems to be the best option to set brands up for success.

If you have a brand and want to have a fashion show right now, it’s important to create that type of experience. Make people feel like they’re traveling somewhere when they watch your show from home. Allow them to experience your collection. I’ve observed fashion brands creating these experiences via Instagram Live. This is a cost-effective way to spread brand awareness; everyone is welcome, and no guest list is necessary.

That said, as I learned from Jacques Burga, a fashion photographer, dear friend and someone I’ve worked with in the past, a fashion show — whether virtual or in-person — isn’t the only way you can show your collection. You can leverage a number of things, such as social media, in order to showcase your brand and connect with your customers on a limited budget.

My best advice is to be authentic, which is beyond important. We all have the advantage of social media; you can go on Instagram Live and let your customers ask you questions, mention your values and what you believe in. Interviewing a celebrity, designer or someone you look up to in your industry is an effective way to reach a new audience. You have a lot of options, so let your creativity shine.

Another recommendation I have for brands struggling to respond to today’s challenges relates to what’s going on behind the scenes of your company. Storytelling and being transparent is key to captivating your customers. A great way to accomplish this is to let your customers see what your workday looks like and how much effort, work, and detail goes into making a single product. I think these “inside looks” are fascinating to watch, and it gives your customer an opportunity to know your brand inside and out.

And finally, when it is safe for you to hold in-person events again, keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to do so alone or hold the most extravagant shows throughout the year. I also learned from Jacques that having one show that everyone anticipates can have a lasting impact. You might even look for sponsors or partner up with a charity to bring attention to an important cause. People remember the positive actions you take. If it’s a success, you can benefit a good cause, grow your audience and maybe even get the attention of potential investors, which would eventually enable you to do more as your brand grows.

The future is unpredictable, but what we can do is adjust in order to move forward.

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