Fashion, can you slow down? From Armani to post-Covid strategies

21-05-2020 | News

"I believe that the current state of affairs, with the overproduction of garments and the misalignment between the time of the collections and that of the commercial season, is truly absurd". The words of Giorgio Armani, entrusted to one in early April open letter published by WWD magazine, they had the effect of the classic stone in the global fashion system, already stunned by the forced stop due to the pandemic. «The emergency in which we find ourselves shows that the only way forward is a careful and reasoned slowdown - wrote among other things the stylist symbol of Made in Italy in the world -. The decline of the fashion system as we know it began when the luxury segment adopted the same operating methods as fast fashion, (...) thus forgetting that real luxury takes time, both to be created and to be understood. Luxury cannot and must not be fast ».

The designer quickly moved from words to deeds, first with the announcement of the renunciation of Milan Digital Fashion Week in virtual format scheduled for July, then with the decision to move his first post-Covid Haute Couture fashion show, in January 2020, from Paris to Milan, collecting the applause of the mayor Beppe Sala. What Armani wanted is a kind of Copernican revolution for the Italian fashion system, which will literally come out with broken bones from the pandemic and will have to face a radically changed world in a few weeks.

Fashion system, pitiless numbers

The sector has already lost more than 3 and a half billion in turnover. A figure that could triple if we consider the whole year. The three months of stopping at fashion shows and social events certainly hit hard. But it is the entire supply chain that has suffered heavily from the lockdown: factories, artisan workshops, logistics centers, and then luxury shopping and retail centers. The alarm was raised a few days ago by the president of Sistema Moda Italia Marino Vago presenting the data of an investigation conducted in April on companies in the sector. The 42% of the sample companies said they recorded a drop in turnover between 20% and 50%, while half (49%) suffered a drop in order intake between 20% and 50% compared to the same period of 2019.

The exit from the Covid-19 emergency is full of unknowns, mainly linked to the dynamics of the recovery. A theme highlighted on time by Luciano Giannetti and Luca Crippa in the recent cahier edited by GEA entitled "The fashion sector after the emergency". Three main problems to be addressed: liquidity crisis, local and global supply chains interrupted e scared consumers and with reduced financial resources. So what can be the strategies to get out of an unprecedented crisis? What future to imagine for one of the distinctive sectors of Made in Italy?

Designer jigs and too long dies

There is no denying that there was a first demonstration of resilience. The desire to feel useful in a dramatic moment for the country, combined with the need to keep one's productions alive, have led to the search for new ways to react. Many brands, from luxury to fast fashion, have endeavored to reconvert a part of its factoriesi to make masks and gowns for doctors and nurses: from Prada to Gucci via Valentino, Armani and Salvatore Ferragamo, and many others. But while in the first phase, health considerations prevailed, the protection of the health of people and their employees, now the priority becomes survival.

In the study of Giannetti and Crippa the guidelines indicated for planning the future of the Italian fashion system are above all three. First an operation on stocks and liquidity, with strong promotional interventions to get rid of excess stock, but also with a rethinking of the mix between long (low cost producer) and short (Italy / Europe) supply chains in order to make the production system more resilient and less fragile. Secondly the push towards the multichannel. The digital channel (e-commerce) has worked as a lifesaver in recent months: the sites of the big brands and multi-brand stores, platforms such as Yoox or Net-a-porter and the marketplaces (Amazon, Zalando and many others) have hardly never stop. But consumer purchasing behaviors will change steadily and will require companies to adopt omnichannel models. Finally an overall rethinking of the operative model of companies: reduce the time from the conception to the marketing of the product, as well as the excessive size of the offer but also insist on organizational models such as smart working.

Fashion must be ready, take advantage of this experience and review priorities. Perhaps it is really the time, as Armani says, to "slow down the frantic race to production and sales that only generates overlap, waste and misalignment between supply and seasonality. We have a moral duty, today more than ever, to work better with less».

Andrea Fasulo

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