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The innovative ways fashion companies adapted to Covid-19

International store closures, plummeting consumer demand in fashion and
disrupted supply chains – the fashion industry has been massively impacted
by Covid-19 in the past few months and will likely continue to be for a
long time to come.

But amid the disruption, the fashion industry has also adapted to the
changes thrown its way, proving once again the resilience of the sector.
Those adaptations ranged from new marketing initiatives to complete
reshaping of business models.

Here, FashionUnited has chosen just a select few examples of fashion
companies around the world who have implemented innovative new changes to
their businesses, either during or after lockdowns, in light of
Covid-19.

In the US, contemporary ready-to-wear fashion brand Hanifa
tackled one of the industry’s biggest questions at the moment: what do we
do when all the international catwalks are cancelled? The answer? Do it
digitally. The brand’s founder, Congolese designer Anifa Mvuemba, took to
Instagram live in April to showcase a digital catwalk using photorealistic
renderings of her garments. An array of dresses from the brand’s Pink Label
Congo collection strutted down the catwalk on invisible models, showcasing
in vivid detail the movement of the garments. Mvuemba told Teen Vogue that
she had already planned to take her catwalks digital before the pandemic
and had been using 3D mockups as a means to showcase her ideas to her
team.

Canadian denim brand Duer developed a new production model in
light of Covid-19, switching to a quick response method lining up demand
with supply “to cut waste and drive efficiencies.” The company’s founder
Gary Lenett said he launched the new on-demand model, called Next by Duer,
when the shortcomings of the old business model became apparent in the wake
of Covid-19 after seeing revenues plummet during the lockdown. The model
begins with the company showcasing a prototype of a product, which
customers will be able to order at a discount throughout a 3 week campaign
period. If a minimum threshold of orders are then met, the items are
manufactured and delivered to customers within 4 to 8 weeks.

“The old-world way of creating speculative inventory and then running
costly marketing campaigns to sell it, is inefficient and wasteful,” said
Lenett. “The world is changing and we have to change with it. We are
introducing Next as a new way of doing business where we gauge demand and
then produce exactly what’s needed and the cost savings is passed directly
to our customer.”

Dutch tailoring brand Suit Supply was faced with more difficulty
than a lot of fashion retailers when reopening stores due to the fact the
company specialises in customizations, such as on-site alterations and
custom made suiting. In other words, services which rely on close proximity
between the customer and retail worker.

To navigate this problem, the menswear tailor announced the introduction
of new ‘Safe Shopping Screens’ in its stores (pictured), free-standing
plastic partitions allowing up-close interaction without compromising
health and safety measures during pinning sessions. The company has also
introduced a guided virtual experience allowing shoppers to pre-select
items with the help of live style experts on Suitsupply.com prior to
visiting stores.

Fashion adapts to change in times of trouble

Bouclé Hommes et Femmes, a retailer from Spakenburg in the
Netherlands, managed to hit almost 100 percent of its weekly sales average
when FashionUnited spoke to them in April, partly thanks to a ‘surprise
bag’ initiative it launched just a week and a half after the country went
into lockdown. So how does the service work? First, shoppers share their
size, brand preferences and a picture of themselves with a Bouclé employee.
The employee then tailor makes a surprise bag of clothing for the customer
and delivers it to them by car – or in true Dutch style, by bike. The
employee then returns the next day to collect the items the customer
doesn’t want to keep. Bouclé co-owner Claudia Boelhout told
FashionUnited.nl in April that in one week it managed to sell 25 bags, with
nine out of ten recipients keeping 80 percent of their bag’s content.

Austrian fashion retailer Kutsam managed to set up an online site
within just seven days of its country going into lockdown in March. Once
online, it sold 20,000 euros worth of brand vouchers to customers to be
used at a later date. The company also made it a priority to keep in
contact with its customers, another challenge retailers faced during the
lockdown. It did that by phoning its loyal customers up individually. “We
also called customers that we have in our file – our best customers, so to
speak. But it wasn’t really about selling something, it was about asking
how they were doing. Then some nice conversations develop where people ask
when we are open again,” managing director Johannes Behr-Kutsam told
FashionUnited.de in April.

French brand Gémo has launched a drive-through shopping service
allowing customers to safely pick up their online orders without even
having to enter the store. Shoppers simply place an order online then park
at dedicated contactless Drive spaces indicated outside of the brand’s
stores. Customers then call the store with their name and order number,
open their boot and wait for a member of staff to arrive with their order.
Once the staff member has checked the customer’s ID, which can be done
through a closed car window, the employee will place the item in the boot
and return to the shop, for the customer to close the boot and leave.

Designer Jean Claude Jitrois’ eponymous French label Jitrois has
introduced 4-hour private shopping sessions in its store at 38 Faubourg
Saint-Honoré. Shoppers will be able to visit the store alone or with one
other person and will be guided by a member of staff. Between each
appointment, the clothing the shopper has tried on will be heat-cleaned for
four hours and the boutique and changing rooms will be disinfected. The
label is also offering access to a personal shopper via Facetime, Zoom or
Whatsapp.

Photo credit: Suit Supply

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