Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

The uncertain future of the British fashion industry

The coronavirus pandemic has taken no prisoners and the British fashion industry certainly hasn’t been granted a get-out-of-jail-free card. From high street store closures to failed e-commerce with warehouses lacking sufficient staff, it seems the industry has been attacked on all fronts. 

The British Fashion Council has predicted that around 50% of the industry could collapse by the end of the year. So, the question at hand is what does the future hold in store for the industry, and how will it recover?

It’s important to consider the behaviour of consumers in response

To know how the industry will bounce back, it’s important to consider the behaviour of consumers in response to this monumental change in everyday life. Some consumers may end the following months with a greater level of disposable income, given they are not buying their morning coffee or spending on petrol, and they have been lucky enough to receive continued pay. 

These individuals will be able to hit up the high street when lockdown restrictions are removed, supporting the fashion industry on their road to recovery. Other consumers may be in a far worse financial position or have simply learnt they can be more conscious with their money and begin to save more, meaning they will not be going on a shopping spree any time soon. How well the industry is able to recover post-pandemic will be hugely dependent on which of the two types of consumers is a greater force in the following months.

We can hope to see an exciting revival of the industry with a densely packed calendar

But what about the future for both ends of the fashion industry scale? A number of luxury fashion houses have been quick to respond to the global crisis, modifying their production lines to produce PPE equipment for medical staff or by donating to emergency support funds. Gucci, YSL and Balenciaga are amongst these fashion houses working to produce masks and medical gowns, while Louis Vuitton has repurposed their perfume production lines to mass-produce hand sanitiser for French hospitals. 

It seems reasonable to expect that following this period, where individuals and firms alike are pulling together to do what they can to help others, the wealthy sector of the fashion industry will play a greater role in responding to global issues. They will forever be reminded of the role they played in battling the pandemic and expected to keep up this type of charitable effort. What is more, with a number of fashion weeks, the Met Gala and other major industry events being cancelled, we can hope to see an exciting revival of the industry with a densely packed calendar towards the end of the year.

It is this group of new creatives who will undoubtedly be hit the hardest

At the other end of the scale, new brands and fashion start-ups will inevitably be facing tough times as a result of coronavirus. Upcoming designers who planned to drop Autumn/Winter 2020 collections will likely find themselves without sufficient financial support, where seed investors have pulled out and agreements have been voided. 35% of designers hoping to break the industry this year will likely be unable to continue their businesses beyond the summer months. It is this group of new creatives who will undoubtedly be hit the hardest.

Looking forward, it is worth considering how we can support the industry get back on its feet. Shopping with new brands and making considered consumption choices are both critical ways we can make a difference. Many industry players will hope to be running business as usual by the end of the year, but it is likely others will still be suffering the economic ramifications or business has ceased permanently. The industry must do what it does best to bounce back; be creative and come up with innovative solutions to see sales rise once more.

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