This week, I watched one of Vogue’s Global Conversations. The full conference can be found here. It was led by Anna Wintour, and included Pete Nordstrom of Nordstrom, Vogue Italia’s Emanuele Farneti, Tory Burch’s Pierre-Yves Roussel, and La Rinascente’s Vittorio Radice. They talked about how COVID-19 has shaped the fashion industry and where they saw the future of fashion.
One of the most important points bought up was by Pete Nordstrom, who said that luxury retailers like Nordstrom’s deal in ”want, not need”. This is a very relevant point for our world today. Right now, people are not seeing each other the way that they normally do. Without work, school, and other events to go to, people feel less motivated to buy the clothing that they use to express themselves to others. They do not have as much desire as they might usually have to buy the newest trends and high quality goods.
Another topic discussed were brick and mortar stores. Nordstrom and Troy Burch are both big believers in physical retail locations, even during our digital era. For a phenomenal read looking into the new NYC Nordstrom store, as well as look into the Nordstrom family, take a look at this New York Times article.
Roussel said that businesses like Tory Burch want to create “desire and emotion”. If you have ever been inside a Tory Burch store, I think you will understand how they try to go about this in their business. They often have coffee and tea, with a few seating areas that allow people to stop and take a break to enjoy their picturesque setting while shopping. This design is what allows brands like Tory Burch to run effective brick and mortar stores in a world that feels consumed by the internet. By making shopping an experience, customers keep coming back.
An interesting statistic that I did not hear before this interview was that 82% of Gen-Z consumers actually prefer to shop in-person rather than online. This was surprising to me at first, but it does make sense that we spend so much time online that sometimes leaving the internet to go somewhere and shop is refreshing. I also always prefer to be able to try things on for myself, feel the material and understand the fit before making the decision to pay for it, and I think many people, no matter what their age, agree with that sentiment.
The true focus for brands is not online vs. in-person, but how to integrate these in an effective way. The “The omni-channel customer”, as it is called in the interview, is someone who shops with a retailer both online and in brick and mortar stores. These customers are important to brands, as they spend up to four times as much than a customer who shops exclusively one way or the other. The group interviewed agree that this is where the true future of fashion lies. If you can offer unique advantages to both your retail store and your website, it can keep consumers interested on both ends. For retail this is often in-person customer service, as well as the social aspect of shopping, which is one that many people are missing right now. Roussel said that store associates of his have been calling their regulars during this time, just to check in on them as friends. This kind of social connection to a brand is key to having loyal customers. The most successful companies today are the ones that can offer both the community of a physical store with the convenience of online shopping.
Right now, none of these brick and mortar stores can be open, so Wintour asked the business owners what they thought re-opening their stores might look like. Of course none of them can truly know when or how they will re-open, but just like all other industries, they are preparing the best they can. This could mean reduced hours and capacity, frequent sanitization within the stores, and other safety measures.
As for the future of fashion beyond COVID-19, they all agreed that the virus has accelerated a shift in the industry that has been a long time coming. The days of seasonal releases, when retailers would be selling winter clothes in the summer and marking them down by late fall, has lost its effectiveness as the fashion industry has exploded. Now, a consumer is much more likely to buy something when they need it, not six months prior. The current model has led to overproduction, which forces a brand to discount their products in order to sell them, devaluing the work and decreasing profits.
They are also hoping to change the “fast fashion” of today. If you don’t know what exactly fast fashion is, and the impact it has on us, the economy, and the environment, I recommend this video.
Rather than the fast fashion outlook of producing as many designs as you can as quickly as possible, these retailers are looking to return to more curated collections with timeless pieces that can be worn year after year. Fast fashion relies on social media trends and influencers, and often the things sold now aren’t going to be in style anymore next year. The ability to create something like a versatile and stylish Tory Burch handbag, that may be an investment in the short term, but can be used and loved for many years, is of much more value to the consumer, and better for the environment.
Overall I found this interview very insightful. It gave me a look at where these big brands are right now, as well as the short-term future of reopening, and the changes that COVID-19 will bring to the industry in the long-term.