Due to COVID-19 business restrictions, entrepreneurs faced numerous challenges and had to adapt to survive. Perhaps none moreso than the fashion industry.
Every November, Sophia Chua, founder of Marie Dela Roche Philippines, would host the brand’s fashion trunkshow of handbags from Portugal. Unfortunately, it was cancelled this year due to the pandemic. Instead, she conceptualized and co-hosted an event, “Adapting to Fashion: How Fashion Leaders Navigate Through A Complex and Uncertain World,” that featured an eye-opening discussion of how fashion designers coped and responded to the challenges during the pandemic.
Chua was also joined by event speakers Marie Dela Roche, Amina Aranaz-Alunan, Monique Madsen, and Randz Manucom, along with co-host Ramon Garcia of the SoFA team who also helped Chua organize the event.
New trends in the fashion market amid COVID-19
For the past nine months, the market and consumers’ fashion preferences have changed drastically due to the pandemic.
Fashion designers observed that the market’s fashion taste and trends are now more inclined toward practicality, generates either personal or social inspiration, and are socially conscious for today’s trying times.
“During the lockdown, we thought about what to release, how are we going to adapt, to curate, how are we to inspire people while all these are happening, instead of saying, ‘Here’s my bag, go buy it,’” shared Marie Dela Roche, Creative Director of Marie Dela Roche.
By knowing what their market wants, fashion designers can determine what kind of styles to create next to generate sales.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t change the fact that their plans for this year didn’t go as expected. For one, they were left with a lot of their products in their inventory.
COVID-19’s effect on the fashion industry
The sudden change in fashion trends during the lockdown resulted in a huge number of stocks from their business’s inventory that they were unable to sell or ship due to the pandemic’s business restrictions.
“Every year, we would ship out our summer collection from January to April, depending on the country,” said Amina Aranaz-Alunan, the President of SoFA Design Institute. The lockdown caused us to have so many order cancellations! Big department stores wouldn’t give us downpayments because they told us that they were bankrupt, although they have been selling them online,” she shared.
COVID-19 brought out the worst and best in everyone. To continue to have a thriving business, one must focus on becoming better and better each day.
Fashion industry leaders adapt to the times
The lockdown may have affected the designers’ sales, but for these fashion industry leaders, it wasn’t the end of the world.
Each of the speakers, even Sophia Chua, were proud to share their journey of optimism, hope, and determination, which led to the recovery of their businesses during the pandemic.
“The lockdown kept getting extended,” said Monique Madsen, Creative Director and Stylist of KPosh. “Since everything was put on hold, I conceptualize, I develop skill sets, diving in e-commerce, content creation to produce engaging content, just shifting platforms during the lockdown.”
Aside from product development and branding, the speakers also agreed that the digitalization of their businesses massively helped in its sustainability and recovery. It made their businesses look more professional and transparent to their customers.
Fashion as ‘universal relief’ during the pandemic
The online event brought a community together, as it catered to fashion enthusiasts and aspiring fashion designers and stylists, or simply anyone who has an interest in the fashion industry.
All the speakers and hosts agree that regardless of any global crises, there will always be people who are passionate about fashion. Fashion has become an expression and also a relief to people coping with the pandemic.
“Fashion is a universal relief,” said Randz Manucom, Fashion Stylist and Fashion Editor. “How can we create an image that will make people smile and forget what we are going through at the moment? And that is what I like about being a stylist/editor — you get to put smiles on people’s faces.”
As entrepreneurs themselves, fashion designers are inclined to adapt and face certain challenges. It’s just a matter of channeling one’s own strengths into something productive that would help sustain and expand one’s own business.
“This pandemic should not let you stop dreaming,” said Aranaz-Alunan. “Sure, you get sidetracked, but this is all temporary. There are dreams worth pursuing [that] you find your way to move forward. Don’t let the circumstances hinder your growth or your fear. Find opportunities. We have nothing to lose by being optimistic. As long as you know your heart and passion is in the right place [without] stepping on people, [then] you will recover.”