What the future will be like after Covid-19?
More than ever the market will be cleaned. Weak brands, the ones are not widely distributed and economically weak, will disappear. Strong ones–for identity and assets–will resist. This crisis will have direct serious effects for the next 12 months and more diluted ones for the next 24 months, but before we go back to the levels of 2019 it will take us four years. In the best of cases, these nine weeks of lockdown will impact three seasons. Lockdown started while we delivered spring/summer 2020–and unfortunately it was widely unpaid. We remained under lockdown while producing fall/winter 2020-21. That in normal time it should have been delivered in these weeks until July, then we started designing spring/summer 2021. Because of this delayed season everything is shifting. We will understand better how everything will evolve between the end of May and the beginning of June. This crisis will affect the whole system as it’s a whole socio-cultural fact that has changed our lives.
This emergency is not only involving a single industry or groups of industries but it hits all societies worldwide. Covid-19 will present a bill in terms of monetary policy to all countries and it won’t have to do with single states’ previous debts, but we will have to find a solution with a different bill altogether. At present European countries such as Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Finland are complaining about the present situation, though they refer to a calculation from the past. Differently an impoverished Italy is not convenient for anyone. The same for a less strong Germany, France or Spain. This is not convenient for anyone as it’s so transversal. In this situation supporting companies is indispensable. I think it’s better to print money and manage inflation than managing a depression.
If Europe doesn’t become aware that companies are social stabilizers there’s a risk of jeopardizing the social fabric of countries. They have to choose between order or disorder. If a 40- or 50-year-old person loses his job in one or two months he becomes desperate and desperation causes damages that are not temporary but can become structural damages. When the US had to face the 1929 depression it took them 11 years to recover from it. Politics has to answer and be responsible considering that this is not some passing crisis.
What could our government do in order to help companies and retailers? How can it avoid that specialized Made in Italy manufacturers disappear?
Italy is the most important macrodistrict in terms of fashion luxury for high-end textile and fashion but also for leather goods, footwear, jewels, eyewear and design–in fewer words, lifestyle and aspirational products. Veneto alone produces 38% of components of worldwide fashion luxury and practically all the rest is 90% produced in the rest of Italy. Thinking that a situation like this one is putting such competencies at risk is worrying me most. Although huge luxury groups produce here, it’s not an entrepreneur’s responsibility but politics should take care of this situation.
Plus it involves all sectors as, despite supermarkets work well, small food shops and restaurants are closed. For this reason I think that everything is connected, including different countries’ economies.
Obviously for the Italian and textile industry, single entrepreneurs have their own responsibility, but today it’s a matter of industrial politics. Competences, skills and value chains need to be safeguarded at all costs. By safeguarding them, first we avoid having desperate and unemployed people that can be hardly reintegrated in the immediate future and secondly emphasizes that value chains are protected. Thus, as I said before, companies play a role as social stabilizers.
Italy has to support companies from a government point of view, and Europe, too. There has to be no selfishness in this moment as getting advantage from others’ difficulties is a farsighted vision. From a monetary point of view the Covid-19 consequences could be healed through a securitization at 40-50 years.
My perception is that the world has to learn from this disaster. After avoiding SARS and swine flu, Covid-19 has hit many countries impressively. Our system of nations will have to structure itself to ensure that something similar will not happen again thanks to investments and a vision.
Whatever it takes could be the solution. European Central Bank has to organize a rebuilding plan similar to those enacted when physical wars happen. For instance it should start focus on grant funding and block of layoffs. For instance, in 24 months when they might discover a vaccine and the market might recover, companies that received a loan shall not give money back, but have to guarantee they will recruit a certain percentage of new workers who can learn specific skills. This way Europe can help avoiding unemployment and desperation, while raising a new generation of specialized workers that can help our industry survive.
We need to face the situation by following a clear vision based upon true responsibility and courage.
What role will digital play in fashion?
Despite digital is giving us a great hand, fashion is made of physical pieces. Every day we do dozens of webinars or digital calls and online meetings. We all learned great good things from this situation, but fashion and glamour are very emotional and experiential. Making shopping inside a beautiful store is fun as it is watching a fashion show and holding a glossy paper magazine–it’s like watching a soccer match live or via TV. I think digital offers us a dematerialized component–though such an aspect acquires worth when the material component remains. It’s legitimate the two aspects coexist, but there cannot be one component only.
The consumer will become more conscious about the environmental impact of products and companies’ CSR if you inform them accurately providing them with real, tangible, certifiable and proven data.
We did it, for instance, by launching our Dzero sustainable jeans offer. A pair of jeans from this collection is produced by cutting 85% less water, 27% less chemicals and 25% electricity. These results prove that items perform exactly the same–if not better–than traditionally made jeans. I think we should educate the consumer about such topics, but we should all map what is offered in the market and give rules, declare all products’ footprint and CO2 emissions according to the same measuring scale for each product–from apparel to appliances. The future has to be necessarily greener. Since when the coronavirus emergency started our planet has started breathing again: pollution levels have reduced and satellite images showed a significant lowering of atmospheric pollution.
It’s also important speaking about a company’s CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), about its effects on the environment but also about its best practices as working place. At Dondup we hold yoga or pilates classes and language courses for our employees. Last year we set a summer working time plan. Thanks to it some workers could leave earlier and some departments didn’t work on Fridays at all, while working longer during the year. By making some small adjustments that involve people we didn’t suffer. On the contrary we profited from it also economically as our company performed well in 2019.
Do you think that fashion will slow down?
I personally don’t agree with what Giorgio Armani when he said that fashion is running too fast. This has not to do with Covid, but with fast fashion. It’s fast fashion that pushed to launch new products every 15 days in stores, provoked the market to follow this hyper-speed craze and offer loads of products every year like, for instance, two main collections, two cruise collections and various capsules. You cannot stop everything all at once. You can slow down and offer smaller collections. It’s useless offering a lot of products as the market would not appreciate it. Therefore we concentrate on our strong points and load them with creativity. Though, rather than offering a 500-piece collection, we will focus on a 200-280-piece one, a good compromise between creativity and meeting the present market needs. Then if you have a good merchandising, you can sell that collection well in any case according to the volumes the market wants.