Daniela Della Rosa, a partner of Curtis’ international corporate department, is a fashion law specialist who gained expertise in legal challenges faced by industries operating in EMEA and internationally. She advises international corporations and premium brands on commercial operations, omnichannel distribution, online and offline, consumer and intellectual property protection and technology partnerships alongside with legal support consultancy about environmental, social and governance regulations.
Della Rosa began her career as an international company lawyer working for well-known brands in the legal, IT and fashion sectors including IBM and Levi Strauss & Co. She also served at Kering as WW General Counsel for Gucci, Bottega Veneta and Sergio Rossi.
Here, she explains what she considers the most crucial aspects international fashion brands and manufacturers need to focus on while getting back to business after the recent difficulties caused by coronavirus emergency.
How is the fashion sector evolving after the lockdown and the post-Covid-19 slow recovery? What key factors will determine brands’ and manufacturers’ future choices?
A new attitude to consumption will drive the business decisions of brands, manufacturers and mills. Brands will need to develop a credible digital offer at different price points to increase their relevance with different customer audiences yet staying true to their core DNA and positioning. This will prove very challenging for those companies that did not evolve their business model to embrace the digital transformation process. Consumers are likely to prioritize purposeful brands that are truly committed to values such as sustainability or animal cruelty free, like Patagonia or Stella McCartney, in contrast with many others that just followed a green wash trend. With department stores losing relevance in the distribution ecosystem, particularly in the US, we expect a drastic re-thinking of the role of the store including customer experience, selling ceremony, store clustering, formats and similar aspects. As such, many brands–even most reluctant ones–are now focusing on digital enhancement all along the business value chain ranging from online sales, to virtual showrooms and 3D printing produced products. Finally, with customers intensified environmental and social consciousness and hastening of an aspirational mindset, enlightened brands and manufacturers may rethink their business model, bearing in mind their impact on people and society when managing their end-to-end product lifecycle or dispose their unsold stock.
What are the main legal issues involving the sector’s insiders nowadays?
Technology partnerships and legal assistance to develop a proprietary virtual marketplace are increasingly popular. Online business is not an option anymore, becoming the number one channel, blurring boundaries between digital and physical retail experience, and boosting a true omnichannel. Brands must carefully conduct an adequate legal assessment before launching into a virtual marketplace. They actually need to carefully examine aspects such as protection of customer personal data, geo-blocking, IP and consumer protection, among others. Digital enhancement is a tremendous investment, which requires a careful global legal analysis to protect the brand and its customers, which expect a seamless level of service and protection in both online and offline sales. In contrast, many projects on sustainability will be kept on hold until 2021. Possibly, while digital is considered as a potentially revenue generating investment, sustainability is viewed as a cost, ideally to be pushed down throughout the supply chain, for instance, to manufacturers and mills. In fact, only few brands are continuously, transparently and consciously investing in a more sustainable production, rethinking their business model. Others, instead, offer a green wash, advocating for sustainability keeping untouched their margins.
I think that each of these players need to concentrate on distinct strategies. I would recommend brands to embrace digital transformation and cultivate the dialogue with their customers throughout all channels. Brands are king in marketing and retail because they own the relationship with their clients, yet need to evolve with it. Value added services ranging from personal shopping to after sales services might be key to emerge post Covid-19 crisis, while staying true to their DNA. Manufacturers, instead, should invest and transform themselves in vertically integrated entities. Owning brand, design, and innovation, they can give birth to a bottom-up integrated fashion system. This will pave the way to establish a “Willy Wonka” business model in fashion. As such, manufacturers have an opportunity to reclaim their role in fashion value chains and receive the same respect as brands’ marketing and retail. Manufacturers own the know-how, can handle margins best and are well-positioned to reach out to disenchanted customers searching for intrinsic product value, eventually without intermediation.