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It’s time to rewire the fashion system: State of Fashion coronavirus update

McKinsey 07 Apr 2020 12:00

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Even before the coronavirus disrupted financial markets, upended supply chains, and crushed consumer demand across the global economy, fashion-industry leaders were not optimistic about 2020. The industry was already on high alert, and executives expressed pessimism across all geographies and price points in our annual report, The State of Fashion 2020, released late last year. But fast-forward a few months, and fashion’s outlook has gotten dramatically and suddenly bleaker. The industry is now on red alert.

This unforeseeable humanitarian and financial crisis has rendered previously planned strategies for 2020 redundant, leaving fashion businesses exposed or rudderless as their leaders confront a disorienting future and vulnerable workers face hardship and destitution. With this special coronavirus update to The State of Fashion 2020, we have taken a stance on what our new normal will look like in the aftermath of this “black swan” event to provide insights (from analyzing surveys, data, and expert interviews) for fashion professionals as they embark on the 12- to 18-month period after the dust settles.

The crisis is affecting daily lives, instilling anxiety and uncertainty in the minds of almost everyone. Indeed, consumer pessimism about the economy is widespread, with 75 percent of shoppers in Europe and the United States believing that their financial situation will be affected negatively for more than two months. 4 4. McKinsey COVID-19 Consumer Pulse Survey: for Europe, held March 20–26, 2020, with 5,614 respondents (France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom); for United States, held March 23–29, 2020, with 1,119 respondents.

Now, the resulting “quarantine of consumption” 6 6. Marcus Fairs, “Coronavirus offers ‘a blank page for a new beginning’ says Li Edelkoort,” Dezeen, March 9, 2020, dezeen.com. could accelerate some of these consumer shifts, such as a growing antipathy toward waste-producing business models and heightened expectations for purpose-driven, sustainable action. Meanwhile, some of the shifts we will witness in the fashion system, such as the digital step change, in-season retail, seasonless design, and the decline of wholesale, are mostly an acceleration of the inevitable—things that would have happened further down the road if the pandemic had not helped them gain speed and urgency now.

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