Moda Operandi and Luxury Fashion in the Era of Coronavirus – WWD

Moda Operandi is proving there is a place for luxury fashion amid the coronavirus pandemic and beyond. 

But rather than dressing for fashion shows or high-profile galas, fans of luxury attire are opening their wallets for new reasons. Namely to help those in need — or as a reprieve from stressful times. 

“Throughout this period, we heard from our customers about their desire to escape from their day-to-day — even just for a moment — and continue engaging with the fashion they love,” Moda Operandi chief executive officer Ganesh Srivats said in the report. 

That could explain why shoppers were browsing things like swimwear and bedazzled party pieces while sheltering in place. A March 15 post with sparkly Oseree swimwear on Moda Operandi’s Instagram page was the most liked — with more than 51,000 — and saved content along the social media platform in Moda’s history. 

But consumers were buying things, too. The survey — “The Runway Report, Fall/ Winter 2020” — tracked changes in luxury shopping patterns after March 9, two days before the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a global pandemic on March 11. 

Interestingly, resortwear had double-digit growth in the last seven weeks, compared with the same time in 2019, while Mach & Mach’s bejeweled high-heel stilettos were among the top-selling shoes of the season after March 9. Flowing dresses, including Jacquemus’ La Robe Manosque Tiered Chiffon maxi dress for $1,100 and the Versace Jungle Print Silk-Chiffon dress — the one famously worn by Jennifer Lopez and priced at $6,825 — were also bestsellers. 

“People may be staying put, but their minds are thinking ahead to brighter days,” Srivats said. “Despite the millions of people practicing social distancing globally, wanderlust-driven consumers continue shopping for pieces designed for beach days and balmy vacation nights.”

Perhaps not so surprisingly, sweatpants were also on the top of consumers’ minds while quarantining.

Searches for sweatpants jumped 85 percent, with top performers such as “leisurewear,” and Madeleine Thompson, a brand known for its cashmere tops and bottoms. Meanwhile, the $895 women’s Balenciaga Track Logo Mesh sneaker in pink sold out nearly instantly while still in pre-sale, perhaps another sign of the accelerating luxury ath-leisure and fashion sneaker trends. 

Stuck indoors, consumers were also paying more attention to their physical surroundings. Sales of home decor rose 80 percent. So did jewelry sales — up 35 percent since March 9. 

Balmain at Moda Operandi.  Courtesy Photo Cris Fragkou

In addition, the survey found that consumers were more likely to spend money if they knew it was going to support a good cause. The “Shop for a Cause” initiative, which donated a percentage of full-priced sales to COVID-19 relief efforts, helped raise about $100,000. About 34 percent of people participating were new customers or shoppers who had not purchased from the brand in more than a year. 

But even with the additional funds raised, luxury shopping overall was down compared with the same time last year. In fact, while sales had a slight uptick in March — in places like California, Florida and Texas — they were mostly flat or down in the rest of the U.S. and Europe during the month. In April, revenues were down across the board, with the biggest declines in Europe

And with unemployment on the rise and events canceled, post-pandemic fashion is not likely to return to its lavish ways anytime soon. Instead, most women said they would be willing to invest in a good pair of boots — 31 percent. Another 26 percent said they’d invest in a winter coat and 23 percent said they’d most likely buy jeans in the near-term. 

“People’s lifestyles have changed drastically and we believe those changes will manifest in other areas of people’s lives, including the fashion they choose to wear,” said Lisa Aiken, Moda Operandi’s fashion and buying director. “People will seek out higher quality pieces to last them for years.”

Aiken added that the opposing themes — investment purchases and escapism — indicate the consumer is focused on his or her finances, “but is also making some emotional purchases and eager to have a bit of fun with her fashion when we’re through this.”

Moda Operandi is in more than 125 countries around the world. As recently as January, Srivats told WWD about his plans to expand it China, but said the business was facing headwinds. Aside from the deadly virus, he said Moda Operandi was finding it hard to take market share from luxury e-commerce platforms like Farfetch and Yoox Net-a-porter Group, which have already established loyal followings in the region. 

“It’s hard to say what the reopening will look like,” Aiken said. “But, if the resilience we’ve seen across the industry so far is any indication, we hope to see designers and retailers of all types — online, off-line and experiential — bounce back with even more creativity and agility than before.”


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