Why fashion needs to unpick and start again to survive – The Australian Financial Review

A fashion show is the opposite to social distancing. There could be some small shows, attended by people from the local area. That’s what I’m talking about when it comes to collaboration. It needs a purposeful approach that cuts across all of the major fashion capitals, from Paris to Shanghai, across all of the brands. It’s up to the industry to proactively create the solution. Not to just let it happen by accident.

We are a business built on change – even our multibillion-dollar companies are run by CEOs who are nimble.

I’d be curious to know why you actually believe that. My observation is that the fashion industry has been dragged into the digital era, dragged into the era of sustainability. I think we’re an industry that has a tendency to resist change. Now, it’s the absolute imperative; if you don’t change you won’t survive.

Old friends: Marion Hume sits down with Imran Amed in 2016.  Julian Anderson

Adapt and survive.

Some will survive because they’re sitting on tonnes of cash. They have the resources to weather this storm. But for others, this is a battle. To adapt in a situation of distress certainly takes agility.

And also a new narrative. We’re seeing some big players fall really badly. Number one, do not do a Zoom meeting in what is clearly an enormous room in your mansion. Do not put your hand out for taxpayer-funded help when your brand is built on a single personality worth millions.

I don’t feel like it’s my place to judge anyone for the way they want to handle their business. But yes, this is a truth-telling moment for leadership. What is working are those who are honest and forthright and transparent. We have a tendency to “protect the image” but that doesn’t work when everyone knows that everyone is hurting.

And I think we need to give credit to LVMH, Zegna, Prada – countless companies have turned their manufacturing facilities to good. You’ve also seen it. You know how much people are doing without any publicity.

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I have. And it reminds me, people in our business are good. We never meant to turn evil, we never meant to be a huge polluter.

That’s what we need to get back to, that original creative soul. That’s the big existential thing. What happened to beauty? Not just another Instagram post.

What’s going to happen to influencers?

Some of them are already changing.

I think they are completely lost. People are spending possibly more time on Instagram so I guess they are not losing followers, but personally I hate how the shows had become about changing clothes eight times a day.

I’d rather not point the finger at any one group.

Such a diplomat. OK, I want to move on to “rent, don’t buy”. Especially vulnerable, right?

There are no occasions for people to dress for. The other issues around hygiene and the virus obviously complicate that further.

Australia. Advantages and disadvantages now?

There’s great talent, great fashion schools. But so much reliance on global supply chains; Italy, China. Australia’s local manufacturing has been eroded.

Everyone is going to step back and look at their manufacturing base and say, you’ve got to spread your bets. There are big questions about the global trade system built over the past three decades. So that’s why, to return to the beginning, I feel the whole industry is going to have to be rewired, which is an incredibly powerful opportunity – yet daunting as well. I don’t think any single organisation can create that change. It requires all of us.

  • The Business of Fashion’s The State of Fashion 2020 Coronavirus Update is available for download.

The June issue of AFR Magazine is out on Friday, May 29 inside The Australian Financial Review. Follow AFR Mag on Twitter and Instagram.

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