Blog: Leonie BarriePreparing fashion for a post-coronavirus world

Leonie Barrie | 14 April 2020

While there are no playbooks to guide the apparel industry through the Covid-19 crisis and beyond, thoughts are turning to ways to prepare for a post-coronavirus world.

Edwin Keh, CEO of the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA), believes two things are clear: the entire supply chain must work as an ecosystem to survive intact, and it should use the crisis as an opportunity to reset for the future. "How we act now will show the world what we stand for"

Digital acceleration, discounting, consolidation and innovation are all expected to feature in a reshaped global fashion industry, a new report agrees.

Likewise, UK-based clothing manufacturers are taking steps to shore up their businesses as orders slump – including repurposing production, working from home where possible, and embracing digital technologies. But they are also optimistic the crisis might also lead to lasting change.

We also look at the future of fashion retail, with advice for company owners and managers on the relevance of their business models, and potential areas of change.

Major garment sourcing nations are stepping up their calls for global brands and retailers to consider the potential impacts on workers and small business enterprises in their supply chains when making purchasing decisions. 

India's Textile Minister is the latest to appeal to global apparel buyers to "do commerce with compassion" and not cancel orders.

We also ask if the fractured buyer-supplier relationship – until now based significantly on trust – can be repaired when the coronavirus crisis is over.

Apparel giant PVH Corp, owner of the Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger brands, is trying to offset the fallout from store closures across North America and Europe by reducing and redeploying its inventory commitments.

February is historically the slowest month when it comes to US apparel imports due to annual shutdowns in China for Lunar New Year celebrations. This year saw overall shipments down double-digits.

Faced with widespread concerns over the complex issue of forced labour in cotton supply chains, taking steps to verify product integrity is more important than ever. Forensic science is a key tool in this quest for certainty, with tests of the product proving a reliable way of confirming its origin.

The Peruvian government has created a textile and clothing industry roundtable group charged with forging domestic backward linkages, with a focus on alpaca fibres.

And Ethiopia's clothing and textile sector needs to invest in creating a reliable quality domestic supply chain to grow and meet government targets for expanding export sales. 

Meanwhile, in other news, UK department store group Debenhams has gone into administration; New Look has suspended payments to its suppliers indefinitely; and analysts believe Asos is positioned to weather the virus storm.

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