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How to win in luxury fashion during the COVID-19 crisis



I think these are exciting times. Considering the current state of most luxury fashion brands, this might sound cynical, but it’s not meant to be. Many people have described COVID-19 as a crisis. The Chinese symbol of crisis expresses both danger and opportunity. For brands that take the right measures, a crisis is always an opportunity to emerge stronger. The Christian Diors Air Dior collection is one example. At a time when many other brands are in hibernation mode, Dior continues to deploy its most innovative and inspiring campaigns. Likewise, Guccis again MX Collection uses a new kind of fluid genre inclusiveness to give the brand a competitive edge.

Finding opportunities is even more important when the prospect of an economic recovery remains uncertain. No one knows when the COVID-19 crisis will be contained or when people will feel safe again. CEOs I’ve spoken to in the past few weeks are making estimates between spring 2021 and mid-2022. And even after containing the virus, a ripple effect will last for some time in the economy.

Every week there is more information about the companies laying off tens of thousands of people. The latest layoffs are structural, resulting from the adjustment of existing business models to new market realities. The effects of this crisis will last deeply into the 2020s and possibly even into the 2030s. Structurally, I predict that the United States and Europe will recover much more slowly than China, which will further accelerate global dependence. lush with regard to China.

This will create opportunities for fashion brands after this unprecedented market turnaround. The starting point is to imagine what the future of luxury will look like. It’s safe to assume that the way people dress will only become more diverse. I expect a growing demand for more comfortable and casual yet dressy clothes that can be used for working from home. While many businesses will return to office work, we will also see a dramatic increase in hybrid work models that allow people to work, at least in part, from home. After the pandemic, many employees will expect much more flexible working arrangements from their companies. Silicon Valley, for example, has already responded to these calls, and more will follow.

This does not mean that formal clothes will disappear, but the variety of professional wardrobes will increase. Fashion brands will have to completely rethink their collections in order to be able to offer seamless brand experiences ranging from formal wear to high comfort clothing. Menswear brands heavily reliant on suits like Tom Ford, Brioni or Ermenegildo Zegna will need to think about how a more casual approach to clothing can be achieved while still maintaining their signature styles. Otherwise, they risk losing their relevance over time. More formal feminine brands like Akris will have similar challenges.

It’s a safe bet that sneakers are here to stay, as they offer a more creative form of self-expression than dress shoes. As their acceptance in formal settings continues to grow, competition in this sector will intensify considerably. At the same time, new players are constantly entering this competitive market. But just launching branded sneakers won’t be enough for brands that previously focused on dress shoes – they need a real reason why customers should buy them.

Innovation and inspiration will be more crucial than ever. During and after crises, consumers need emotional breakouts and look to more inspiring and innovative brands. I would go so far as to say that innovation-driven creativity will be the most essential driver of success for fashion brands in the future. Playing it safe means playing to lose.

But brand innovation must reinforce brand value and storytelling, which has always been a weakness for most fashion brands. While fashion has traditionally focused on collections and creative expression, the brand’s positioning in the field has often been shocking. As a result, most luxury brand marketing has little consistency, a confusing brand message, and a lack of meaning.

In our new digital world of highly demanding customers, brand storytelling will separate successful brands from failing brands, especially with the rise of an exceptionally brand-driven Chinese market. Digital success, which is growing in importance day by day, depends on brand storytelling and is no longer optional.

Virtually all shopping trips begin digitally these days. Most brands lose on two critical points: First, they are not generating enough information in a timely manner to know how they are performing in real time against their competitors on digital channels. For example, over 95% of the managers we surveyed don’t know how their brand sentiment has evolved in the digital space over the past 24 hours. It’s deadly, because it gives a competitive advantage to more agile and digitally savvy brands.

Second, many brands do not have enough internal resources, knowledge, tools and skills to win in the digital arena. This means that the competition will be more convincing and gain more customers. I’ve seen many brands experience a rapid drop in store traffic even before the pandemic because they couldn’t convince customers with their online strategies.

In our new digital world of highly demanding customers, brand storytelling will separate successful brands from failing brands, especially with the rise of an exceptionally brand-driven Chinese market. Digital success, which is growing in importance day by day, depends on brand storytelling and is no longer optional.

Finally, to build a successful fashion brand, the entire physical experience must be rethought. I’ve only experienced a handful of compelling luxury in-store experiences. In fact, most of the experiences that consumers witness will be disappointing, destroying brand value rather than creating exciting, inspiring and lasting brand memories. If there is no good memory, there will be no loyalty and brand value.

Now is the time to create the future of luxury fashion. Brands that miss the mark today will struggle to recover. Those who take the appropriate action will be leaders of change. There are opportunities in a turning point, but the window will close soon.

Daniel Langeris CEO of the luxury, lifestyle and consumer branding companyto leaveand Professor of Luxury Strategy and Extreme Value Creation at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. He consults some of the biggest luxury brands in the world, is the author of several luxury management books, a global keynote speaker and conducts luxury masterclasses in Europe, the United States and Asia. To follow@drlanger

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