Considering that Covid-19 has had unprecedented pressure on many business sectors, the fashion and apparel industry is also enduring a huge effect amid the global health crisis. Major apparel brands and retailers are canceling their orders as the pandemic coerce fashion stores to postpone operations. To far-reaching extents, the Virus has risked the livelihoods of many employees in the fashion sector. Suppliers in garment-producing countries, such as Bangladesh are currently unable to bear the financial burden. As a result of order cancellation, reduced order volumes, and delayed payments, they are laying off and suspending their workers, thus pushing them to higher levels of economic vulnerabilities. For instance, TX Maxx extended the payment terms for its suppliers from 30 to 120 days (Gault, 2020). The already precarious group of workers in Cambodian factories are also facing more livelihood challenges as US brands cancel their orders. While the industry faces ruin, UK apparel retailers such as the Arcadia group reportedly canceled orders worth £100 million as well. The main question is, what will happen to the millions of workers in the manufacturing and the retail sector? How will they cope up with the quarantine, yet their source of income has been affected?
Before, proceeding to discuss how the apparel sector is promoting the processes of containing and addressing the global pandemic, I would like us to look at the industry in the lens of globalization. Apparel stores are distributed globally across the earth’s cities. But have you ever thought about the leading producer of the fabrics, and how the virus has impacted that global business sector?
Looking at the global pandemic from the perspective of fashion, it is evident that many brands rely on China for raw materials. A 2019 statistical review by the World Trade Organization, showed that China is the world’s largest manufacturer and exporter of fabrics with a market share of up to 37.6 percent (Lu, 2019). Besides, they are reputed for producing accessories such as buttons and zippers. However, in light of the virus outbreak, the government took it to action to close all factories and quarantine all its workers. As a result, most fashion designers had to source for the raw materials elsewhere. What followed next is the devastating impacts of laying workers, due to delayed payments for suppliers, and closing down the apparel stores. This is just an example of how the virus has disrupted businesses across various industries. You might not want to imagine what is happening to supermarkets among other retail stores.
On the other hand, what is the apparel retail sector doing to contain the virus? Are reputable companies showing some form of corporate social responsibility?
Regardless of the retroactive cancellation of orders, the demand for price reduction and postponement of operations, fashion and apparel companies are still going deep into their pockets to donate towards Covid-19 relief. According to a news article by The Cut, Armani contributed 2 million euros to Italian hospitals. AG jeans responded by donating 1 million dollars to the LA response fund. Gucci donated 2 million euros and started a fundraising campaign. Apparel Retailers such as Zara and H&M and Luxury firms such as LVMH, Prada, and Kering are supplying protective garments for medical workers. LVMH, the owner of Luxury brands Louis Vuitton and Dior, in particular, ordered 10 million masks, which included 7 million surgical masks and 3 million Filtering Face Piece (FFP2) masks. They have also begun producing hospital gowns for front health workers in their ready-to-wear atelier.
Ideally, besides the devastating consequences, the fashion sector is working tirelessly to maintain its positive image. I would say that the apparel industry, in particular, is promoting corporate social responsibility that boosts the medical departments in the containment and eradication of the virus. Most apparel stores have pledged to continue producing protective gear while others are contributing significantly to fundraising.
Gault, B. (2020). TK Maxx extends payment terms. Retrieved 17 April 2020, from https://www.drapersonline.com/news/tk-maxx-extends-payment-terms/7040016.article?blocktitle=Latest-News&contentID=15719
Lu, S. (2019). WTO Reports World Textile and Apparel Trade in 2018. Retrieved 17 April 2020, from https://shenglufashion.com/2019/08/16/wto-reports-world-textile-and-apparel-trade-in-2018/
Bain, M. (2020). For fashion companies making medical masks, sewing them is the easy part. Retrieved 17 April 2020, from https://qz.com/1823581/fashion-brands-are-trying-to-make-medical-masks-to-fight-covid-19/