Luxury & COVID-19: Unity in Adversity


As the world grapples with the horrific reality of COVID-19, the luxury industry, after the first reactions of disbelief, has taken up arms against the pandemic to do their part for humanity

By: Jiya Sharma

Posted on: March 30, 2020

COVID 19 protein molecule structure

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought upon a sudden global crisis. Be it economic, financial, emotional or mortal, the pandemic is taking its toll across the world. In times like these, humanity possesses the beautiful ability to come together and brave the storm as one. Everyone is affected yet everyone wants to help. Some are in a better position than others to do so. Luxury brands across the globe are taking initiatives and doing their part during this crisis. 

First tremors

The gravity of Coronavirus has been felt since the beginning of the year. The world began to react at a rather slow, but increasingly rapid rate. The first big news in Europe emerged when Milan Fashion Week was disrupted and luxury houses such as Armani cancelled their physical fashion shows to hold them live online without an audience. 

With an escalation in global cases, WHO declared the Coronavirus to be a pandemic on March 11, 2020. Immediately there was an irreversible shift across both company and consumer behavior. After China, the next biggest luxury market to be hit was Italy, which saw a rapid rise in the number of cases and ordered for closure of various non-essential public spaces such as pubs and theatres. France quickly followed and three of the world’s largest luxury markets were inactive. The Cruise Collection shows were cancelled, already causing great losses for major houses including Prada, Gucci, Versace, etc. The brands lost not only the money invested on the pre-production, but also the ROI on the marketing these shows create for brands. 

Ethics vs Business

As cases grew, awareness rose and problems intensified. Brands faced quite the dilemma in markets where there were no government mandated closures. Brands had to choose between business and ethics. While keeping the stores open for business was a financially healthier option, timely closure of stores led early-adopters to be lauded for their efforts to control the pandemic and ‘doing their part’ by consumers. 

coronavirus masks

Eventually it became obvious for brands to shut down operations across all levels of the supply chain and take all measures possible to protect their workforce. Human life must take precedence over financial gain. Luxury has, therefore, been hit in the core of its manufacturing base. While China is a big player in luxury goods manufacturing, the crisis in Italy has made brands question their entire manufacturing foundation. Brands are withdrawing orders and factories are shutting down. For example, Fossil recently halted production at its biggest factory in China, threatening the very future of the factory itself. 

Actions & Initiatives

Numerous domestic measures in different countries weren’t enough and travel bans across the world began to emerge, causing a dip in potential customers. This was accompanied by closure of all “non-essential” stores, which included luxury stores in Europe and voluntary closures across USA. 

Faced with the crisis, luxury brands such as Versace led the way with Chief Creative Officer Donatella Versace and her daughter Allegra Versace Beck personally donating $222,000 to the San Raffaele hospital in Milan, while Giorgio Armani made a donation of €1.25 million. Soon after, LVMH announced its plans to manufacture disinfectant gels in French factories to battle the shortage. 

Brands across the world have come forward with actionable measures. The Zegna family, together with the Group’s top management, have pledged personal donations to the Civil Protection in Italy totaling 3 million euros, in support of the nurses, doctors, scientists and volunteers across Italy. They also converted a part of their production facilities in Italy and Switzerland to manufacture medical masks for Zegna’s employees and cater to the wider needs in Italy and Switzerland. 

Similarly, Kering Group provided the French health service with 3 million surgical masks, which the Group purchased and imported from China. And the French workshops of Kering’s brand, Balenciaga and Yves Saint Laurent, are manufacturing masks. Kering has also made a financial donation to the Institut Pasteur to support its research into Covid-19. On March 11 in Italy, Kering also made donations to four major foundation hospitals in Lombardy, Veneto, Tuscany and Lazio.

Gucci Covid 19 donations

Gucci, calling on its friends and followers from its global community, began the #GucciCommunity initiative to invite people to make donations to the Solidarity Response Fund for WHO through the “donate” feature available in their IG stories. It has attracted donations from more than 200,000 people worldwide and from some of the biggest multinational companies.

Luxury companies across the world have made efforts to aid in the fight against the Coronavirus and the luxury industry is no stranger. Along with financial support and manufacturing measures, brands across the world have spread the message of strength and unity, assuring their communities globally that this shall pass too, and standing together, the world will come out a better, stronger place!

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