By Irina Aleksander
Even before the pandemic, the whole fashion industry had started to unravel. What happens now that no one has a reason to dress up?
"As it happened, it was the giants who would fall first. Over the next few months, J. Crew, Neiman Marcus, Brooks Brothers and J.C. Penney filed for bankruptcy. Gap Inc. couldn’t pay rent on its 2,785 North American stores. By July, Diane von Furstenberg announced she would lay off 300 employees and close 18 of her 19 stores. The impending damage to small businesses was inconceivable."
"For years, Sternberg had been saying that the fashion industry was a giant bubble heading toward collapse. Now the pandemic was just speeding up the inevitable. In fact, it had already begun. An incredible surplus of clothing was presently sitting in warehouses and in stores, some of which might never reopen. “That whole channel is dead,” Sternberg said. “And there’s no sign of when it’s turning on again.”
"In April, clothing sales fell 79 percent in the United States, the largest dive on record. Purchases of sweatpants, though, were up 80 percent. Entireworld was like the rare life form that survives the apocalypse. By betting that the luxury market would fail, Sternberg had evaded the very forces that were bringing down the rest of the industry. “Because you could see the writing on the wall,” he said. “The Neimans writing on the wall, the Barneys. ... Listen, Barneys? That was not a shock to anyone.”
"Fashion week is where those entities meet. The reason spring collections are shown in the fall (and vice versa) is so they can be ordered, reviewed and produced in time for the actual season. As with most things, this system was upended by the internet. Once normal people could view collections online — which, confusingly, they couldn’t buy until six months later — everything began to accelerate. Now stores needed deliveries earlier to fill demand, and two deliveries simply weren’t enough. Suddenly midseason collections — mainly, pre-fall and resort (also known as cruise) — became the norm, even for smaller designers whose customers were not necessarily among the small subset of people who jet off to Capri or St.-Tropez for the winter months."
"R.T.V. stands for “return to vendor,” which is what it sounds like: If a collection — the one that the store has asked you to pad out with novelty and exclusives — doesn’t sell, the retailer can return it and ask for its money back. According to Nutter, as stores struggled, the terms of this deal got worse. In some cases, stores asked designers to sell on consignment or to share costs if a certain percentage of the collection didn’t sell at full price. So let’s say a store decided to mark the collection down early: You now owed it for those losses. “Even as I’m telling you this,” Nutter said, “I’m like, Isn’t that crazy?”
It is. It is crazy. And here’s where it got even crazier: In order to protect exclusivity, stores had to commit to even larger buys, ordering more clothes than they could possibly sell. Then, when they couldn’t move the stuff, they’d return it. Thanks to the rise of fast fashion and the luxury market’s simultaneous attempt to keep up with its impossible pace, it all started to feel disposable. So detrimental was the cycle of overproduction and discounting to luxury goods that in 2018, Burberry, the British label, revealed that it had been burning — not metaphorically but literally: burning — $37 million of worth of merchandise per year to maintain “brand value.”