Business

Can Luxury Fashion Ever Regain Its Luster?

China, which was already the fastest-growing luxury market before the pandemic, will become even more vital to brands’ success as North American and European markets remain unpredictable. And everywhere, offline retail has had to go online — and fast — as consumers turned rapidly to digital shopping.

Amazon, whose customers have ordered over one billion fashion items via its mobile app in the last 12 months, has long looked for a way to become partners with luxury names, which had in the past largely rebuffed its advances. Last week, Amazon launched its mobile-only Luxury Stores with one brand: Oscar de la Renta. It said more labels would be announced in the weeks to come.

Farfetch, the digital marketplace that allows upmarket vendors to sell their goods online, reported last month that it had seen a 60 percent surge in traffic for the second quarter compared with the same period last year — and 500,000 new customers.

“E-commerce represented just 12 percent of luxury sales in 2019. Since then, there has obviously been a complete paradigm shift,” José Neves, Farfetch’s chief executive, said.

Luxury used to be heavily associated with an in-store experience, he added. But for many consumers in 2020, convenience and safety are now front of mind, prompting many brands to fast-track their digital strategies.

“For those who aren’t able to do that, it is going to be a struggle,” Mr. Neves said.

As the industry starts to offer up new looks, TikTok is hosting its own online fashion month for a potential audience of roughly 800 million users, with shows by Saint Laurent and JW Anderson. Expect to see smaller collections with more timeless pieces that can have extended shelf lives if necessary. Demand for evening wear and suits has plummeted now that no one has a reason to dress up, though many brands say they expect people to start buying high-priced items that aren’t sweatpants, despite a severe recession and ongoing layoffs.

With no fixed timeline for a Covid-19 vaccine, it will be hard to predict what customers will want six months from now. But for luxury fashion, the shows must go on.

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