How the Fashion Industry Responded to the Recession

Recession Dress
Recession Dress

Moved to a new location.

50% off.

Pink Slips.

All Sales Final.

Closing 5 locations.

Friends and Family Sample Sales.

The above mentioned are just some of the ways the fashion industry is responding to the recession and lack luster consumer confidence.

Retailers, manufacturers and fashion houses are all feeling the effects of the economy and doing whatever they can to survive.

Design houses are downsizing and consolidating responsibilities among employees who remain with their company.  If you wore two hats before, you may now be wearing four.  Fashion studios are not only downsizing and re-strategizing their infrastructure, they are also editing the product lines to reduce the number of styles shown,  variety of fabrics used and paying close attention to delivery schedules.   Teams of designers, merchandisers, sales staff, production staff are collaborating to come up with the best means possible to minimize profit loss and stabilize their business.  The goal is to survive through these economic challenges and hold onto loyal customers and attract new customers:  a tall order in these times.

Diane von Furstenberg Sample Sale NYC June-2009
Diane von Furstenberg Sample Sale NYC June-2009

Sample sales, from a consumer perspective, are some of the more positive affects of a recession whether for yourself or gift giving.

Project Apparel Recession Sale
Project Apparel Recession Sale

In some cases businesses have outsourced talent that would normally be “home grown”, eliminated entire departments, sent staffing offshore to work with foreign partners, closed down, relocated, sold the company, merged, filed for bankcruptcy etc.. Let’s not forget each one of these options affects us all whether it’s on the positive side like samples sales or on negative side such as a pink slip.  The fashion industry is reacting to the recession by doing all of the above mentioned.

Top fashion brands such as Chanel, Diane von Furstenberg, Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren, Rocawear, Sean John among others are all offering customers private sales or deep discount sample sales at retail and online sales.  Major departmemt stores such as Macy’s has weekly sales.  Bloomingdales has special promotional sales and promo codes for online customers, Victoria’s Secret offers loyal customers special promo sales via direct marketing.   Gilt.com holds private , online sample sales for luxury brands such as Pharrell Williams’  Billionaire Boys Club, Christian Louboutin and Calvin Klein.

The fashion industry’s response to economic hard times is evident in the apparel workers jobless rate, lack of want ads in apparel trade papers, reports on company closings, mergers, takeovers, etc. seen each week.  Colleagues in the industry mention how tough it is to find experienced professionals who will work for less than they are worth, job boards are filled with jobs that require 5 years experience but curiously request candidates with 1-2 years experience only, and so on.

Job Board
Job Board

But if you’re inexperienced you will be able to gain experience as an intern, or at an entry level salary you may get a great opportunity but be expected to be a quick learner and multi-task.  Seasoned pros can still get good jobs but maybe not at the high salary they had previously.  The fashion industry is trying to stay alive and taking all measures possible to do so.  If you’re still employed, you’re doing more than ever before-be thankful.  Many of us are fortunate enough to have consistent projects as  independent contractors or consultants.  We’re thankful too that our experienced has paid off.

Economic challenges will always surface.  The most important thing to consider is how you react to the recession; will it bring you down or build you up? Probably a little of both.  But in the end you have to decide if it’s worth the fight-I think it is.

Back to basics; smaller elite apparel manufacturing/ designer companies that are well structured,  financially savvy, possess acute fashion talent and sharp marketing skills and understands the retailer’s world and consumer’s needs. 

The recession and the fashion industry’s response to it has made it clear the apparel industry needs to go back to the basics and begin again.  But this time, we’ll be smarter due to the recession-we can use these tough times to our advantage.  How?

Build a fashion business that is recession proof.  Now that we’ve lived through it, we know what to do to lessen the impact a recession has on the apparel business in the future.

3 thoughts on “How the Fashion Industry Responded to the Recession”

  1. I think we have to do more than "listen to our customers and engage" them. We need to look at our business models as a whole. Start when the end goals and work backward, establishing a strategy and plan how to achieve them. Find our niches, capitalize on what makes us unique and make conscious decisions in our business.

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