As lockdown moves into its fourth week for much of Europe, with the US, Australasia and much of Asia following suit, how is isolation affecting the fashion industry’s design and manufacturing teams? What problem-solving solutions are being deployed? What will the impact be on the next fashion collections? We have a view on how they may be shown (virtually, according to part one of this series), but read on for insights from designers, software solution providers, manufacturers, and supply chain experts to hear how COVID-19 is affecting product design, development and production, now and for the foreseeable future.
Design and Manufacturing
London-based fashion designer Steven Tai is currently stranded in Macau at the garment factory he owns as COVID-19 ravages Europe. This is the second lockdown he is experiencing since January. The first was in China following the Chinese new year when machinists from his factory who originate from Wuhan were isolated and unable to return to work. Despite the challenges he and his team have faced since then, including having only two of his twelve seamstresses in the factory to produce his showroom samples for Paris Fashion Week, Tai presented his collection in Paris, albeit to half the number of buyers as usual.
To reach the 50% of the buyers in lockdown he created a virtual lookbook, ingeniously utilizing a lazy susan turntable to create 360-degree gifs of the collection so that buyers could see the looks in full. The result? Half the orders placed were generated from the virtual lookbook, demonstrating the power of simple digital tools to support businesses during physical distancing.
In terms of manufacturing, the biggest impact on Tai’s collection was the lack of fabric availability from China in January, but supply has now been restored, he said. His factory was also able to complete production orders last month for third party brands—fortunately, there were no order cancellations. Tai agrees that manufacturing for their clients (premium and contemporary brands) provides a buffer from the harsh terms currently being dealt to fast-fashion manufacturers hit with mass order cancellations.
Unlike in China, textile suppliers and garment manufacturers are now in complete lockdown in Europe. Spain-based designer Sonia Carrasco launched her namesake label in Barcelona in 2019, following a career at ZARA TRF, Alexander McQueen, and Céline. Carrasco’s womenswear collections sell in Japan, Vietnam, and Thailand, where most of the brick and mortar businesses remain operational but with restricted opening times, making it a challenging time for retail sales.
How is Carrasco handling the COVID-19 lockdown? She told me her next collection will have far fewer designs that are “more creative and detail-focused.” Unable to sample the garments in-house at her studio in Barcelona, Carrasco and her team are now exploring digital prototyping solutions:
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