Alexander Khilkevich, an international fashion analyst, co-founder of the National Academy of the Fashion Industry, founder of the Rating of the Best Russian Designers, answers questions. Over the past few days, due to the high threat of the spread of coronavirus in Russia, the most significant events for the fashion world have been canceled.
1. How, in your opinion, will the cancellation of events affect the fashion industry as a whole?
Alexander Khilkevich: Of course, extremely negative. Fashion weeks, exhibitions, shows, contests, events are the face of the industry, its heart, its blood. No matter how we criticize them for one reason or another in ordinary life, to say that these events are unimportant is unprofessional and irresponsible. These are key consolidating events like championships and olympiads in sports. Over time, they can transform, but without them nowhere. Especially when we are talking about designer fashion - the main driving force of the industry.
2. There are already forecasts, what further impact will the COVID-19 virus have on the fashion industry? In which areas, in your opinion, will the losses be most tangible?
Alexander Khilkevich: In Russia, everything related to fashion is extremely vulnerable. And the virus is only the 25th nail in her coffin. Steadily falling demand against the background of a lack of income growth, a 40% drop in traffic in the shopping center against the background of consistently high rental rates, weather anomalies blocking the sale of seasonal collections, and, of course, another collapse of the ruble, which will lead to a 15-25% increase in prices … All this is accompanied by panic and quarantine chaos amid the situation with the virus. Therefore, in the Russian fashion sector, we will face massive bankruptcies - both small and large companies. First of all, new young brands, brands of the medium and medium + segment, companies with a large debt load (including shopping centers), companies without established online sales, as well as all domestic design brands will be at risk.
3. How do you assess the relevance of the fashion week's transition from offline to digital space and broadcasting of online shows?
Alexander Khilkevich: Any major fashion event today is inconceivable without online broadcasting, which allows you to make the show multidimensional - demonstrating the catwalk, and the backstage, and the reaction of the guests, and the nerves of the designer. But online cannot replace display. After all, if there is no event, what should be broadcast? And believe me, no broadcast comes close to conveying the atmosphere and significance of a live show - especially if we are talking about a real creative design performance. It's like a premiere in a good theater - no recording beats it! And for those who show a mediocre second-rate, the same type of crowd and can compete only in price, online is contraindicated - why clog the air?
4. Don't you think it is self-deception that retail is now focusing on online, being in quarantine, but the bulk of the population is not up to shopping now?
Alexander Khilkevich: I don’t think so. On the contrary, now it is especially important to continue to broadcast the idea of fashion, to show that despite the problems a designer or a fashion company does not panic, they are mobilized, organized and continue to do their job - to create beauty and delight the client. It is not for nothing that many fashion magazines in Europe have now made their electronic versions free so that their advertisers and the public do not lose each other. This is a very important marketing ploy. The Russian media cannot understand this.
5. How long do you think the crisis situation will last? And how long will it take for the fashion industry to recover from the coronavirus situation?
Alexander Khilkevich: In general, the issue of the virus in the world will be closed by June. In China, the situation is already returning to normal - the production and supply of fashionable goods is being actively defrosted. Despite the losses, large international fashion companies will recover rather quickly - in 6-12 months. This will not happen in Russia, because the virus will go away, but the crisis will remain. Unfortunately, a country without a robust economy will still be shaken by every sneeze - viral, currency or political. Be healthy!