Shrugging off their own profound challenges, many luxury businesses, brands and artisans have come to the aid of those in need during the Covid-19 crisis.
Gentleman at Zegna sewing PPE.

Few market sectors have been as hardhit by the Covid-19 crisis as luxury. Countries renowned for their fashion, design and craftsavoirfaireincluding Britain, France and Italyhave beenamong the nations most savagely struck by the novel coronavirus,which hasaffectedtheproduction and consumption of luxury goods. The drastic reduction in sales to China, which in 2019 was responsible for more than 40per centof the280 billion per annumspenton luxury goods globally, has also taken a heavy toll.

In an atmosphere of intense economic uncertainty, consumers have cut spending, especially on indulgences and items that perhaps seem less necessary during lockdownnew outfits, for instance. For the fortnight to 4 Aprilthis year, the British Retail Consortium reported a 27per centdrop in sales year-on-year. Retail sales in France fell 24per centfrom February to March. For the same period, the UnitedStatessaw a $46.2bndecrease in overall consumption, with clothing purchases down by a staggering 50.5per cent. Spending at luxury hotels and fine-dining restaurants, as one might imagine, has plummeted.

Yetdespite facing acute commercial hardship, fashion and luxury businesses of all sizes haveplayedtheir part in the fight againstthe pandemicand come to the aid of those suffering during this crisis.

In March,theBritish shirtmaker Emma Willis of Jermyn Street had seen orders dwindling and was in the process of reluctantly furloughing staff and shutting up shop to comply with social distancing requirements. It was as things were winding down thatword cameviathe firmsbespoke cutter Samantha Wakelys mother, a National Health Service vascular scientistof shortages in the supply of surgical scrubs to British hospitals.In response, Williss team set to work sewing much-needed garments for frontline staff in the critical care wards at Gloucestershire Royal and Cheltenham hospitals.They needed scrubs as fast as possible, so we used the fine Swiss cotton we have in abundance, in an array of colours,as any colour was more than welcome,Willis said.Everyone we have making the scrubs is furloughed,so they need not be working, buttheyare donating their time to support the NHS. The feedback and thanks we are getting is wonderful,andvery rewarding and moving for all the production team.Willisnotedthat hospital workershave saidthe fine Alumo cotton apparel makes their travails a little easier to bear.

FellowBritishshirtmakersTurnbull & Asserwerein the midst of producing 6,000 sets of scrubs.When news broke of the shortage of protective equipment within the health service, there was an overwhelming appetite to do something to further the cause,the companys managing director, Jonathan Baker, said.We felt duty-bound to step up and do what we could for our frontline workers.

In keeping with efforts to flatten the curve, Turnbull & Asser had closed its British production facilities.Thankfully,our supply chain director is a well-connected man,Baker says.He made a few callsand,within days, secured the correct fabrics, rallied a team of machinists,and established a supply line directly to the NHS. His efforts ensured that whatever we made, it was not only made correctly but ended up in the hands of those who need it most.


May 2020


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