4Ps, 5As, BCG, Ansoff, SWOT … We created all the frameworks possible to analyse and maximise the potential of a business in any situation. Then, when a serious real-life problem arrives, the Luxury Fashion Industry simply get into a “standby” mood before reacting. Like if no one of those frameworks can make the Industry agile and flexible to make an instant right decision.
Covid19 taught us, that defying the “purpose” of our actions is what matters in the long run. When Russia attacked Ukraine I personally thought “Companies will apply the lesson learned to plan the next steps!” However, once again Luxury Fashion got into confusion when it came to deciding between “making money – following the purpose”.
But can the main purpose for a company be making money?
The “purpose” is the “reason why” we do what we do. Simon Sinek in the Golden Circle (Figure 1) theory, keep going pushing on the fact that the “reason why” can’t be money. The “Why” is the true reason the brand exists, the true mission it decides to accomplish. It defines the unique quantitative and qualitative addition that the company brings to consumers’ and employees’ lives. Therefore defining and following consistently the right purpose, will make the money come as a result.
Patagonia CEO adds that “purpose should be more than just a set of values that you put on your website and incorporate into your logo. It needs to be at the heart of how you run your business” (Alderman, 2022). This sense of alignment is crucial during the internet age that we live in. Trustpilot (2021) reports that 89% of global consumers read reviews not simply on the products but on the overall company prior to making a purchase. In a recent Deloitte survey (2021) “nearly 1 in 3 consumers claimed to have stopped purchasing certain brands or products because they had ethical or sustainability-related concerns about them”.
Therefore if a company makes a decision not reflect the main purpose, it creates a sense of confusion for its customers who are starting to look more and more into the heart of the business before making a responsible purchasing choice.
So why, when the war arrives, the Luxury Fashion Companies didn’t react immediately according to their main true purpose which they advertise to be every day more on topics like respect, inclusion….?
Let’s recap together the last few weeks.
Just before the war, those were the prediction for the luxury market. Cambell (2022) on the Financial Times “After growing 4 per cent between 2019 and 2021, Bain estimates sales will increase from €283bn in 2021 to between €300bn and €310bn in 2022”. As from Figure 2, the who is spending sees the European market slowly recovering, going back to being relevant for the Luxury Fashion. Also must be considered that international travellers usually make up 40 to 50 per cent of luxury spending on the European continent, compared to only 20 to 25 per cent of luxury spending in the US (Biondi, 2021). Therefore Luxury Companies must take care of Europe.
24th Feb 2022 Russia invades Ukraine.
As from Guilbault and Maguire (Feb 2022) LVMH and Kering shares were down 5 per cent midday, while Compagnie Financière Richemont was down 7 per cent, and Hermès 3 per cent. Analysts say that luxury’s direct exposure to Russia and Ukraine is low, and there is no luxury production in the regions. The impact of the Russian market in the Luxury sector is marginal compared to the rest of Europe, US, and China. “In dollar terms, this equates to around $9bn, which is 6 per cent of Chinese spend and 14 per cent of American spend,” wrote Jefferies analyst Flavio Cereda in a note to Financial Times (2022).
Despite this, Luxury Fashion Brands didn’t react immediately. Why compromise the reputation continuing to operate in Russia when the business impact of pausing appeared manageable? Also, staying open in Russia would increase the risk of the “guilt factor” of the rest of the European market “not feeling comfortable to be seen buying or wearing luxury products due to tragic events happening” (Exane BNP Paribas analyst Antoine Belge).
So why Luxury Brands didn’t immediately stop selling to/in Russia? No one of the frameworks above helped. Plus they didn’t focus on their main “Purpose”. They got frozen while evaluating the overall impact of the global economy spending on luxury.
26th February 2022: the “to sanction or not to sanction” dilemma!
Two days from when the war started, no Country and no Fashion Luxury Company was able to take a firm decision.
Alessandro Michele at Gucci “I want to scream to everybody — we need life!”, while Angela Missoni “We have to give a sign that we are against the politics, even if it’s a sacrifice for Italy.” But nothing happened.
4/5 days after the war started
Marusya Koval, Tsum Kyiv’s marketing director told Christina Binkley “We are trying to appeal now to wake the fashion industry up. Paris Fashion Week is going on, but in Europe there is a real war going on. The fashion industry needs to stand up. Stop trading — stop supplying Russia. Stop your relationships with Russia.” The reality is that the fashion industry has been slow to take sides in the war.
The first gestures were the silent runway show by Giorgio Armani in Milan.
Ralph Toledano, president of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, calling for solemnity during Paris Fashion Week.
Nanushka CEO Pèter Baldaszti tell Webb Bella at Vogue Business “it is impossible to stay silent or inactive, we don’t want another generation to grow up with the memory of war.” And so invited other Luxury brands to take a relevant action instead of standing and waiting.
6/7 days after the war started
Other leading luxury brands including LVMH, Burberry, Kering-owned Gucci and Balenciaga, Marni and Diesel-owner OTB take a position, start sending statements of support and announced fundraising for Ukraina.
Consumers on social media started to put pressure on Luxury fashion saying “it was indecent to keep boutiques open in Moscow when bombs were falling in Kyiv” (Financial Times 2022). And so there was a very bad reaction to LV post in instagram where the consumer replied don’t be sorry “stop selling in Russia”
4Th Of March
The main Luxury Brands temporarily suspended operations in Russia, Financial Times (2022). Multiple western brands, including Apple, Microsoft, Ikea and Nike, had moved more quickly. Why is Luxury Fashion moving so slowly waiting until the 4th of March to make a decision?
And a few days later
In the NY Times (2022) Vanessa Friedman shared that Demna, who had fled Georgia as a 12-year-old during that country’s civil war, wrote in the note of the last collection, “triggered the pain of a past trauma I have carried in me since 1993, when the same thing happened in my country and I became a forever refugee. Forever, because that’s something that stays with you. The fear, the desperation, the realization that no one wants you.” Thus the collection of Balenciaga become last-minute and exceptionally powerful response to war.
Finally, we can re-start to see the true purpose back and so the connected actions! But it took days and a strong push from consumers.
15th March 2022
As from Wood, The Guardian, Britain, alongside G7 allies, blocks luxury exports to Russia worth hundreds of millions. We all got there, eventually!
Then, when I think everything is getting in the right direction, I opened the Final Times during the weekend (26 March 2022) and I see this (Figure 3): Giorgio Armani Fashion Advert next to a war picture and an article on how a Russian Oligarch was punished.
Who decided to display a Luxury Fashion advert next to a relevant war news/images? How will Giorgio Armani who during his fashion show in February declared “My decision not to use any music in the show was made as a sign of respect to the people affected by the evolving tragedy”, react looking at this? Why investing money to increase the sense of guiltiness when buying Luxury? How Armani’s clients will react looking at this? Why we can’t be a 360 degrees visionary about the role that Fashion Luxury play into the world mental health, inclusiveness and respect for human rights?
No frameworks can make a miracle if the Fashion Luxury Companies don’t start reacting by having their clear purpose in mind. They must define the real “Why” and share this with actions toward employees and customers.
We simply need the WWYY – “Watch-Why-YoYo” framework (Figure 4): everything is moving around a YoYo why, while checking the time of our actions. In this way, there will be no possibility of disconnection to the main purpose and to the fact that Fashion has a big social responsibility to embrace and on time because this could thrive success or fire-back. WWYY everyone!
Alderman, P. (2022, 17th March). Purpose is the key to both customer experience and employee experience. The Drum. https://www.thedrum.com/opinion/2022/03/17/purpose-the-key-both-customer-experience-and-employee-experience
Bain and Company. (2018). LUXURY GOODS WORLDWIDE MARKET STUDY, FALL–WINTER 2018 https://www.bain.com/contentassets/8df501b9f8d6442eba00040246c6b4f9/bain_digest__luxury_goods_worldwide_market_study_fall_winter_2018.pdf
Binkley, C (2022, 1st March). Tsum Kyiv pleads for fashion to stand up to Russia. Vogue Business. https://www.voguebusiness.com/consumers/tsum-kyiv-pleas-for-fashion-to-stand-up-to-russia
Biondi, A. (2021, 14th Jun). When will European luxury recover? Vogue Business. https://www.voguebusiness.com/consumers/european-luxury-market-recovery-2022
Cambell, C. (2022, 6th Jan). What 2022 holds in store for luxury. Financial Times. https://www.ft.com/content/2beb415c-156c-4b8b-8384-101a0b13a3d8
Deloitte. (2021). Shifting sands: Are consumers still embracing sustainability? https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/consumer-business/articles/sustainable-consumer.html
Financial Times. (2022, 4th March). Big luxury brands suspend operations in Russia. https://www.ft.com/content/64e1e17f-35c0-415f-b4a2-9e111897c7a4
Friedman, V. (2022, 7th March). Balenciaga Goes Where Fashion Hasn’t Dared Go Before. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/07/style/balenciaga-ukraine-valentino.html
Guilbault, L. and Maguire, L. (2022, 24th Feb). Vogue Business. https://www.voguebusiness.com/fashion/luxury-stocks-tumble-in-response-to-russian-invasion
Webb, B. (2022, 1st March). Nanushka stops selling to Russia, rallies to support Ukraine. Vogue Business. https://www.voguebusiness.com/fashion/nanushka-stops-selling-to-russia-rallies-to-support-ukraine
Wood, Z. (2022, 15th March). Britain blocks luxury exports to Russia worth hundreds of millions. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/business/2022/mar/15/britain-blocks-luxury-exports-to-russia-worth-hundreds-of-millions