The spread of the novel coronavirus is presenting fashion companies with unprecedented problems. Therefore, a movement is now forming among the sustainable players, one of whose founders is German fashion label Lanius, to slow down the fashion industry.
Since mid-March, clothing stores in Germany have been closed in order to contain the spread of Covid-19. But behind closed doors, it is anything but quiet. Fashion brands and clothing retailers have to find solutions to jointly overcome sales slumps and how to continue after stores open again. In addition to calls for government support, voices are also growing louder that call for a departure from ever earlier seasonal patterns.
Using the hashtag #fairfashionsolidarity, the sustainable fashion industry is gathering and calling on labels, stores and consumers to work together. Since the end of March, the website fair-fashion-solidarity.de has been offering a manifesto for signatures and recommendations for action on how sustainable labels and retailers can get through the coronavirus crisis together. More than 250 European fair fashion brands and retailers have since joined, among them Fair Couture, The Good Apparel, Givn Berlin, Wunderwerk and green fashion fair Innatex.
Claudia Lanius, CEO of the namesake German womenswear brand based in Cologne, talks in an interview with FashionUnited about the plans of the green alliance and how she deals with the whole situation herself.
Ms. Lanius, how do you feel about the current disturbances in the fashion industry and what have you done about it in the past few weeks?
Claudia Lanius: There are massive changes. First and foremost, we have secured the inside here, focusing on our employees - how they are doing, how we are organising things physically and with the home office. We have talked to many suppliers and made to-do lists of how we are now dealing with the situation.
We had actually finished planning our stock. But now we have set our B2B warehouse to zero, which I think is important because we have to expect cancellations and I don't want to expose myself to such a great merchandise density.
You attach importance to the durability of your goods and say that stock from the current spring-summer season can still be sold well next year. How does this work?
When creating the SS21 collection, we think carefully about what retailers still have in store and how they can add to it with what we have to offer. We will reduce the number of items in the collection. And for each item and group, we are considering what colour we had last season and what can still be integrated. This will create new looks and combinations. We will base this on figures from our own stores and our online shop, as well as best-selling items.
The #fairfashionsolidarity movement suggests integrating the current season with seasonal ware. How did this get started?
A very important topic, once stores open again, is not to start discount wars so that retailers have a chance to catch up on lost sales. As a first step, we discussed this with Philipp Langer from LangerChen, Mimi Sewalski from Avocadostore and Christina Wille and Moritz Marker from Loveco.
The four of us want to reach the fair fashion industry with an appeal and bring it together. This went online under the hashtag #fairfashionsolidarity at the end of March to reach the general public and competitors from the eco industry.
Why is it important to join forces?
This crisis also means opportunities. These opportunities are: to secure existing stock and not to sell it at dumping prices, to make it clear to us again that we have valuable textiles that we can sell at a later point as well. And to act in solidarity. I think that is extremely important so that we do not get the feeling of being alone. In this way, many retailers are given directions and consumers are also sensitised.
Even eco brands are now getting scared and are reducing online by up to 30 percent - I don't think that's the point. I also think it's important that we recommend courses of action - such as postponing the season, for example, as well as the trade fair and deliveries for the winter season.
What is the reason behind the idea to postpone the season?
We don’t know yet whether the order and trade fair dates of 30th June will work or not. In terms of collections, we also do not know yet whether everything will be ready on schedule because so many factories have already closed. It will probably also not be allowed to hold a trade fair at that time.
Because we don't know all that yet, it makes more sense to postpone the fair to August now and to then go ahead with a delivery date of beginning of March 2020. But all that is still being discussed.
Is this only a temporary demand or are you also committed to a slowdown of the fashion industry long-term?
Every day, new information comes in that makes it clear that we need to slow down, decelerate and see that we get to other values. This enormous pressure to deliver, overproduction, winter jackets in summer and early delivery dates that have been moved forward further and further - that's not good for the fashion industry. This is becoming apparent again now and maybe we can bring this back to normal, at least in our green fashion industry. That is my wish - to learn from this crisis.
Coming back to Lanius, why do you think you have not had any problems with cancellations so far?
Our delivery date was February 1st and there was nothing I had to stop now. The delivery had already taken place. But I am in the unfortunate situation - like many others - that I have not been paid on time but that my suppliers have already been paid. This affects my liquidity, I can hold out now, but only to a limited extent. This is only possible if I can continue to do things sensibly, which is why it is so important that retailers now also behave correctly and keep calm, which of course does not mean sitting still. Together, we will find ways.
So Lanius has only one spring-summer collection but no collections in between?
Thank god, no. I have often discussed this with the team and with sales because that’s how retail wants it. But so far, I have decided against it for many reasons. Inter-seasonal collections were always something that I, as a slow fashion brand, didn't consider necessary. My collection is big enough, one can also split it up or order something for later.
Could you elaborate why you as a sustainable brand have been advocating only two seasons so far?
This was enough for me. It has something to do with sustainable transport routes and logistics. I believe that inter-seasonal collections are mostly done when working worldwide. If a company works exclusively in Portugal, for example, then a week-long transport by truck to Germany will work out. But we also work in countries like Peru and in the Far East, where we take the train or ship. That simply doesn't work in the short time available.
But more collections could also mean more sales?
That is also a basic attitude: For me as Lanius, that was enough. In terms of sales and workload. I want to do slow fashion and not produce excessive stress for my employees. I find it very stressful with four, six or twelve collections. That has always been too much for me.
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This article was originally published on FashionUnited DE. Edited and translated by Simone Preuss.
Photo: Screenshot #fashionsolidarity | Lanius