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The health emergency originated in Wuhan has spread throughout the world in just a few months, and is now quickly turning into an economic crisis. No sector is spared by the blows delivered by Covid-19.
The fashion world was one of the first industries to realize the gravity of the situation, which has impacted it directly. The outbreak in Italy started during the fashion weeks in Milan and Paris, one of the hottest periods for this sector.
In 2019, the Italian fashion industry was worth more than 90 billion euro, with an increase of 0.8% also due to a stronger export (+6.2%, reaching 71.5 billion). At the beginning of February 2020, the Italian Chamber of fashion said potential losses could be around 1.8%, as the coronavirus was spreading in China and other Asian countries, one of the largest markets for Italian fashion companies. Two months later, the actual damage may be even higher.
However, the fashion industry reacted quickly, anticipating the difficult choices the rest of Italy had to take in order to face the health emergency.
Major fashion houses have taken early action to prevent infection, cancelling and postponing the main events of the fashion weeks. The vast majority of exhibitions were cancelled or put off, also because of the announced absence of most Asian buyers.
The fashion industry will need to implement exceptional response actions to face an exceptional situation such as the current one. Up to now, the Italian fashion world has not focussed on the development of digital platforms and technologies to support businesses.
Technology can provide us with connections and working tools that the everyday non-digital life cannot offer in this moment. The development of new digital business processes can prove very helpful to restore the future of Italian businesses as soon as possible. Not following the digitalization trend was a past mistake that unfortunately is now bringing activities in this sector to a near-total standstill.
Hard choices were taken outside the fashion world, too. Other important events have faced the same destiny. The Design week in Milan, scheduled for the end of April, was postponed to June, but many fear it will be put off further.
It is very hard to foresee exactly how much time will be needed for the situation to go back to normal. The crisis is evolving in an ever-changing fashion all over the world. Day after day, national governments and international institutions issue different directives, trying to give a prompt answer to a novel and terribly exceptional situation: a pandemic in the age of globalization.
Nevertheless, the fashion industry bit the bullet. After a first adjustment phase, it started to actively support the community, faced with this serious situation.
The fashion world has energetically mobilised against the coronavirus. Many were the initiatives for support and solidarity to people fighting Covid-19 in the frontline, promoted by several industry leading figures.
The call for help by the public health system was met by major Italian brands with substantial donations: millions of euro were collected and will prove crucial to provide treatment and support to the growing number of infected people.
The fashion industry had already showed its commitment to society when the virus was spreading only in the Hubei province. Now it has rapidly promoted solidarity actions, launching charitable initiatives and making donations to research hospitals in Italy and abroad. This very generous mobilisation makes us look at future developments with hope.