FASHION IN TIMES OF COVID : COULD DATA SAVE HAUTE COUTURE ?

A 51 billion-dollars profit for Louis Vuitton, a 36 billion-dollars profit for Chanel, another 33 billions for Hermès… For sure, France will be crowned the winner in the field of High Fashion this year. Even in times of Covid, French haute couture seems to thrive. However, the luxury clothing brands industry truly suffered due to the global health crisis. Digitalization is the key, tech and retail experts say.

Indeed, multiple fashion shows had to be rescheduled or cancelled. As a matter of fact, the fashion industry relies on those particular moments to attract future buyers and potential brand ambassadors. According to Franck Delpal, economist at ‘Institut de la Mode’ in Paris, luxury brands could face approximately a 20% loss of turnover for this year (giving a total of 217 billion dollars loss). 

ONLINE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE, THE LATEST FASHION TREND ?

Retail experts are convinced that the luxury sector should fully change its marketing strategy and target a wider range of customers. In order to promote this change, luxury brands have to go digital. For the next few years, it will be all about data…but brands will have to make it fashion. The tradition is that the fashion industry is mainly exclusive and reserved for selected clients (often wealthy ones). Thus, customer experience is a must have. When walking into a Louis Vuitton shop for example, clients are usually pampered. How can haute couture houses adapt this 5 star customer service online ? 

The marketing strategy of fast-fashion brands (meaning brands that renew their clothing line rapidly) could interest all the great names of fashion. For example, Zara uses big data technology as a customer experience enhancement tool. Analyzing clients’ data when they are shopping online enables the brand to :

● strengthen customer loyalty 

● provide great customer care 

● improve its corporate identity  

This has paid off because Zara is now one of the leaders of customer relation digitalization, ensuring the release of 24 clothing lines per year. One might have expected haute couture houses would jump ahead of this online customer experience trend. Yet luxury brands remain committed to their concept of exclusivity. Digitalize less to sell more, is this sustainable in the long term?

THE ETERNAL ‘LESS IS MORE’ CULTURE TREND

Retail experts explain that the way big data technology is being used isn’t enough to save Haute Couture from the global economic crisis caused by Covid. They recommend that fashion luxury brands focus their marketing strategy on full digitalization. 

11 years ago, the late British fashion designer Alexander McQueen has already decided to break the exclusivity rule by showcasing his Spring/Summer collection on a live streaming website, making therefore luxury fashion available to all. In 2019, Chanel offered a new concept of store called « la boutique de demain ». This event aimed to digitalize the customers’ relation. Clients had access to a virtual showroom and to a selection of clothing based on their preferences.  Despite their efforts, a reluctant attitude could be noticed. 

Another solution could be combining big data technology and artificial intelligence. It’s actually the idea of Facebook Artificial Intelligence center (FAIR) which is developing Fashion ++, an algorithm aiming to improve users’ outfits. We can hope to see Haute Couture houses being inspired by this innovative tool. 

Still, fashion luxury brands are standing by their ‘less is more’ motto. Even if many of those brands appeared unwilling to make data their new fashion, some of them have emerged as the biggest winners for digital transformation in 2020. As an example, Burberry has launched a product line exclusively available online and Gucci opened call centers, making it the number one brand regarding customer experience. We can be sure of one thing : Haute Couture surely has good days ahead, quarantined or not. 

Camille Reiffsteck

Master 2 Cyberjustice, Promotion 2020/2021

SOURCES

  • La diffusion des tendances, (N.) Giusti in « La mode des tendances » de (G.) Erner, pp. 49-60, Presses universitaires de France (2011) 
  • Fashion e-business : des pistes pour la création d’un écosystème digital pérenne, (Y.) Rivoallan in « Management et Marketing de la Mode » de (L.) Salesses, pp. 237-241, Ed. Dunod (2013) 

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