Dario Querci, a Senior Textiles and Sustainability Advisor for the US market “The U.S. has a unique capacity to invest and innovate.”
While the pandemic has not spared the country, U.S. companies have taken advantage of the period to massively invest and implement far-reaching changes in their production chains. The aim is to thwart China’s hegemony and take a leading position in terms of innovation and eco-responsibility.
What is the current state of the American market?
The fashion world has been entirely upended, and that slump has hit the US just as it has everywhere else. Business has been hit hard, especially due to a lack of customers in the stores. But the houses that implemented an active e-business are doing fairly well.
Many French fashion houses seized this opportunity to accelerate their move into digital. Was the same true on the other side of the Atlantic?
Digitization is the number one concern for companies across the globe – not just in fashion but everywhere. Fashion companies have to develop fluid, attractive digital platforms – and the design of these platforms is critical – and increase their interactions with consumers. Digitization is now the only way to survive, but it’s also key to being able to grow, keeping an eye on constantly improving the technical tools
Apart from digitization, which changes have you found most interesting?
Many companies have taken advantage of this period to review their entire production chain and rebuild it in a virtuous way, in terms of eco-responsibility. I think that’ s the best approach if you want to position yourself to take off as soon as business returns to normal. Companies that have figured this out are already picking up and those that have forged ties with Asia and the Middle East are fully benefiting from a strong business growth.
When and how do you see things picking up again for the American fashion economy?
The world is still living in fear. We all have to wait for one thing: for more than 50% of the population to be vaccinated. This will allow us to start traveling again for pleasure and business, thus creating the conditions necessary for fashion to return to growth. I think we can reasonably expect this by early autumn 2021.
People are also saying that the crisis will mainly benefit Asia, especially China. Where would you situate the US in the new geopolitical order?
China recovered quickly from the pandemic because it was the first to face it, and the first to get it under control. It’s the only country where the retail sector has returned to normal and where factories guarantee large production volumes with no delays. Brands that had opted to expand their production sites outside of China are more cautious today, because right now the country is the only one providing a 100% operational system.
Given this, the United States has its own cards to play. But it has to accelerate its ramp-up in terms of eco-responsibility with impactful and scientifically unassailable strategies, and ensure a truly first-rate ethical and ecological production. Today, American brands have a tremendous opportunity by positioning themselves as the undisputed leaders in this field, capable of producing creative, high-quality and totally eco-responsible fashion. Our country has the means, the know-how and all the technology required to meet this challenge.
American fashion has always picked itself up very quickly from the various crises it has experienced. Do you think it has the potential to bounce back again?
More than ever! The US enjoys a dynamic domestic market, a huge capacity for investment and a philosophy that leans towards daring and innovation. The capital invested in eco-responsibility during the pandemic is already bearing fruit, helping companies survive the crisis and ready themselves for tomorrow.
Have you noticed any changes in what consumers want?
We noticed changes related to the specific nature of the times we’re experiencing. People stayed at home and preferred a comfortable and cozy wardrobe – like woolens and sweatshirts. And they’ve also had time to reframe what they want, emphasizing more than ever the quality and iconic nature of brands. Lastly, consumers are more than ever interested in ethical issues. In the US, as as is true throughout the world, transparency is now seen as an absolute requirement – it’s really a responsibility to the consumer.
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