This story was updated with new information on April 10, 2020.
The COVID-19 virus has so far sickened more than 1.5 million people in nearly every country worldwide, according to a April 10 report by the World Health Organization and those numbers are unfortunately likely to increase. The pandemic has completely changed our lives with authorities across the globe asking their citizens to remain at home. This, of course, has taken a toll on businesses the world over.
With many luxury companies either manufacturing or sourcing raw materials from China, Italy, and France, the pandemic has caused enormous disruptions in supply chains. This, in combination with reduced demand, has heavily impacted retail sales and profits, causing many fashion outlets to close their brick-and-mortar stores. And in countries such as France and Italy, that are currently on lockdown, and where the fashion industry employs millions of people, companies have also had to close down factories and halt production.
But amidst the chaos and uncertainty, there are stories of hope as people and companies work to support those most in need. A number of luxury fashion brands have made a committed effort to alleviate the economic and health consequences by supporting local hospitals, medical workers, and their own employees.
Luxury giant LVMH announced earlier this week that it would use its perfume and cosmetics factories in France to produce sanitizing gel for hospitals and local authorities. Within 72 hours the French media reported that the parent company of Louis Vuitton and Dior, among others, had already started distributing the gel to hospitals in Paris. They plan to produce 12,000 tons of sanitizing gel a week and deliver it free of charge. Additionally, LVMH has ordered masks from a manufacturer and is planning to distribute over 40 million in France in the coming weeks. Doctors in Italy and Spain will also receive millions of masks to help them treat patients.
Also in France, where there are more than 91,000 cases and more than 13,000 coronavirus-related deaths, beauty company Clarins has already delivered 14,500 bottles of hand sanitizer to hospitals produced in the company’s factories and LVMH is making gowns and face masks for hospitals in need.
In Italy, the hardest-hit country from the virus, Milan-based outerwear company Moncler announced that they are donating €10,000,000 to support the construction of a hospital with over 400 intensive care units in the ex Fiera Milano area.
French conglomerate Kering, the owner of Gucci, Bottega Veneta, and Brioni, among others, has donated €2,000,000 to benefit several health-care institutions in the Lombardy, Veneto, Tuscany, and Lazio regions. But they're not the only ones. Giorgio Armani, Prada, Donatella and Allegra Versace, Bulgari, and Sergio Rossi, are among a growing list of Italian designers and brands who have all made significant corporate or personal donations to support the fight against coronavirus in Italy—totaling a whopping $28 million. Plus, Ralph Lauren has pledged $10 million to relief efforts. The Zegna family, of Ermenegildo Zegna Group, has committed to donating €3 million to the Civil Protection in Italy, to help nurses, doctors, scientists and volunteers across Italy. And Dolce & Gabbana has teamed up with Italy's Humanitas University to support COVID-19 research by providing medical scholarships. And Tiffany&Co. has pledged a $1 million donation that will be split between the World Health Organization's Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund and The New York Community Trust's NYC Covid-19 Response and Impact Fund.
In addition to donating money to the Spallanzani Hospital to acquire a new state-of-the-art 3D high-definition microscope, Bulgari announced that it is teaming up with its fragrance manufacturing partner to produce several hundred thousand bottles of hand cleansing gel with sanitizer that will be distributed to medical facilities in Italy.
Designer Valentino Garavani, while no longer at the helm of his label, posted on his Instagram account that all retail employees of Valentino will get paid even if their stores are closed.
Back in the US, the Neiman Marcus Group, that owns Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman, announced that it is shutting down all of its stores through March 31 but the company “will provide pay and benefits to store associates affected by store closures for this two-week period.”
Saks Fifth Avenue has also decided to close all of its US and Canadian stores effective March 18 for two weeks, committing to supporting their staff throughout this time as well.
“Please know that we are dedicated to helping our store associates who will be paid for their scheduled hours during this two week period,” Marc Metrick, Saks Fifth Avenue’s president wrote in an email to its customers.
While the impact from the global spread of the coronavirus has been particularly bad for the fashion industry, it has been incredibly inspiring that some companies are mobilizing resources to support their employees, as well as offer help to the medical professionals who are at the forefront of this pandemic.