What are your biggest business concerns surrounding COVID-19?
There was calamity already building in the fashion retail sector, COVID-19 just further surfaced the issues in the industry. However, it can seem frivolous to discuss these (non-essential) issues at this time as healthcare and safety are at the core of our security as a nation.
That being said, COVID-19 has and will greatly affect all aspects of the retail industry. Fragmented supply chains are causing what could be business-ending stalls, and reverberations from the pandemic’s halt of life as we knew it will be felt across all touchpoints of the fashion world.
In The SIL’s small slice of things, there are actually quite a few silver linings. We have always marched to the beat of our own drum and have done things differently from the start. We do not operate like a typical wholesale business, meaning we are not beholden to the taxing (and in my opinion, outdated) seasonal fashion calendar—not to mention all of the waste it creates. The designers on The SIL are independent brands and most have had the latitude to adapt to some extent. Many are in direct control of their companies and how their garments are made, which is why we’ve seen some brands pivot to mask-making during this time of need.
It’s my hope that priorities will shift. I think there will be an acceleration of conscious purchase behavior from consumers, not to mention the positive impact this pandemic has had on the global ecology, which will hopefully factor in to their preference for quality over the mass- produced. I think retail has been bracing for this kind of seismic industry shift for a while, and I’m glad to see the pendulum start to swing back in the independent designer’s favor—we’re here for it.
What is your current business strategy for dealing with the situation?
Through all of this, we have been focusing on growth to further support designers during this time. It has been rewarding to see the surge of support for small businesses. We are in the process of onboarding new brands to the site, like Risa Collection—an LA-based brand of tunic caftans started by a friend of mine in the last year. There’s also Agaati, an eco-minded line in San Francisco, whose founder, Saloni Shrestha, is developing a small capsule collection exclusively for us.
One hurdle is photo shoots. We’ve had to postpone them and are having to be creative in how we communicate. Instagram continues to be a powerful tool, and we’ve always been proponents of showing “real” people (all of the models on the site are my personal friends/not professional models!). We have found that we have higher engagement with the more informal posts.
How do you think things will look in your industry a year from now?
Since social distancing will likely still be in play to some extent, I think digitalization will be at the forefront of the fashion industry, as well as potentially less of a dependency on overseas manufacturing. I think brick-and-mortar retail concepts are making moves to bring all of their inventory online, and there will be new and inventive ways to service the client (virtual styling?) that will become more mainstream.
A much-needed shift in the paradigm of the pricing strategy matrix will occur as people will be more discerning in purchase decisions when it comes to fashion.
A much-needed shift in the paradigm of the pricing strategy matrix will occur as people will be more discerning in purchase decisions when it comes to fashion. Value systems will be reevaluated after this, and there will be a focus on meaningful over mindless purchases. For example, we’ve incorporated a made-to-order concept with several of our designers and have seen great success with that model thanks to the level of trust we’ve built with our clientele. Not only is it more sustainable, but it is also more specialized… a signifier of a more thoughtful investment and likely a forever piece.
Safe–and entertained–at Home: What business leaders are doing with their downtime
I’m a night owl, so my morning routine is non-existent!
Zero Zero Zero, The Keepers.
I have a stack of magazines that I can’t part with until I’ve read, so I’m making my way through those.
What are you doing to spend quality time with those you’re sheltering with?
Learning how to use the kitchen! Thank you, HelloFresh.
Where are you dreaming of visiting once things are back to normal?
We booked a trip to Italy this summer—fingers crossed we will be able to go!