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From emerging brands to fashion weeks, fashion is still reckoning with Covid-19

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Fashion is bracing for an uncertain year. From cancelled fashion weeks to digital shows, the industry can predict little about what 2021 will look like.

“I’m not going to lie, 2020 was a complicated year,” says Arthur Lahitte, a young entrepreneur and founder of the Riviera-based luxury leather goods brand Bob Carlton. Covid-19 turned his up-and-coming business over its head. Arthur Lahitte saw collaborations with major brands and luxury hotels fall through, while sales suffered from the absence of foreign clients, and their high purchasing power. The economic current situation is not kind to an emerging fashion label.


Can luxury fashion pull through?

Bob Carlton was founded in 2018, and since then, Arthur Lahitte has had to face many setbacks. Gilets jaunes demonstrations were followed by strikes and – the cherry on top – the coronavirus pandemic. “At the beginning of 2020, business started to become unstable, and suddenly it was virtually impossible to reach an audience, let alone potential customers. That’s the hardest part. We’re not achieving anything. I remain optimistic for the coming year, but I still expect six complicated months.”

>> READ MORE: How has Monaco’s real estate market reacted to the pandemic?

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Arthur Lahitte speaks about his personal future and the future of luxury fashion with confidence. “It’s a sturdy sector. After major crises, luxury fashion often gets back up.” Several projects are already taking shape, enough to let Lahitte see the end of the tunnel. A ready-to-wear Bob Carlton collection is in the books for 2021, and so is a boutique in Monaco.

From digital fashion weeks…

Federica Nardoni Spinetta, designer and president of the Monegasque Chamber of Fashion has less than six months left to organise the Monte Carlo Fashion Week, which is expected to take place next May. The 2020 edition was fully digital, and for the 2021 edition, uncertainty about what the week will look like still persists.

>> READ MORE: Did Monaco’s luxury car market avoid catching Covid?

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“We expect to hold it in person, but then again…” Federica Nardoni Spinetta’s silence speaks volumes. Planned one week before the Monte Carlo F1 Grand Prix, Monaco’s fashion week has become a highlight of the Principality’s social season. In pre-coronavirus times, the 2019 edition featured the designs of around forty brands from 15 different countries.

…to a Green revolution?

In 2020, 42 brands took part in the digital fashion week, which took place right after the first lockdown. It was a success, even if Federica Nardoni Spinetta admits that you can’t compare digital shows to real-life one: “You can’t compare them.” The Monaco fashion week was one of the first post-lockdown fashion weeks to go digital. “Our goal was to adapt to the situation, and it also allowed us to be more sustainable.”

>> READ MORE: How yachting escaped the Covid crisis by offering a ticket out of the pandemic

In spite of the economic difficulties, 2020 could perhaps be fashion’s one and only opportunity for a green revolution. “We had to stop, for sure. We now need to focus on starting again, on rethinking our strategy, on learning to live differently, with new priorities. Sustainability today is a fundamental concern,” acknowledges the Italian designer who has lived in Monaco for 25 years. And for fashion to truly go green, technology is to play a fundamental role.