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Fashion, luxury and lifestyle news aggregator – May 2021

Posted: 21/05/2021

Luxury goods are booming in China

The freeze on international travel has taken its toll on the European luxury goods sector in recent months, depriving style-hungry Chinese tourists from spending sprees in Europe’s fashion capitals. Fortunately, the more affluent have provided some relief to fashion houses as they have seemingly channelled their spending into luxury goods whilst other types of spending remain off-limits.

A joint publication between Bain & Company and Tmall Luxury Division reports that the global luxury market shrank by 23% in 2020 yet mainland China’s market share nearly doubled, growing from about 11% in 2019 to 20% in 2020.

Indeed, Chinese customers have significantly helped drive French fashion house LVMH's forecast-beating, first-quarter sales. According to analyst forecasts compiled by Thomson Reuters, if LVMH’s first-quarter incline continues, its annual revenue could exceed pre-pandemic levels. Presently, Asia is LVMH's biggest market, accounting for 34% of total revenues in 2020.

Hermès also benefited from strong growth in China at the end of last year. The French brand delivered first quarter revenue of €2 billion – an optimistic 33% higher than the same period in 2019.

Oliver Chen, a luxury analyst, explained strength in China, along with the rest of Asia (excluding Japan), was a key driver of success. The demand for luxury brands rose by 86% in the first quarter of 2021, compared to the same period last year. Bain & Company has predicted that growth in China will continue, and that it could claim the biggest share of the global luxury market by 2025.  

Susanna Nicoletti, author of Luxury Unlocked and management lecturer at Instituto Marangoni, has delivered a more cautious message. She warns that despite the benefits that luxury brands are gaining from Chinese business, there are risks to focusing all their attention on the Chinese market. She states: "China is a place where brands risk to get lost in their quest for easy success." Perhaps a more balanced approach is the key to succeeding in a global luxury market, which is now approaching €300 billion in value.

Sustainability in the fashion sector

Penningtons Manches Cooper attended Drapers Sustainable Fashion Conference 2021, which returned for a third year. Opening up important conversations in all corners of the UK fashion industry about the move towards a greener future, this year’s conference delved into redressing fashion’s supply chains, ambitious sustainability targets, avoiding greenwashing and re-invigorating the industry after the pandemic.

Esther Pan Sloane, head of partnerships, policy and communications at the United Nations Capital Development Fund, sent a plea to the fashion industry to use its global reach to facilitate the drive towards meeting the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations member states. The SDGs include ‘responsible consumption and production’, ‘climate action’ and ‘decent work and economic growth’ - often points of scrutiny for retailers and suppliers.

The fashion, luxury and lifestyle team heard from Zalando at the conference, which is the first platform worldwide to set science-based targets approved by Science Based Target initiative. Science-based targets outline and advocate best practices in reducing emissions in line with the latest climate science. Zalando’s director of sustainability, Kate Heiny, shared the company’s ambitious plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80%, increase sourcing of renewable electricity to 100% and have 90% of supplier emissions achieving science-based sustainability targets, all by 2025. She explained: “We know that companies cannot stop creating emissions. We will never get to zero, no matter how much we reduce and optimise. So, we are offsetting the remaining emissions with reforestation projects and nature-based solutions to remove carbon from the atmosphere.” The platform became carbon neutral in October 2019. The model and scale of Zalando’s platform puts it in a unique position to impact a large section of the fashion industry.

Boohoo led a session on cleaning its supply chain. Boohoo hit headline news last year when concerns were raised about its suppliers’ workers being underpaid and facing a lack of protection against Covid-19. Andrew Reaney, Boohoo’s group director of responsible sourcing, spoke about the company’s commitment to Leicester, including plans to build its own factory there. As the business has recently acquired Debenhams and some of the Arcadia brands, Andrew explained that Boohoo’s intention is to now build up the order books for its suppliers in Leicester to make them more efficient. Manufacturing domestically also brings sustainability benefits. Additionally, Andrew touched on Boohoo’s agenda for tackling the dangers of sub-contracting, which includes ordering its suppliers to bring all processes in-house for full transparency and reserving the right to carry out unannounced audits of their operations.

Boohoo is not the only fast-fashion retailer being scrutinised for its sustainability contributions. How do fashion retailers make sure the treatment of workers is not compromised for speed and price? Missguided’s Paul Smith, head of sourcing and product technology, said auditing is not a one-stop solution; Missguided requires all UK manufacturers to take part in the Fast Forward audit programme. He also spoke about other sustainability initiatives including using social media platforms to increase the longevity of items by teaching customers how to style the same item in multiple ways and educating the design team on designing for circularity. Missguided promotes apps like Regain, which encourages customers to return worn garments that have reached the end of their lifespans in return for a voucher, saving garments from landfill. Many shoppers will be familiar with a similar reward scheme by H&M, which invites shoppers to recycle unwanted items in-store for a voucher. 

Head of sustainability at H&M Pascal Brun shared his belief that with the scale of the company’s business comes a responsibility to transform the fashion industry from a linear model into a circular model. Incidentally, H&M won Drapers’ award for Best Supply Chain Initiative. Last year, H&M launched a global initiative which enables competitors to use its supply chain network in a bid to ‘accelerate sustainable change’. 

Each year, Drapers Sustainable Fashion Awards recognise praiseworthy efforts to reduce the fashion industry’s environmental impact and those who are creating fairer working conditions across the supply chain. Mastfiz Uddin, managing director of Denim Expert Limited, picked up the award for Sustainable Fashion Champion for demonstrating best practice in promoting sustainability during the Covid-19 pandemic. He said, “I was vocal about the issue of buyer-supplier relationships and, in speaking out, I wanted to champion the cause of suppliers all over the world. Too often suppliers in garment supply chains do not have a voice because they fear that by speaking out, they will be treated unfavourably by brands.”

Below is a list of the other winners:


Winner: PrimaLoft, PrimaLoft® Bio™


Winner: Chambray & Co


Winner: Sheep Inc


Winner: FibreTrace

Highly commended: Pangaia


Winner: Allbirds

Highly commended: Sheep Inc


Winner: Joao Maraschin

Highly commended: Alexandra Șipa


Sponsored by: Isko

Winner: Superdry


Winner: Hirestreet

Highly commended: By Rotation


Sponsored by: Bleckmann

Winner: Raeburn

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