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How Fashion Brands Can Weather A Recession, From A Designer Whose Survived One

Alice McCall has a message of hope for the industry

Alice McCall’s eponymous label was just four years old when the world was rocked by the 2008 Global Financial Crisis.

Fashion retail took a major hit, but for many designers, including McCall, it was a chance to reset, focus and look for opportunities amongst the chaos.

Today the fashion industry faces an unprecedented financial and social challenge as COVID-19 continues to throw up new obstacles and disruptions to daily life. Uncertainty and major job losses have forced consumers to rein in spending, and the country-wide hospitality shutdown has left us with little to dress up for.

But it’s a challenge McCall believes Australian fashion can, and will, overcome.

alice mccall
Designer Alice McCall walks the runway at the alice McCALL fashion show during New York Week, 2018 (Credit: Getty)

“I feel the longer I have been in business, the more it becomes second nature to deal with a crisis,” McCall tells Marie Claire.
“(A recession) almost acts a reset button, that forces you to take measures and actions in your business to ensure optimum success and survival.

“At this time it is important to get the balance right of keeping in your integrity, but acting quickly on decision making in order to survive in business.”

The retail sector is one of the major industries which has buckled since Australia was locked down last month, leaving thousands out of work and bricks and mortar businesses with little to no revenue.

But McCall says unlike the 2008 GFC, fashion brands have a trump card; digital channels.

“Whether it be social media platforms, search engines, or virtual showrooms – the tools we have now versus 2008 have advanced technology significantly,” she says.

While physical stores have closed, brands can continue to leverage business opportunities as well as engage with customers; both fundamental aspects of every contemporary fashion business.

“In this time of social distancing our online, digital platform has become our life blood,” she adds.

Jewellery designer Jackie Damelian is among the brands which are currently experiencing their first economic downturns. The designer, who launched her online store Jackie Mack Designs 18 months ago, is hopeful digital business models will give brands an advantage during the crisis and beyond.

Jewellery designer Jackie Damelian of Jackie Mack Designs

“I believe that designer online stores that already have an online presence and an engaged customer base will be able to weather the storm and once we find our ‘new’ normal we will go back to business as usual, a little bruised but ready for the recovery,” she says.

McCall, whose brand has a growing presence in China, says with regards to the future of Australian fashion, she is philosophical but hopeful.

“The Chinese have two symbols for ‘Crisis’,” she explains. “One of them is a symbol for Fear and the other a symbol for Opportunity.

“I believe that what appears to be challenges lies the foundation for innovation, opportunity and success.”

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