It has been a lie. Fashion — as a business — has been a beautiful, intoxicating, unsustainable lie. Not all of it, but much of it. It didn’t start that way, but that’s what it ultimately became. The economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic has made this truth plain.
“They always say this is an industry of smoke and mirrors,” says Gary Wassner, chief executive of Hilldun, a financial services company that caters to fashion businesses. “Now we’re left with nothing but dissipating smoke and broken mirrors.”
For years, designers spun whimsical garments that tantalized the imagination but mostly didn’t sell; it was their more pragmatic styles that made the cash registers sing. Brands burnished images redolent of old wealth and aspirational extravagance while their bottom line was little more than red ink and magical thinking. Success was a fabulist tale of prepaid celebrity endorsements and social media impressions. Even the vision of the industry as a place of open-minded tolerance was wishful thinking. Read more