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Fashion Could Really Use Some Red Carpet Magic Right Now

This week, everyone will be talking about the virtual Golden Globes, Paris Fashion Week and Kohl’s fight with activist investors.
The Golden Globes will be held virtually this year, depriving luxury brands of a key marketing opportunity.
The Golden Globes will be held virtually this year, depriving luxury brands of a key marketing opportunity. Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic/Getty. (Axelle/Bauer-Griffin)
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MISSING THE RED CARPET AT THE GODLEN GLOBES

  • The Golden Globes, traditionally the kickoff to a busy season of film industry awards and parties, will be held virtually on February 28.
  • Last year’s Globes and Oscars were among the last major red carpet events before the pandemic swept the US.
  • Brands rely less on red carpet dressing for exposure than they did before Instagram, but it’s still a crucial element of many luxury labels’ marketing strategies.

It’s hard to draw a direct line between the lack of red carpet events and sales at luxury brands. Much like runway shows, dressing stars for the red carpet isn’t as make-or-break as it was even a decade ago. But high octane events still hold cachet and it is undeniable that luxury brands are starved for big moments right now. They need the dwindling number of cultural touchpoints to present their best selves to consumers, whether it’s to telegraph a new creative direction or just to project the sort of glamour and sophistication that will convince someone to spend thousands of dollars on dresses, bags or viral clogs.

The industry may only now be realising what it’s missing: last year’s Golden Globes and Oscars were among the last high-profile events before lockdowns began in earnest in the West. Even though brands have many more marketing channels than they used to, it’s still often the case that consumers will respond better to an A-list actress navigating down the red carpet in couture than that same star, in the same dress, in a brand’s commercial or magazine ad.

The Bottom Line: One reason brands can’t simply wait for the lockdowns to lift and return to marketing as usual: by the time events are back on the calendar, their customers will have already begun shopping for their post-pandemic wardrobes.

THE SHOW (MOSTLY) GOES ON

  • Paris Fashion Week runs March 1 to 9.
  • Most major brands will be there, showing virtually, but Celine and several Kering labels are not on the calendar.
  • Gabriela Hearst’s first show for Chloé is among the highlights.

In the last few seasons, as fashion weeks in London, New York and even Milan splintered and shrank, Paris Fashion Week has more or less ploughed ahead as it always has.

A 6 pm curfew, the absence of several major brands and limits on indoor gatherings make that impossible this time. And yet, there are the usual storylines, including much-watched debuts and attempts to revive brands that have lost their way. Hearst offers a bit of both at Chloé; Richemont hired the designer after years of trying and failing to become a significant player outside hard luxury. Whether the aim is to build a fashion business to compete with LVMH and Kering, or merely to make Chloé more attractive to potential buyers, remains to be seen. Elsewhere, through a quirk of timing, and as a result of undisclosed “technical” reasons, Versace will also be releasing its digital show on March 5. The brand says it isn’t affiliated with Paris Fashion Week, though it seems like a distinction without a difference.

The Bottom Line: Presumably by September, the pandemic will be under control and it will be possible to hold physical shows again. Will the missing designers return?

BATTLE LINES DRAWN AT KOHL’S

It’s somewhat surprising that of all the struggling retail names, activist investors chose to meddle with Kohl’s. The chain has already made some radical moves to navigate the latest phase of the retail apocalypse and says it’s on the mend after a bumpy 2020. A partnership with Amazon, where customers can return online orders at Kohl’s, is ongoing. Soon, 200 locations will host Sephora shop-in-shops, addressing a key critique that there’s little to distinguish Kohl’s merchandise from its competitors’. The activists propose cutting executive pay, reducing inventory levels and selling real estate, presumably to boost Kohl’s margins and give it more time to come up with a new retail model (or at least, boost share prices in the short term). The trouble is, it’s not clear whether anything can get customers back into stores at pre-pandemic levels. In January, Kohl’s foot traffic was still down 17 percent from a year earlier, according to data analytics firm Placer.ai.

The Bottom Line: Unfortunately for Kohl’s, future growth is likely to come online, where Amazon and Sephora are competitors, not allies.

The Week Ahead wants to hear from you! Send tips, suggestions, complaints and compliments to brian.baskin@businessoffashion.com.

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