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Fashion Tees Up New Commitments at UN Climate Talks

This week, everyone will be talking about the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, new leadership at Capri Holdings and Chanel’s show in Dubai.
Activists will welcome world leaders to COP26 with a field of climate fire in George Square in Glasgow, Scotland. The group symbolically set George Square “on fire” with an art installation of faux flames, smoke, and banners, showcasing the climate emergency, and massive fire extinguishers highlighting actions world leaders should take at the upcoming COP26 climate negotiations.
Activists will welcome world leaders to COP26 with a field of climate fire in George Square in Glasgow, Scotland. Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images. (Jeff J Mitchell)

Climate Talks

  • World leaders are gathering in Glasgow, UK for COP26, a major UN climate conference
  • It’s a high-stakes meeting, with the UN warning governments’ climate goals are badly off track
  • Fashion is a major polluter and decisions made in Glasgow have implications for the whole industry

Over the next two weeks, the world’s top leaders will attempt to hammer out new agreements to tackle climate change. COP26 is widely seen as the most important climate summit since Paris six years ago, when world leaders agreed to a goal to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Things aren’t going well. Without drastic emissions cuts, the world is on track for climate catastrophe. Fashion companies and consortia will also be in attendance and will be emphasising the steps they’re taking to address the industry’s part in climate change, while also making a case for the policies and incentives they’d like to see going forward. Expect to see companies deepening their commitments to cut emissions, while advocacy groups are already pushing for more concrete regulation to make brands responsible for their impact further down the supply chain.

The Bottom Line: The fashion industry has long been accused of more talk than action when it comes to climate change. The next two weeks are likely to result in a flurry of more ambitious commitments for brands and plans for wider government intervention that could start to shift that landscape.

New Blood at Capri

  • Michael Kors and Versace owner Capri reports second-quarter results on Nov. 3
  • In August, Capri named former Coach CEO Joshua Schulman head of the Michael Kors brand; he will replace John Idol atop the whole company early next year
  • Capri is attempting to reposition Kors as more of a true luxury brand, after years of relying on discounting to draw customers

New faces are rare at Capri, the luxury conglomerate that owns Michael Kors, Versace and Jimmy Choo. It’s been nearly two decades since someone other than John Idol was at the helm of Michael Kors; Capri itself is an Idol invention. His successor, Joshua Schulman, was elevated to the top job at Coach during another executive shakeup at rival Tapestry, where he kicked off a turnaround that has brought new buzz to the brand. Schulman is joining a company already on its way back from the fashion wilderness. For much of the last decade, American accessible luxury brands like Michael Kors relied on discounts, outlets and other down-market tactics to draw customers in an increasingly crowded market, a move that hurt their image and made it harder to justify high prices. These brands now have the wind at their backs, as supply chain difficulties and soaring demand have made it possible to pull back on promotions and raise prices for the first time in years. Idol says they’ve been able to “reset the business,” and the prices on Kors’ website speak to that: the brand’s mid-priced handbags top out around $800 today, up from under $400 a year ago.

The Bottom Line: Schulman’s challenge is to complete the transformation of Kors, cementing its upscale branding so customers will continue to pay higher prices for bags and dresses even after the brand’s rivals return to discounting.

Cruising to Dubai

  • Chanel will hold its Cruise 2022 show in Dubai on Nov. 2
  • Luxury brands have redoubled their focus on Dubai and other Gulf markets in the Middle East more generally, as sales rebound from a steep drop in tourism during the pandemic
  • Luxury sales in the region are increasingly driven by locals, many of whom shopped mostly in Europe prior to the pandemic, and high-net-worth individuals who moved there during the last year and a half.

Luxury brands are hitting the road again. The pandemic put a temporary end to the practice of choosing a new global city to debut each collection or collaboration, and even spurred talk of doing away with the hectic schedule of product releases that necessitated so many far-flung events. But brands didn’t need long to return to their old habits, and nothing says “back to 2019″ like a Chanel cruise show in Dubai. The Emirates’ economy suffered last year amid a global halt in tourism and business travel. Now, luxury sales are rebounding, in part because locals unable to take shopping trips abroad are spending more at home. High vaccination levels and low infection rates have also drawn high-net-worth individuals looking to stay longer than the typical tourist visit. Tourism is creeping back up, and events like the recently opened Dubai Expo are expected to draw more international visitors.

The Bottom Line: Fashion shows can help ensure that wealthy locals continue to shop their local Chanel or Armani boutique even as they plan their first post-pandemic trip to Paris.

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

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