The war in Ukraine forces luxury brands to take a stand
During the pandemic, the world seemed to be turning towards solidarity. The start of the war in Ukraine and the chain reactions in the worlds of luxury and fashion confirmed it: the times are no longer about postponing things, but about radical choices.
By Aymeric Mantoux23 mars 2022
On March 3rd, on the Instagram account of Isabel Marant wearing a blue and yellow sweatshirt, the now famous colors of the Ukrainian flag, one could read: “Today, we launch our 2022 Fall-Winter collection, one of the most important communication moments of the year. We wanted to convey a message of support and solidarity towards the Ukrainian people.” Of course, the brand used the opportunity to announce that the Isabel Marant fund donated money to UNHCR, the UN’s High Commission for Refugees, in order to contribute to emergency humanitarian help. L’Oréal, Kering, and LVMH, also announced significant donations of millions of euros in favor of Ukraine, while stopping their entire operations in the country. Not easy for luxury or fashion media onsite to continue their work, such as “Elle” for instance, which has offices in Kiev or Moscow. “Our journalists onsite continue to work, in indescribable conditions, says Constance Benqué, chairwoman of Lagardère News. And it is complicated to produce a magazine which no longer has advertisers.”
Social media are asking for commitment
It is difficult to feel good, to concentrate on shows and clothes, while it is with a heavy heart that we listen to the latest news
Olivier Rousteing, creative director of the Haute couture house Balmain
Fashion brands and designers have taken a stand in an unprecedented way against the Russian invasion in Ukraine: business closures have happened, such as with Hermès or Chanel who have ceased all commercial relations with Putin’s Russia, or unprecedented mobilizations from designers such as Olivier Rousteing, creative director of the Haute couture house Balmain, who declared during the Fashion Week in Paris on the second day of the Russian invasion: “While we are showing our collection, we are well aware of more important things that are transpiring in the world today. It is difficult to feel good, to concentrate on shows and clothes, while it is with a heavy heart that we listen to the latest news.” The designer also called upon his followers on social media to mobilize and make donations. The brand had also erased all images on its Instagram feed to showcase the Ukrainian flag instead.
Brands cannot stay away. Their community, increasingly young and committed on social media, is demanding for a commitment and a reaction on their end
Parisian luxury leader who has requested to remain anonymous
Opportunistic or spontaneous? Difficult to say. Without a doubt it is a bit of both. But the reach is unique. Balenciaga even created shirts with the Ukrainian flag which were given to influencers, bloggers, and models before the Parisian fashion show. At Balenciaga, like other fashion and luxury brands, this mobilization can also be explained by the strong presence of Ukrainian communities, Georgian and other former soviet republics among models, talents, designers, as well as Polish, Romanian or Hungarian, particularly sensitive to the Russian question. “Brands cannot stay away. Their community, increasingly young and committed on social media, is demanding for a commitment and a reaction on their end”, explains a Parisian luxury leader who has requested to remain anonymous. “It is complicated to position oneself against consumer injunctions and shareholder demands”, says the general manager of a French fashion brand who chose to make physical donations to Ukrainian refugees, but remaining discreet. In Milan, during the fashion week’s show, Armani preferred to present models with no music, in silence, “as a sign of respect towards people involved in the tragedy happening in Ukraine”. As a sign of respect, would it not have been better to cancel everything altogether? Some hesitated. No one went through with it.
Opportunistic or spontaneous?
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