Fashion SOS: the New Zealand fashion industry is struggling. Who can help?

Written by Adam Bryce

The British Fashion Council (BFC) have opened their cheque book to ensure the future of British fashion is safe and sound.

Some 37 brands will receive £50,000 as well as access to business support and mentoring from BFC partners including Farfetch, Eco-Age, YouTube, Instagram and Google. The support is a direct result of the impact on these brands caused by Covid-19.

Some of your favourite boutique brands — Aries, Phoebe English, Halpern, Rejina Pyo and Toogood — are among those offering support and it’s expected that this will be just the first round of funding. And, excellent news, a choice few of Great Britain’s more established fashion labels have already contributed to a second round including contributions from Alexander McQueen, Browns and Coach. 

It’s estimated that up to £100 million will be required to keep young fashion businesses afloat over the next 12 to 18 months, but the BFC are well aware of this pressure and doing an outstanding job of working towards providing the support needed.

New Zealand fashion is currently in the same position as any other fashion industry around the world, however, we don’t have a fashion council so how will our industry be supported through this time.

Our government has stated that they’re continuously evaluating the economic situation and what support is needed. Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, has repeatedly confirmed that small- to medium-sized businesses are those at the most risk and that her government is working through numerous ways to assist in recovery. However, with an entire country of struggling businesses, there’s going to have to be an element of self-help from the industry, itself, if it wants to survive. 

In a similar vein to the recently established initiative #Together4NZFashion, which was founded to increase online sales and offer consumers the chance to support local fashion, there will need to be a pro-active group of brands and supporters coming together to create a fund. The pressing question is, where would the money come from to offer the kind of support that the BFC have created for Great Britain. Who’s responsible for the industry’s longevity? Who is in the financial position to help? And who has an ethical or moral obligation to show support?

With the likes of Zara and H&M reaching our market in recent years and a plethora of stores popping up, an added pressure has also affected the local market to compete on price, and unethical discounting and delivery schedules. Quasi fast fashion New Zealand stalwart, Hallenstein Glassons Holdings Ltd, are in a financial position to help but haven’t shown any wider support for the industry, thus far. And, at present, don’t interact with the local fashion industry and manufacture their garments offshore.

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise have, in the past, shown specific support to the industry, (see The New Zealand Four), with emerging brands that had the potential to succeed internationally. That time is certainly here again now. Australian department store David Jones have recently entered the New Zealand market and, from day one, have shown support for New Zealand brands by adding the best to their roster. Could they extend their support in some other way?

There are numerous possibilities when it comes to how a fund could be created with above just a few ideas. But, at this point, without a governing body as such, who would step up and make it happen? In a small industry such as ours, it seems that the most obvious method would be the local brands, themselves, coming together to create a body which looks after the longterm future of the industry, not just the Covid-19 economic recovery.

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