According to Arisha Saroop, Managing Director of The MediaShop Durban, the Covid-19 crisis has left its mark on virtually every single industry around the world and on all levels from a social, health and economic perspective.

As some economies ground to a halt and others are still recovering from imposed lockdowns, brands, like individuals, are being forced to re-examine every aspect of their daily operations, find new ways to survive, adapt, offer purposeful existence and maintain relevance within our new reality.

Kantar’s Covid Barometer research shows that South Africans want brands to be purpose-led and practical, using their resources to help and inform during the global pandemic we find ourselves in. 

The majority of clothing and accessories stores were initially considered non-essential, and employment in this already struggling sector fell by 58.9% from February to April this year as per Business Insider research – it is no wonder then that this sector had to take the leap of adaptability during these unprecedented times.

With no social gatherings fighting for RSVP’s, couture wardrobe and designer accessories have taken space at the back of the cupboard. Given the increased need for personal protective items, international and local design houses have evolved their offerings to stay relevant, purposeful and to deliver a supportable service.

Internationally, Tommy Hilfiger has donated 10,000 T-shirts to Covid-19 front line healthcare workers – in an effort to provide a change of clothes for those between shifts or just to freshen up from their daily PPE wear. In addition to this, they have launched a special capsule collection, with 100% of sale proceeds going towards pandemic relief efforts.

Renowned French luxury conglomerate LVMH, known for their handbags and champers, swopped their leather and bubbles by converting three of their perfume manufacturing facilities, usually reserved for Christian Dior, Givenchy and Guerlain fragrances, into hand sanitiser production factories. These were given at no charge to the largest hospital system in Europe and to French authorities. Keeping staff employed and responding to public interest is what has kept this luxury brand purposeful and relevant.

It didn’t just stop at production though as one might have assumed. British brand Burberry has vouched to use its global supply chain network to deliver over 100,000 surgical masks to the NHS, and additionally, Burberry is also funding research into a single-dose vaccine developed by the University of Oxford.

Closer to home, Polo South Africa’s shirt factory in Atlantis Cape Town, recently pledged to provide 250,000 reusable and washable cotton face masks to essential service providers and at-risk commuters. Even though the masks are not medical grade, these indispensable items provide safety in reducing the virus spread. L’Oréal SA recently introduced a new range of hand sanitisers under its natural brand Garnier that will be donated to the South African Covid-19 Solidarity Fund to assist front line workers. Iconic couture designer Gavin Rajah under his NPO White Light Movement trains victims of gender-based violence to make fabric face masks. The profits from the sales of these items assist them and the families they support.

Each of these brands has shown purpose in their adaption, either by using their resources for alternate production or supporting a just cause towards the fight against the invisible pandemic – this has no doubt been for the greater good of the consumers and the brand.

This proactive reaction has kept the lights on for businesses in many aspects: by keeping their staff employed, supporting the local economy, producing essential items, staying relevant and most importantly, adding to their existence and purpose.

For consumers, such adaptions and purpose-driven production translates to brands that care. A renewed brand purpose is reassuring during times of crisis, as consumers may not be buying today. However when they do return to ‘business as usual’, they will remember and reward brands that offered meaningful sustainable support.

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