The COVID-19 pandemic brought significant disruptions to the retail industry, including the unprecedented closure of “non-essential” businesses, a major economic slowdown and critical procedures to keep employees and customers safe. The crisis forced retailers to move quickly to meet the rapidly changing needs of consumers — many of whom spent more time shopping online to avoid going into stores.
Lafayette 148— the New York-based women’s fashion brand known for its outstanding craftsmanship and modern sensibility—was among those retailers that pivoted quickly. For example, when COVID-19 hit, Lafayette 148 knew it had to quickly ramp up some of the plans it had in the works to continue to support its business.
In March 2020, when health authorities officially declared that COVID-19 had become a global pandemic, Lafayette 148 took immediate steps to help their community. The fashion house’s designers and production studio in the Brooklyn Navy Yard worked together to design, manufacture and distribute thousands of medical gowns to needy hospitals in New York City.
With many of its customers stuck at home during lockdowns, Lafayette 148 shifted its focus to direct-to-consumer, servicing clients who craved a more curated shopping experience with private consultations from their homes. Remarkably, the fashion house also opened several new brick-and-mortar stores to be better positioned to serve customers as restrictions eased.
Both strategies enabled Lafayette 148 to avoid relying heavily on distributing its clothing through wholesalers and luxury retailers. Yet wholesale is still an important part of Lafayette 148’s business, and the pandemic helped refocus how the brand works with its wholesale partners. Their creative teams used 3D design technology to conceptualize their ideas while working remotely, making patterns from their desktops. Lafayette 148 also created a virtual showroom that enabled wholesale and retail partners the ability to view the collections while avoiding unnecessary travel.
“What COVID-19 did was accelerate the pace of change,” said Carol Schuster, business information and technology advisor at Lafayette 148. “While Lafayette 148 was already on the trajectory to build a direct-to-consumer brand, COVID pushed us to execute faster and meet those goals. It thrust us forward at a more rapid pace than we intended.”