Lifestyle

How the global luxury market is responding to coronavirus

From charity fundraisers to generous donations, global brands are launching major initiatives to help those in need

Significant disruptions to major events in the luxury calendar, store closures and market freefall have reinforced the setbacks the industry is facing due to coronavirus, or Covid-19. Over 3,083,445 cases have been confirmed worldwide, with 212,494 deaths and 935,137 confirmed recoveries.  

As the UK observes lockdown alongside many countries worldwide, a number of luxury brands have announced major donations and initiatives to help fight coronavirus.   

Swiss watch brands continue to support the fight against Covid-19. Hot on the heels of independent Urwerk’s charity auction lot, comes news that Breitling has made a special edition timepiece in aid of global healthcare charities.

On 14 May, via an online auction, Urwerk sold No.1 of its 25-piece UR-100 Gold watch inscribed ‘Fight C19’. The watch fetched CHF96,500 (approx. £81,200), which was donated to the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in the UK – a charity chosen by the winning bidder, which provides expertise to the NHS, Public Health England and the WHO.

Breitling’s rainbow-dial Superocean Heritage ’57, a huge success when it was launched online in April this year, was aptly chosen as the model for the brand’s latest charitable initiative launched today. The overwhelming response to the initial white-faced watch, has led to a second edition of 1,000 pieces being produced, this time with blue dials.

A proportion of the profit from each watch sold will be donated to healthcare charities in some of the areas of the world most heavily impacted by coronavirus. In total Breitling will give CHF500,000 (approx. £420,000), which will be shared between six organisations, including the UK’s ‘NHS Charities Together’.

Breitling UK has added to the initiative by agreeing to give a further £1,000 for each watch sold on its website and has also given official retailers the chance to do the same – so far, all those asked have agreed to donate.

Italian fashion duo Dolce & Gabbana has announced it’s strengthening its efforts to support Humanitas University in the fight against Covid-19. A new campaign for the brand’s iconic Devotion bag, which features a Sacred Heart, has been released, and a portion of its online sales proceeds will be donated to the university to help fund vaccine research.

“The whole world and all of our lives will never be the same again,” the duo wrote in a co-signed statement. “We truly hope that all of this will lead to a rebirth, and want to do our part so that all of us, especially future generations, can one day benefit from these fundamental scientific discoveries.” 

Although Dolce & Gabbana has already worked with Humanitas University on a scholarship project, this is their second installment of aid directly relating to the coronavirus. Back on February 17, the duo announced a sizable unspecified donation to Humanitas University, in support of a study aiming to understand the responses of the immune system to coronavirus. 

“We felt we had to do something to fight this devastating virus,” Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana said at the time. “Even a very small gesture can have enormous significance. Supporting scientific research is a moral duty for us, we hope our contribution will help to solve this dramatic problem.”

Roberto Cagliero, Director Fundraising of Humanitas said, “Dolce & Gabbana has been proactive since the very beginning in support of scientific research to fight against the coronavirus, even before it was a global emergency. We stand with scientists and researchers who are dedicated to studying the largely unexplored role of the immune system in fighting against this deadly virus.

“Thanks to their donation, a dedicated team lead by Professor Alberto Mantovani at Humanitas University, in collaboration with the virologists of Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele, is working on an expansive research project studying the responses of our natural defenses to coronavirus, in an effort to lay the basis for the development of diagnostic and therapeutic interventions. Together we are working towards a resolution to this global problem.”

On April 23, Luxury Italian jewellery house Bulgari announced it has ramped up its efforts to support the fight against Covid-19. The brand is donating over 160,000 units of medical-grade hand sanitising gel to the UK, which will be supplied to the NHS at the beginning of May in 75ml recycled plastic bottles. This mini format will allow medical staff to carry the protective gel in their pockets at all times.

A statement read, “frontline medical staff are facing unprecedented challenges, particularly as the UK is now one of the worst affected countries in Europe, and Bulgari is proud to support invaluable efforts to treat affected communities whilst also keeping them as safe as possible from infection. The UK has always been a major market for Bulgari and the company feels it is time to give back during this critical situation, in return for what the UK has given and contributed to Bulgari’s international fame.”

Of the donation, Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, said, “Tackling coronavirus is a global effort. I’m grateful to Bulgari, which has turned its capability to making vital protective hand gel. It is playing its part, helping people stay safe in these challenging times, and no doubt saving lives. I salute the brand’s generosity and the part it is playing in winning the battle against this virus.”

Bulgari had already boosted its support to its home country, Italy, on March 26, with the announcement that it would produce  hundreds of thousands of bottles of hand gel in collaboration with its fragrances partner, ICR (Industrie Cosmetiche Riunite, Lodi). These have been supplied to all medical facilities through the Protezione Civile (Italian Civil Protection Department).

Jean Christophe Babin, CEO of Bulgari CREDIT: Getty

Both of these efforts come in addition to an initiative announced over one month earlier – a major donation to the Research Department of the Lazzaro Spallanzani Hospital in Rome. On March 6, the CEO of Bulgari, Jean-Christophe Babin and Lelio Gavazza, Executive Vice President Sales and Retail, visited the Research Department of the Spallanzani Hospital where they met the virology team and delivered the 3D microscope, purchased through the donation, which they hope will lead to the prevention and treatment of the virus.

Babin said, “We are conscious that the donation is a first small drop in the ocean of research which has to be conducted but thanks to the wonderful people who are working on it day and night with incredible optimism we are sure that in the weeks to come we will make giant steps towards containing and then eradicating coronavirus, not only from Italy, but from the rest of the world.”

The closed Loewe store in Madrid CREDIT: Getty

On 20 April, luxury fashion brand Loewe announced that it is working to ensure a better future for children in socially vulnerable groups by donating €40 for every product of the Paula’s Ibiza collection sold between May and August 2020 in Loewe stores and on loewe.com. The brand has kicked this off with an initial donation of €500,000. 

The brand will be collaborating with Plataforma de Infancia – a Spanish alliance of social organizations that works to protect children and adolescents’ rights – to launch a series of educational programs this summer in Spain which aims to reduce inequality and school dropouts. “Joy, in these troubled times, means to maintain a positive outlook on things. Children are joy and deserve joy,” read the statement. 

Loewe is also donating 100.000 surgical masks to the Spanish Red Cross and producing non-surgical masks in its Getafe factory. The masks are to be distributed to volunteer workers, Loewe employees and their families.

Earlier this month, luxury handbag brand Demellier pivoted production in its Spanish factory to produce face masks and protective screens to donate for local hospitals. 

French luxury brand Hermès has promised to maintain the basic salaries of all its staff CREDIT: Reuters

Hermès Group has promised to maintain the full basic salary of its 15,500 employees worldwide without having to resort to any additional government support provided by various countries, notably in France. 

The French luxury brand will donate €20m to public hospitals in Paris, as well as donating over 30 tonnes of hand sanitiser produced by its fragrance manufacturing site in Vaudreuil and more than 31,000 masks.

On April 16, Ralph Lauren ramped up its support with a UK donation and fundraising initiative in support of The Royal Marsden Hospital and other programs in support of NHS frontline workers. This donation to the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity that will enable The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust to purchase a specialist machine to test for Covid-19.

Ralph Lauren has extended support to the US adn the UK CREDIT: Getty

Professor Mitch Dowsett, Head of the Ralph Lauren Centre for Breast Cancer Research at The Royal Marsden Hospital, said, “thanks to The Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation and The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, we can bring Covid-19 testing in-house, increasing the volume of NHS staff and cancer patients across London, that can be tested and significantly speeding up the turnaround of results.”

The brand had already responded on its American home turf on March 26, allocating $10m to provide financial grants through the Emergency Assistance Foundation. This will be divided up between Ralph Lauren colleagues facing special circumstances, a contribution to the World Health Organization Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund and go towards the brand’s Pink Pony cancer charity, supporting those who are vulnerable at this time.

The house will also give an inaugural donation to the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) / Vogue Fashion Fund for Covid-19 relief to support the American fashion community impacted by the pandemic.

The American brand is also producing 250,000 masks and 25,000 isolation gowns with its U.S. manufacturing partners.

The Tod’s store in Hong Kong CREDIT: Getty

On April 6, Tod’s announced that The Della Valle Family has allocated €5 million to support the family members of health personnel who have lost their lives in the fight against Covid-19. “Their selflessness and courage will forever be an example to all of us,” read a statement. 

Brooks Brothers announced last week that it was to commence manufacturing up to 150,000 surgical masks per day at its U.S. factories. America’s oldest retailer, which usually crafts ties, shirts and suits, is switching brief to masks and gowns to help increase access to protective gear for health care workers and others battling the spread of Covid-19 at American hospitals and medical facilities.

“We consider this a duty, and part of our DNA at Brooks Brothers,” said Claudio Del Vecchio, Chief Executive Officer. “These are challenging times that are impacting us all. We are deeply grateful to the medical personnel at the frontlines who are fighting the pandemic, and we are honored to do our part and join our peers in retail to provide protective masks that our healthcare system critically needs.”

Louis Vuitton left a positive message on its boarded store front in Soho, New York CREDIT: Getty

LVMH has updated its already staggering pledge of support with the news that Louis Vuitton has started producing gowns in its ready-to-wear atelier located on rue du Pont Neuf in Paris. These gowns will be provided to frontline workers in six Parisian hospitals of the “Assistance Publique – Hôpitaux de Paris”, also known as AP-HP, which is taking care of patients suffering from Covid-19.

Last month, LVMH, which owns brands such as Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton, and beauty labels such as Guerlain, Acqua di Parma and Fenty Beauty by Rihanna, was one of the first to make a move to help the fight against coronavirus. It announced that it was going to use its French perfume factories to produce mass quantities of hand sanitiser gel from Monday 16 March.  

The statement read, “Given the risk of a shortage of hydroalcoholic gel in France, Bernard Arnault has instructed the LVMH Perfumes & Cosmetics business to prepare its production sites to manufacture substantial quantities of hydroalcoholic gel to be provided to public authorities.”

It went on, “LVMH will use the production lines of its perfume and cosmetic brands to produce large quantities of the gel from Monday. It will be delivered free of charge to the health authorities and as a priority from this Monday to the Assistance Publique-Hôpitaux de Paris. LVMH will continue to honour this commitment for as long as necessary, in connection with the French health authorities.”

The Canali Group has donated €200,000 to the San Gerardo Hospital in Monza through the brand’s nonprofit foundation Fondazione Canali Onlus, to help the fight against coronavirus in Italy. Founded by the Canali family in 2013, the foundation takes in the family’s own human and social values. 

Michael Kors at the finale of his spring/summer 2020 show last year CREDIT: Getty

The Michael Kors brand is donating $1 million to support local relief efforts in New York City. In addition, founder Michael Kors and John Idol will make personal contributions of an additional $1 million towards these efforts.

Of this $2 million packet, two of New York City’s largest hospital systems, NYU Langone Health and New York-Presbyterian Hospital, will each receive $750,000 to support emergency patient care, financial relief to frontline medical staff, and related clinical and diagnostic research.

God’s Love We Deliver will receive $250,000 to fund meals to be delivered to the city’s most vulnerable individuals living with serious illness across all five boroughs. The Vogue Fashion Fund for Covid-19 Relief will receive $250,000 to provide financial relief for small businesses in the fashion community affected by the pandemic.

In Milan, Versace is donating a total of $500,000 to support local efforts in response to the pandemic; this is in addition to the ¥1 million that Versace donated in February to support the Chinese Red Cross Foundation. These additional funds will support the San Raffaele Hospital and Camera Nazionale Della Moda Italiana’s initiative to donate ventilators and medical equipment to the country’s hospitals. 

Donatella and Allegra Versace attending the Met Gala in 2019 CREDIT: Getty

This is the second donation from the brand. Friday March 13, Italian fashion house Versace announced that Donatella Versace and her daughter Allegra personally donated €200,000 to the intensive care department of San Raffaele hospital in Milan to support the fight against coronavirus. 

A statement from Versace herself read, “In times like this, it is important to be united and support those who are on the front lines, fighting every day to save hundreds of lives. This is why Allegra and I have decided to make a personal donation of €200,000 to the intensive care department of San Raffaele hospital. This is when we, as a society, need to stand together and care for one another.”

In London, Jimmy Choo will donate $500,000 to support relief efforts both in the brand’s home country of the United Kingdom and globally.The National Health Service Covid-19 Urgent Appeal by NHS Charities Together will receive $250,000 to support hospital staff, volunteers and others on the front line caring for Covid-19 patients.

The World Health Organization’s Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund will receive $250,000, enabling countries to prepare for and respond to the crisis, and supporting medical professionals and patients worldwide by providing critical aid and supplies.

From April 1, Acqua di Parma is donating 100% of its revenues from the online sales of all home products, such as candles and diffusers, and personal care items, such as shaving creams, to help the situation in Italy. This is part of the brand’s new #StayHome campaign, encouraging buyers to spruce up their living spaces with fragrant products and raise money to fight the coronavirus at the same time.

“In these difficult times of suffering and strife that grip Italy so severely, it is natural and right to make a strong gesture of solidarity. With the #StayHome campaign, we can do our part and demonstrate the love that the Maison has for our mother country,” said Laura Burdese, President and CEO of Acqua di Parma. 

On March 28, Burberry announced the dedication of its resources to support those impacted by the disease and prevent further infection. By leveraging its global supply chain, the brand will support world-leading research and provide funding to increase food supplies, help to meet the most immediate medical and community needs, and support the development of a longer-term solution to the global pandemic.

The brand will utilise its global supply chain network to fast-track the delivery of over 100,000 surgical masks to the NHS, for use by medical staff, and retool its trench coat factory in Castleford, Yorkshire, to make non-surgical gowns and masks for patients. It will also fund research into a single-dose vaccine developed by the University of Oxford that is on course to begin human trials next month and donate to charities including FareShare and The Felix Project, dedicated to tackling food poverty across the UK.

Marco Gobbetti of Burberry CREDIT: Getty

“In challenging times, we must pull together,” said Marco Gobbetti, CEO, Burberry. “The whole team is very proud to be able to support those who are working tirelessly to combat Covid-19. The pandemic has fundamentally changed our everyday lives, but we hope that the support we provide will go some way towards saving more lives, bringing the virus under control and helping our world recover from this devastating pandemic. Together, we will get through this.”

On March 27 the Zegna Group pledged to donate €3 million to the Civil Protection in Italy, to support the nurses, doctors, scientists and volunteers across Italy who have been working tirelessly to fight the epidemic. The Group will also convert part of its production facilities in Italy and Switzerland to the manufacturing of medical masks, that will provide critical supplies to both Zegna’s employees and to the wider needs in Italy and Switzerland. ​It has also made a direct financial contribution to provide several hospitals with ventilators and medical masks.

Hugo Boss announced on March 26 that it will dedicate the clothing production site at its global headquarters in Metzingen to the manufacture of face masks, which will be donated to public facilities. In the coming weeks, it will manufacture 180,000 masks. They will be crafted in a cotton-blend material that can be washed and reused at least 50 times. These masks are not for clinical use. However, they can be used in other settings, such as in nursing homes, fire departments, and by police.

Valentino Garavani and Giancarlo Giammetti in Paris last year CREDIT: Getty

Valentino Garavani and Giancarlo Giammetti also announced that, through their Valentino Garavani and Giancarlo Giammetti Foundation, they are donating €1 million to support the fight against the Coronavirus. The donation will benefit the new Columbus Covid 2 Hospital, a new area fully dedicated to the Covid-19 cases at Rome’s Agostino Gemelli University Policlinic. The Columbus Covid 2 Hospital was officially inaugurated on March 21. 

“In such a dramatic moment for the whole world,” said Valentino Garavani and Giancarlo Giammetti. “We wanted to give our contribution to win this crucial battle against this invisible, but terrible enemy. Our deepest gratitude goes to those women and men who are fighting night and day to save human lives in our hospitals. We will never be thankful enough for the love and dedication they are demonstrating in such a dramatic moment.” 

Designer Giorgio Armani puts on a face mask as he arrives at the venue of his autumn/winter 2020 collection  CREDIT: Reuters

On the same day, Giorgio Armani announced increased support in the fight against Covid-19. All of its Italian production plants have now switched to manufacturing single use medical overalls, to be used for the individual protection of healthcare workers engaged in the fight against coronavirus. Armani had already made a donation of €2 million to four Italian hospitals and the national Civil Protection Agency. 

Canada Goose announced on March 25 that the company will leverage its manufacturing facilities to begin production of medical gear for frontline healthcare workers and patients across Canada. The company will begin making scrubs and patient gowns, which are in short supply across the country, and will begin distributing them to hospitals on the week beginning March 30.

“Across Canada, there are people risking their lives every day on the frontlines of Covid-19 in healthcare facilities, and they need help. Now is the time to put our manufacturing resources and capabilities to work for the greater good,” said Dani Reiss, President and CEO. “Our employees are ready, willing and able to help, and that’s what we’re doing. It’s the Canadian thing to do.”

Moncler autumn/winter 2019 CREDIT: AP

Earlier in March, Luxury fashion brand Moncler announced a huge contribution of €10 million to go towards the construction of a hospital with 400 intensive care units in Milan.  The new site will be dedicated to patients testing positive for Covid-19 and is being constructed in the former fairgrounds of the Italian city.  

“Milan is a city that has given us all an extraordinary time,” said CEO Remo Ruffini. “We cannot and must not abandon it. It is everyone’s duty to give back to the city that has given us so much.” 

Prada announced its donation of two entire intensive care units to each of Milan’s three biggest hospitals: San Raffaele, Sacco and Vittore Buzzi. Luxury shoe brand Sergio Rossi pledged to give 100% of proceeds from online sales to ASST Fate Bene Fratelli Sacco hospital in Milan. Alongside hoping to inspire shoppers to part with their money for a vital cause, the company also made a donation of €100,000.

On the same day, Giuseppe Santoni, CEO and namesake of the luxury shoe brand Santoni, launched a fundraiser to assist hospitals in the Marche region, kicking it off with a personal donation of €50,000. Marche is one of Italy’s high-end shoemaking hubs and has been harshly affected by coronavirus. 

Santoni said, “Marche is the region I belong to, the region where my family, my company, my people are groundedIt’s a beautiful territory that is suffering and that has to prepare to face the even more difficult emergencies that are expected in the next few days. Now I want to give to this region that has always given so much to me.” 

Earlier that week, Italian influencer and businesswoman Chiara Ferragni crowdsourced €3.8 million for Milan’s San Raffaele hospital. Currently on lockdown with her husband, Italian rapper Fedez, and their son in the family’s Milanese home, Ferragni has been extremely vocal online over the past few weeks about the devastating effect of coronavirus in Italy. 

In one of her diary-style posts she wrote, “every day at 6pm, you’ll find us at the window singing Inno d’Italia. It has probably become my favourite time of the day: a moment that brings us Italians together and makes us feel like one great community. I’ll try to give back all the love that I have in me to this world in this moment of need.” 

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