KUALA LUMPUR – May 18, 2020: These are not normal times when the month of Ramadan would see an explosion of fashion wear in shopping complexes for forthcoming Aidilfitri.
The month should be a boon for local fashion designers.
But these are troubled times. A Covid-19 pandemic. Unprecedented in the devastation of every known business and industry across the globe.
Expectedly, the fashion industry too has barely remained unscathed and is reeling from the impact just as much.
Renowned local fashion designer Rico Rinaldi, contacted by The Mole, was asked on how his business and operations were doing during these troubled times.
He admitted that like everyone else, his was signifcantly affected.
The shrinking “buying power” of his customers and a shocking decline in his in-store sales are among the challenges he has confronted since the partial lockdown or Movement Control Order (MCO) nationwide since March 18 following a global state of emergency due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Rico has taken the bull by the horns, as it were, to survive the turbulence and keep his business afloat.
He spoke of the importance of optimising his online presence and urged his fellow designers to do the same.
“The buying power (of my customers) has definitely gone down. Now I have been encouraging them to shop online,” said the 32-year-old designer.
He said without a doubt, his boutique’s performance has been deeply affected.
“For the past two months, we could hardly earn 500 ringgit a day since there were no patrons at all,” he added.
Despite having faced a declining in-store retail performance – Rico also said that his e-commerce channel has been the security blanket which has helped his business to stay financially afloat.
“My business is still doing well because I have an online platform for which I am very thankful.
“I feel sorry for some of my designer friends who do not have an online platform because they really have to depend on in-store sales,” he remarked.
Rico is hopeful that other designers focus on boosting their online presence and not being too dependent on their boutiques or walk-in customers in order to sustain.
“My advice to all designers out there is to make full use of e-commerce. Don’t fully rely on your “luxe” or “bespoke” collection.
“From now on, it’s important to prioritise your ready-to-wear attire as a way to keep your finances in check,” he said.
While this year’s Hari Raya is expected to be celebrated with muted excitement — Rico stated that he was surprised to know he’s still had customers shopping his collection for the festive season.
“During the beginning of MCO, I wasn’t sure if my Raya collection would be sellable… But after looking at the sales graph, I’m happy to see some purchases made, although the sales were not as decent as before.
“I feel so lucky that I managed to launch this collection before the crisis happened. I think that in the future, we have to be prepared for something like this. As a designer, we must plan our collections ahead,” he said.
On plans to sustain his business — Rico has considered selling his products at reduced prices and pulling the plug on his annual runway shows, which were previously held three times a year.
“Since more and more people have started becoming frugal, I have to reduce the price of my clothes and give them a good discount… I’ve also thought about hosting just one fashion show next year or no show at all,” he said.