How Did the Middle Eastern Fashion Industry Cope With COVID-19?

Published September 24th, 2020 - 03:00 GMT
How Did the Middle Eastern Fashion Industry Cope With COVID-19?
Many factors have been playing into the severe impact felt by the fashion industry since the pandemic started. (Shutterstock: Victoria Chudinova)

Similar to many other industries, the fashion sector has received several blows in the months following the Coronavirus global outbreak, especially as it has been regarded by many people and decision-makers as a non-essential field, but has it been the same in the Middle East?

According to estimates made last June by the Boston Consulting Group, sales of the fashion industry worldwide are expected to drop by  30% this year, which translates into billions of dollars.

Many factors have been playing into the severe impact felt by the fashion industry since the pandemic started.

For one, the economic meltdown following the first global lockdown last March has resulted in massive layoffs and pay cuts, affecting people's purchasing power and limiting spending priorities to the absolute necessary products, especially as the health crisis continues to affect millions of people worldwide, threatening to influence incomes of those who have not yet been affected.

Even though many fashion designers have been trying to get creative with ways to limit the negative impact of COVID-19 on their businesses, such as moving to a digital setting and making use of e-commerce applications, the limited access to supplies in light of travel bans has drastically harmed their revenues.

Similarly, global fashion events have been trying to survive the worldwide impact of the virus, by carrying out the most famous fashion weeks digitally and without guests, in hopes of keeping the tradition alive despite the challenging times.

Moreover, closures and partial lockdown rules imposed on factories and workshops that produce non-essential items have deepened the losses of fashion producers. This has pushed many fashion houses and designers to pivot their focus from manufacturing everyday outfits into making protective gear and face masks much needed during the pandemic.

This practice doesn't only help in saving their businesses, but also protects jobs for millions of workers who otherwise would have had to lose their main source of income.

Additionally, many individuals around the world feel less and less interested in buying new clothes, which is an attitude influenced mainly by the global growing shift to working from home settings, not to mention that lack of social events that would usually encourage people to shop for new outfits.


Having some of the world's most renowned fashion designers, our region too has felt the shock caused by the pandemic.

The Lebanese designers Zuhair Murad and Elie Saab for example, are both working hard on maintaining their production plans despite the crisis. 

In addition to the acute crisis suffered by Lebanese fashion designers because of the coronavirus, the August Beruit Port explosion made things even worse for the industry in the country, as the blast hit some of the most vibrant neighborhoods in the city destroying many fashion houses almost completely.

Despite the double whammy felt by these globally-celebrated designers, many expressed their plans to support the city and the local community by calling people to donate to aid organizations.

Moreover, Zuhair Murad has launched an initiative calling on international celebrities to donate to the blast-stricken Lebanon by buying limited-edition T-shirts where 100% of the revenues go for the Beirut disaster relief.


Speaking to Vogue, the Emirati designer Latifa AlGurg, who has founded "Twisted Roots" highlighted one of the pandemic's positive long-term impacts on the fashion industry, saying that as people have been less inclined to purchase "fast fashion" pieces and more interested in high-quality sustainable fashion, decisions made by designers and fashion makers have somewhat shifted. 

Essa Walla, another Dubai-based designer had told Gulf News that his decision to shift the focus of his work to making face masks has actually rescued his business, saying that "If I hadn’t started making masks right now, my business would be struggling."

Even though this pandemic has hardly hit all business sectors, the flexibility shown by many people trying to make valuable contributions to efforts, trying to curb the effects of the virus on their lives and lives of their associates, is pretty impressive.

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