When it comes to the world of fashion everything can be used as a foundation for building a new style. Coronavirus proved to be no exception as Louis Vuitton instantly created face masks and gloves designed specifically for COVID-19 which, overnight, became a new trend influencer. Considering the price of more than 200$ and a shortage of medical supplies the question that emerges is did Louis Vuitton and other large fashion houses with similar activities became a kind of war profiteers?
COVID-19 as a New World Fashion Foundation and Source For Profit
While the title above might seem exaggerated it is the indisputable fact that during the last couple of months, all across the world, wearing face-mask became a habit bordering with an obligation. Like every other, clothing fashion is built on people’s habits with the goal of providing styles capable of allowing individuals to both express and distinct their nature as well as to grant the creator the opportunity to earn money. Although the first association on the mere mention of Louis Vuitton’s name are heels, bags, suits, and other similarities as soon as the spreading of COVID-19 started, face-masks expanded the list of this brand’s offerings. Since covering faces and nose became a daily occurrence on a global scale creating an environment with an atmosphere that seems like a completely new world, comparing COVID-19 with a new world fashion foundation isn’t so far from the truth. The price of masks was around 220$ and a few thousand were sold in a matter of weeks. However, what seemed like an eligible business strategy to satisfy the new demand converted into charity. That wouldn’t seem so strange if offerings of luxury face masks remained. Big companies are known for their seemingly generous donations. However, there isn’t a single trace of luxury masks. Why is that? Before elaborating this question, and touch the points where the behavior of LV merges with the one suitable for war profiteers, let us take a brief look at the aid in the fight against COVID-19 the biggest fashion houses are providing.
Charity – Kindness Is An Everlasting Fashion
Despite their differences in observing the concept of beauty regarding clothing, many of the biggest fashion houses seem to agree on a single fashion – kindness. United by the wish to provide help to those in need, companies and their head members decided to donate millions of dollars to red crosses across the world as well as to invest, produce, and present face-masks to medical centers.
Lous Vuitton Donations
One of the most noticeable donators from this niche is Louis Vuitton. In January this company has donated 2.2$ million dollars to the Red Cross Society of China. In addition to this, it pledged to provide additional medical supplies. Another note on LV activity is that the company announced its factories intended for the production of perfumes are going to focus on creating large quantities of alcohol-based sanitizers which will be given for free to French health authorities. At the time of writing this article(4/15/2020), the list of committed charities doesn’t end there. 21 000 masks were donated to New York City that became a hotspot of the pandemic in the USA. On April 8, LV’s French workshops were repurposed to creative alternative non-surgical masks.
Capri Holdings Charities
Capri Holdings is the company that owes Versace, Jimmy Choo, and Michael Kors. Their founders announced the donation of a minimum of 3 million dollars that is to be shared amongst the USA, UK, and Italy.
Gucci and Kindness
Due to Italy’s depletion of medical supplies, Gucci decided to produce 1.1 million face-masks as an aid in the fight against COVID-19. This brand’s humanitarian activities will continue through the production of 55,000 medical gowns after they receive the grant from Italian medical authorities.
Profit – What Happened To Sales?
Lous Vuitton started sales of masks comparatively with the donations. It was not the only fashion house to approach the situation as a business opportunity. As it was previously stated, when the virus just came to Europe, masks costing around 200$ were sold in a matter of weeks. It was even possible to purchase them on amazon. However, the interesting thing is, when it comes to sales, during the last couple of weeks, not a single famous brand like Gucci, LV or Armani can be found on Amazon or Google to offer glamorous masks for sales. Even on you-tube, it’s hard to find videos mentioning details regarding those kinds of offerings. The natural question to ask is: “Why there is so little data regarding this topic?“, and: “What happened with the selling of luxury masks?”
Shame, Fear of Punishment or Incapability to Cope With Little Firms?
One answer to this question could be that leaders of those corporations considered the question of ethics and realized it is not so nice to use disease for luxury branding. Although it is possible, it is little likely that the conscious is what made them change their focus.
Breaking Law – War Profiteers
Another answer to this question is fear. Managements of those companies might felt like entering a jeopardized position in the attempt to expand their brand influence in the area of the medical products. Business regarding health is featured by both social and legal responsibilities as people’s lives are at stake. Could it be that the first series of masks didn’t meet health standards and that the question of legal responsibilities of both over-expensive and insufficient quality products being set into sales was omitted due to a swirl caused by the rapid spread of pandemic? First and foremost, when masks are produced, the most important feature that must be achieved is the capability of the product to fulfill its purpose.
What Degree of Protection Should Be Expected From a Face-mask?
The most important thing to understand is that face-masks can’t protect you from inhaling the virus. However, what three-ply surgical mask can do with the presence of its layers is:
- The first or the outer layer repels fluids like water, blood, etc…
- The second of the middle layer filters some pathogens.
- The third or the inner layer absorbs moisture and sweat from exhaled air.
- The presence of the mask can reduce hand-face contact.
The reason for the mask being incapable of preventing you from getting infected is that none of these layers have the ability to stop airborne particles which are dispersed by coughing or sneezing. This is due to the space present between the mask and nose. After gathering basic information, the basic question regarding luxury masks is: “Were Louis Vuitton models capable of fulfilling their purpose?” Yes is the most probable answer. It’s not rocket science to create multi-layer masks. But now comes the question of price. Did the rising of price to over 200$ dollars make war profiteers out of Louis Vuitton and other large fashion houses?
Is Louis Vuitton a War Profiteer?
Presidents of many countries proclaimed emergency states speaking of the hard times that lay ahead and mentioning the war against an invisible enemy called COVID-19. This is the fact no one can deny. Another indisputable circumstance is the shortage of face masks and gloves which are one of the essentials when it comes to people’s ability to maintain their health and slow down the speed of infection spreading. Since these items are not distributed for free amongst citizens, but sold, by the constitutes of all countries associated with the term “civilized”, the price must be fixed. It means that if a certain type of mask coasted 4$ dollars it can’t rise to 6$ or 8$. However, Louis Vuitton set a price of more than 200$. Yet, on the free market, it is their right to produce a new type of mask and price it as they see fit. But there is a catch. Due to all circumstances, when a shortage of face masks and gloves gets into a combination with 200$ price a problem that could be perceived as lawbreaking occurs.
Was the Law Broken?
Although it might seem that when it comes to law everything is exact, in practice, there are many holes of relativity that can go either way. Free market lets you produce what you want and price it as you see fit, but the war alike state together with the shortage of what is considered as essential prohibits you from overpricing items which presence enhances common welfare. What Louis Vuitton did was certainly a kind of degradation to non-privileged social classes. During the shortage of face-masks, there were many people with serious heart conditions and respiratory problems who couldn’t afford their 200$ “safety” which many of the richer individuals used as a fashion detail and Instagram photos. They will most probably go unpunished but it is certain that their act was highly unethical and inhumane. The question of law-breaking still remains. The brief answer is yes. In the time of the pandemic, producing face-masks that are of general importance and pricing them 200$ for features which are not related to their usefulness but look, and with a high-cost striping the ability to purchase protection from the less fortunate people is, or at least most certainly should be, against the law.
The True Face of Charity
Laws are not applied in the same manner when it comes to big and small members of the society. That is the fact old as the humans themselves. What probably happened is that the government of many countries saw the problem in spreading products like luxury masks fearing that such occurrences on the market could trigger a mass rage within the people. Fashion companies were informed of the situation and possible charges which is why they decided to push their actions aside with the string of charities leaving the unexploited market to others.
Designer Face Masks
The third solution for the question of: “What happened to glamorous masks?”, is competition. If you go to Amazon and search for face masks related to COVID-19 you will find more then a few results of unusual, colorful items waiting to be purchased. This phenomenon goes far beyond web stores and is present in almost every country in the world. People skilled in sewing, both individuals and little companies, are making their unique designs on face masks and offer them on sales. Of course, loyal fans with deep pockets would choose LV but when it comes to the rest of the population willing to combine health and fashion, equally interesting but cheaper products are going to prevail. Since large companies possess the capacities for mass production of face-masks, glows, and medicine gowns it is very likely they have decided to focus their activities on that branch allowing little players to prosper. However, since they are doing the same thing as big companies started, a question remains: “Are they war profiteers?”