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How is the fashion industry reacting to the invasion of Ukraine?

Camilla Rydzek
09 March 2022

As Russia continues its military invasion of Ukraine, global fashion industry players have pledged their support, donating to local charities and shutting down operations and cutting industry ties in Russia.

The British Fashion Council issued a statement on Thursday urging British brands and designers to support the global campaign condemning the actions of the Russian Government, following a week filled with announcements of support by major industry players, including John Lewis, M&S and Burberry.

"Seeing and hearing the devastation in Ukraine and that faced by its people is heart-breaking and it can be difficult to understand how to make a difference, but if we all act, the difference will be measurable and meaningful," the not-for-profit organisation said, encouraging brands to take action however they could.

With Russia takin the place of the fifth largest European retail market in 2021, valued at £337.2 billion, many brands have stopped short of condemning the invasion of Russia into Ukraine outright. Yet, a growing momentum over the last few days has seen a host of fashion players both big and small take action.

Support Initiatives

BESTSELLER, which owns Jack & Jones and Vero Moda among others, announced on 10 March that its parent company HEARTLAND had donated £11 million to the Red Cross, UNICEF and the UN Refugee Agency, with more donations to follow. The company said that it does not have any stores, staff or sourcing in either Russia or Ukraine but that it has stopped all sales in Russia which were handled by a few distributors through Finland and Poland.

John Lewis donated £100,000 to the British Red Cross Ukraine Crisis Appeal on 3 March, and said it was committed to matching customer's and employees' donations up to an additional £150,000. On Friday the retailer added that it was removing all products made in Russia from Waitrose and John Lewis stores. “This means that, from today, we will no longer sell two products – one Russian Vodka in Waitrose and one line of pizza oven pellets in John Lewis,” the retailer said. “We’re working with our suppliers to review products that have components of Russian origin and will be seeking to mitigate further exposure to the region.”

Kurt Geiger, on 28 February, donated £50,000 in support the British Red Cross's Ukrainian Crisis Appeal to help provides food, water, first aid, medicine, warm clothes and shelter to those affected by the crisis. US outdoor footwear brand Keen soon followed suit and pledged £41,630 to the Red Cross and Global Giving to provide immediate support to local organisations.

OTB Group released a statement on 2 March voicing its support of Ukraine and announced that it would continue its support of the UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and was donating to help refugees fleeing the country. Arianna Alessi, Vice President of OTV Foundation commented: “No war is justified because it primarily strikes unarmed civilians without any fault, and the first victims are always the same, women and children.”

Trading ceased in Russia and Ukraine

YNAP announced on 1 March that it had suspended shipments to Russia "until further notice," writing on its site that "due to the current situation, we are unable to complete any new orders in your country."

ASOS confirmed on 2 March that it had suspended trading in both Russia and Ukraine on Wednesday. In a statement the brand highlighted that it had stopped trading in Ukraine because it had become "impossible to serve customers there" and that it was "neither practical nor right to continue to trade in Russia", which is why it had ceased trading.

Boohoo suspended its online sales in Russia and closed its local website on 2 March, adding in a statement to the London Stock Exchange that sales in Russia made up less than 0.1% of its group revenues. A spokesperson told Reuters that Boohoo did not serve the Ukraine market.

H&M announced on 2 March that it was suspending sales in Russia and had temporary closed stores in Ukraine, for the safety of customers and colleagues. The company added that it was donating clothes and other necessities, whilst the H&M Foundation was donating to Save the Children and to UNHCR.

Ganni's Creative Director Ditte Reffstrup announced on 2 March that the Danish label was "aligning with international sanctions and freezing all trade with Russia." The brand has ceased deliveries to customers in Russia and cancelled all outstanding orders with wholesale partners in the country. It further pledged to donate £11,200 to the Danish Refugee Council, which is offering support locally in Ukraine.

Marks & Spencer halted shipments to its Russian business run by franchisees on 3 March. The retailer said it had stopped sending to stores, which are operated by Turkish franchise partners, “given the unfolding humanitarian crisis following the invasion of Ukraine”. M&S has more than 40 franchise-run stores in Russia, with the majority of these based in Moscow. The retailer also announced that it was building on its existing support for Unicef UK’s Ukraine appeal with a £1.5 million package to support the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and Unicef to help children and families in need.

Nike announced on 3 March that it would be temporarily closing all its stores in Russia and has shut down all operations in the country. The sportswear giant also announced that its foundation would be donating £750,000 to the United Nations Children’s Fund and the International Rescue Committee to support relief efforts.”

Richemont, which owns luxury jeweller Cartier, announced that it had closed its Russian stores and had suspended all business from 3 March.

Hermès was the first major luxury house to announce, on 4 March, that it was suspending all activities in Russia. The luxury brand has three locations in Moscow and announced they would "temporarily close”.

JD Sports announced on 4 March that it had ceased all trading in Russia across both its brand websites and wholesale channels. Sales in the country made up 0.5% of its annual revenues. It also confirmed that it had no staff of facilities currently operating in Russia.

Kering-owned brands including Gucci and Saint Laurent also announced later on Friday, 4 March that they were temporarily closing their stores in Russia on . Gucci further announced on Instagram that it had donated £380,000 to the UN Refugee Agency.

LVMH announced later on 4 March that it would close all its 124 stores in Russia, including those of its brands Louis Vuitton and Dior. The brand highlighted that it would, however, continue to pay its 3,500 local employees and that it was donating £825,000 to support the growing number of refugees leaving the country.

Chanel announced on 5 March that it was closing its 17 standalone stores in Russia, alongside its department store boutiques and had suspended its e-commerce operations. The luxury brand confirmed that it was going to continue paying its 371 employees in the country and that it would donate £1.65 million to refugee relief organisations operating on Ukraine’s borders.

Prada announced that it had suspended trading in Russia on 5 March, including closing its eight stores in Moscow. It had previously said that it would "continue to monitor this tragic situation and remain hopeful that a peaceful solution can be found" and that it was joining forces with The National Chamber for Italian Fashion and providing a donation to the UNHCR Italia, Agenzia ONU per i Rifugiati.

Puma announced on 6 March that it would suspend operations and close its 100 stores in Russia. A spokesperson for the German sportswear company said that less than 4% of revenues were derived from Russia and that it would continue to pay its local employees their full salary. On 3 March Puma had also announced that it was suspending its contract with the Russian Basketball Federation.

Burberry announced on 6 March that it had temporarily shut its stores in Russia. The British luxury label currently has four retail outlets in Russia that make up less than 1% of sales according to reports. It announced on 11 March that it was building on its initial donation to the British Red Cross Ukraine Crisis Appeal and providing additional funding to the organisation, while also also donating to Save the Children and UNICEF to support their Ukraine humanitarian appeals. It also announced that it was exploring how it could leverage its global supply chain to support displaced communities, including through the provision of food, shelter and warmth.

Harrods and Harvey Nichols also announced that they had stopped all deliveries into Russia on 7 March, while Selfridges has put a note on its website that said that it currently was unable to ship orders to Russia or Ukraine.

Zara’s parent company, the Spanish clothing giant Inditex announced on 7 March that it would “temporarily suspend” all of its activity in Russia, including closing its 502 stores. It said that the Russia accounts for 8.5% of its business. The company added that it is focusing on creating a support plan for its 9,000 local employees.

Next, the British high street cain was one of the latest brands on 8 March to announce its was closing down its Russian website indefinitely and that it had stopped shipments into the country. It also announced that it was closing down its Russian distribution centre. The retailers’ move will impact 160 local staff.

Crocs paused its e-commerce and retail operations in Russia, as well as ceasing to import goods into the country on 9 March. The company said that it was focused on supporting its staff in the country and would continue to pay them during the pause. Crocs also committed to supporting relief efforts, adding that it was "devastated by the tragic war in Ukraine" and that it stood "in solidarity with those impacted by and enduring this humanitarian crisis."

Mothercare has announced on 9 March the suspension to all business in Russia, including shipment of all products, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Mothercare added that its local partner in Russia will be pausing operations in about 120 stores and online, as the company joins the growing list of Western brands to put operations in Russia on hold. Russia represents around 20% to 25% of Mothercare's worldwide retail sales and was previously expected to contribute around £500,000 ($700,000) per month to group profit.

PVH, owner of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, has become one of the latest companies on 9 March to temporarily cease trading in Russia following the country's invasion of Ukraine. As of 7 March it also stopped all commercial activities in Belarus. Reuters reported that in 2021 the PVH group generated about 2% of its total net revenue in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.

Uniqlo owner Fast Retailing has reversed its previous stance on operations in Russia, citing "a number of difficulties" including operational challenges and the worsening of the conflict situation in Ukraine. All Uniqlo stores in Russia closed 10 March. Fast Retailing founder Tadashi Yanai previously defended the company's decision to keep trading in Russia, stating that he feels clothing is a "necessity of life."

Industry initiatives

Adidas announced that it had suspended its partnership with the Russian Football Union (RFU) on 1 March. The german sportswear brand signed a longterm relationship with the RFU in 2008, and had a large presence when the country hosted the World Cup in 2018.

Balenciaga’s AW22 fashion show on 6 March paid tribute to the ongoing war in Ukraine, with t-shirts in the colours of the Ukrainian flag left on guest’s seats, alongside a note which explained why Creative Director Demna had decided against cancelling the show. The note also featured a QR code enabling the 525 guests to donate. Demna, who himself became a refugee in 1993 when he fled his home country Georgia, also recited a poem in Ukrainian. Balenciaga has ceased trading in Russia for the moment, after being one of the brands to voice their support for Ukraine on social media. It has also donated to the United Nations Refugees Agency UNHCR.

Condé Nast, the international publishing house announced on 8 March that it will cease all of its publishing operations in Russia following a new propaganda bill. Condé Nast CEO Roger Lynch commented on the decision in a statement: "Recently, the Russian government passed new censorship laws that now make it impossible for us to do so. To that end, we have decided to suspend all of our publishing operations with Condé Nast Russia at this time.”

Hearst Magazine President Debi Chirichella announced on 10 March in a staff memo that the publishing house has ceased its Russian media partnerships with Shkulev Media and Fashion Press, effective immediately. Chirichella specified that Hearst would be turning over its equity in Shkuley Media to the company and that it was terminating the licensing agreements of its owned brands with Fashion Press. Shkuley Media published Elle Russia, while Fashion Press published Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan and Men’s Health in Russia.

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