Weekly Link Roundup: August 7, 2020

♥ Listening now: Nice White Parents; it’s a five-part series (the third episode aired this week)–about how class and race privilege contributed to the disparities in academic outcomes between predominantly white and predominantly BIPOC schools–made by Serial Productions (which was acquired earlier this year by the New York Times).

(Best piece in this week’s roundup. I highly recommend reading it in full.) Sweatpants Forever: How the Fashion Industry Collapsed (The New York Times): “… the fashion industry was a giant bubble heading toward collapse. Now the pandemic was just speeding up the inevitable … An incredible surplus of clothing was presently sitting in warehouses and in stores, some of which might never reopen … In April, clothing sales fell 79 percent in the United States, the largest dive on record. Purchases of sweatpants, though, were up 80 percent … The pandemic has also forced a correction of the calendar. With factories shut down and deliveries delayed, many of this year’s fall collections will, for the first time in a long while, actually arrive in season. Some in the industry have even talked about pushing the unseen and unsold 2020 collections to 2021 to avoid losses … The fascinating part is that in order to do that — to give that aged inventory value again — requires literally killing fashion, that nebulous deity that says something is ‘in’ this year and not the next … Fashion is, by definition, unpredictable. People buy clothes for illogical, emotional reasons. The challenge … was to build a brand that could be immune to trends and novelty and whatever dystopian disaster was coming next.”

How ‘Buy Now Pay Later’ Became Fashion’s Go-To During the Pandemic (The Business of Fashion): “Even before Covid-19, a growing number of retailers were introducing ‘buy now, pay later’ plans, from fast fashion to luxury. But demand has exploded during the lockdowns when consumers turned to online shopping in record numbers. Brands … hope instalment plans will bring in new customers and increase average order values … Most of these lenders were founded after the 2009 recession, and have yet to be tested by a weak economy, which will likely trigger a higher rate of missed payments and add to criticism that instalment plans encourage consumers to spend beyond their means. And though it’s the lenders, not the retailers, that take on the financial risk, consumers may blame brands anyway when interest and late fees start piling up. Customers typically pay no interest on short-term loans, though annual percentage rates can top 20 percent depending on the borrower … Personal loans in the US have doubled since 2014, topping $161 billion last year … Instalment plans aren’t cheap for retailers, which typically pay 4 to 6 percent of each transaction, compared with 1 to 3 percent for Visa or Mastercard.”

Can’t Afford a Birkin Bag or a Racehorse? You Can Invest in One (The New York Times): “The market for investing in fractions of items otherwise seen as collectibles … has seen an uptick in interest during the pandemic as people spend more time at home. Rally Rd. began by selling shares in exotic cars several years ago but has expanded to art, books, wine and whiskey, memorabilia and Birkin bags … existing investors on the platform had doubled the number of items they owned shares in. Initial offerings have sold out five times faster than before the pandemic, as new investors on the platform began buying up shares more quickly … Trading through Rally Rd. and MyRacehorse are done through apps, which makes buying and selling easier and creates a community. But the apps turn investing into games … That can distort the financial consequences of ill-considered investments. Compounding the risk, an asset typically bought for personal enjoyment or bragging rights cannot be analyzed the same way that a private equity investment would be … buying these assets in slices can mean a person is paying more than she or he might if the person could buy the whole asset, and that could dampen returns or make it hard to resell the asset.”

When the CEO Is in the Office—and Everyone Else Is Working From Home (The Wall Street Journal): “The founder and chief executive of women’s apparel company Natori Co. returned to her office on Madison Avenue in New York City in early June. Few others have returned … Late in July, Natori consolidated to one floor of the office building from two, to save money during the pandemic. In recent weeks, only a handful of people have been coming in on any given day.”

Dress Shoe Sales May Never Recover to Pre-Covid Levels in U.S. (Bloomberg): “U.S. sales of dress shoes such as formal oxfords and high heels fell 71% in the second quarter, compared to the year prior … The segment performed much worse than the overall U.S. footwear market, which was down 26% in that period, aided by strong sales of casual summer styles like slippers and slides … Sales were falling off even before the pandemic, dropping 12% in 2019 as workplaces became more casual.”

Men’s Wearhouse Owner Files for Bankruptcy (The New York Times): “The owner of Men’s Wearhouse and JoS. A. Bank … filed for bankruptcy protection … Tailored Brands … had about 1,400 stores and 18,000 employees. It … announced plans … to eliminate 20 percent of its corporate jobs and close up to 500 stores … in the three months that ended on May 2, net sales fell 60.4 percent from a year earlier … In 2014, Men’s Wearhouse acquired the men’s wear company JoS. A. Bank, forming the parent organization Tailored Brands. The merger was meant to unite the two retail companies and capture a bigger share of the market of budget-conscious suit buyers and renters. Instead of increasing sales, the merger mired Tailored Brands in debt. On May 2, the company had long-term debt of $1.4 billion and $244.2 million of cash and cash equivalents.”

Fashion’s Back-to-School Blues (The Business of Fashion): “Parents are expected to spend hundreds of dollars on laptops, tablets and other remote-learning gear … Clothing, however, is one of the few categories projected to decline, with the average household spending $234 compared with $240 in 2019 … The bank also predicts parents will consolidate shopping to make as few trips to stores as possible, which could mean buying more clothes at Walmart, rather than the mall.”

TikTok Ban? Creators and Fans Are Big Mad (The New York Times): “TikTok is known mostly for dance videos and comedic skits, but that silliness can obscure two facts: TikTok has become a powerhouse in the entertainment industry and the primary platform that music executives and talent agents use to scout the next big act. And, at the same time, especially as the election nears, the app has become an information and organizing hub for Gen Z activists and politically-minded young people.”

The Strain the Covid Pandemic Is Putting on Marriages (The Wall Street Journal): “Susan Myres, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, which represents 1,600 members nationwide … expects new divorce filings to increase somewhere between 10% and 25% in the second half of this year. For much of the lockdown, most state courts weren’t processing divorce filings or struggled to manage case flow, so it isn’t currently possible to assemble meaningful nationwide statistics … But anecdotally … member attorneys have received more queries than normal since March.”

Incognito Mode May Not Work the Way You Think It Does (WIRED): “Incognito mode doesn’t hide your browsing from your internet service provider or your employer, and it doesn’t wipe out files you’ve downloaded. In other words, you need to think of it as a way of hiding your online activities from the particular browser on the particular device you’re using, and from the other people using that device. When it comes to everything else, there are no guarantees.”

3 Bon Appétit Journalists of Color Leave the Magazine’s Video Series (The New York Times): “Sohla El-Waylly, Priya Krishna and Rick Martinez, announced their decisions … on their Instagram accounts … The three indicated that they have not left the magazine, whose masthead lists Ms. El-Waylly as an assistant food editor, Ms. Krishna as a contributing writer and Mr. Martinez as a contributing food editor … Bon Appétit has been a significant part of [Conde Nest’s] online video operation. Its test-kitchen videos have minted internet stars and attracted more than six million subscribers. The magazine has not posted a new test-kitchen video since June 5.”

The Next Beauty Destination? The Grocery Aisle (The Business of Fashion): “… beauty brands are looking for new distribution channels in case the lockdowns return … Target and large drugstore chains were already in the process of upgrading their beauty aisles before the pandemic hit. But beauty insiders are speculating that grocery stores, long an also-ran in the category, may be the next hot sales channel … supermarkets are among a handful of essential retailers poised to take advantage of the ‘one stop shop’ mentality consumers have adopted … Consumers may have adopted a high-low mentality but it will take more time convincing the prestige labels to start selling somewhere where the beauty category is thought of as somewhere to get vitamins and holistic health remedies.”

Is the Subway Risky? It May Be Safer Than You Think (The New York Times): “In countries where the pandemic has ebbed, ridership has rebounded in far greater numbers than in New York City — yet there have been no notable superspreader events linked to mass transit … subways, commuter railways and buses may not be a significant source of transmission, as long as riders wear masks and train cars or buses never become as intensely crowded as they did in pre-pandemic rush hours … When the city shut down in March, over 90 percent of the subway’s 5.5 million weekday riders abandoned the system … now … ridership is still just 20 percent of pre-pandemic levels, adding to the financial strain of New York’s transit agency, which relies on fare revenue for 40 percent of its operating budget … public health experts warn that the evidence so far should be considered with caution. Ridership in other major cities is still well below pre-pandemic levels, tracing clusters directly to public transit is difficult, the quality of ventilation systems used to filter air varies, and the level of threat depends to a high degree on how well a city has reduced its overall infection rate.”

The Bizarre Fall of the CEO of Coach and Kate Spade’s Parent Company (ProPublica): “Working under an alias, he took photos, many sexual, at least some involving nudity, of women in a studio just feet from where his wife and children lived. He had what he now acknowledges was an ‘inappropriate relationship’ with one of the women he photographed. That life had surfaced in 2009, hindering a chance for him to enter government service, only to be publicly left behind — until today … In the end, Zeitlin’s downfall occurred before a word was published. He had some common language in his employment contract in which he stipulated that he had never been the subject of any allegation of ‘harassment, discrimination, retaliation, or sexual or other misconduct’ and agreed that ‘any act or omission’ on his part that could have a ‘material adverse effect’ on Tapestry and ‘its reputation’ would be considered ’cause’ for his termination. Only days after Tapestry’s lawyers began asking questions, Zeitlin stepped down.”

Why Won’t Some People Wear Face Masks? (The Wall Street Journal): “Some people cite personal freedom. Others falsely claim the coronavirus pandemic is a hoax. Some say they are uncomfortable wearing masks for a variety of personal reasons, while others’ distrust of government and science has been exacerbated … varying recommendations from elected officials and health authorities in the early days of the pandemic helped sow confusion … In these uncertain times, individuals are also more likely to seek information from social consensus rather than scientific data. And a lack of personal experience with the disease is a factor.”

Everlane’s Promise of ‘Radical Transparency’ Unravels (The New York Times): “Investigators found that insensitive terms were used while discussing Black models; that leaders violated employees’ personal space by touching them, and used inappropriate terms when referring to people of color; that new hires felt isolated and unwelcome; that there was lack of consistent policies around promotions; that there were no formal processes to effectively escalate harassment or discrimination … despite regularly auditing suppliers and using some eco-friendly materials, last year Everlane received a ‘not good enough’ overall rating from the brand ratings platform Good on You. Everlane was marked down for failing to track greenhouse gases across its entire line, and for an absence of initiatives to guarantee living wages or reduce water use.”

♥ Recently purchased: Blondo Flora Waterproof Bootie, Aesop B Triple C Facial Balancing Gel, Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate Serum Set, Miessial Cable Knit Turtleneck Sweater Dress, and Locomo Zipper Hoodie Jacket.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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