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In This Together

Malinda Sanna

In April, at the very beginning of the strictest levels of lockdown, we conducted a study on behalf of certain clients amongst female luxury buyers in the U.S. to take the pulse on their mindset and behavior during this strange time. At that point three months ago, women were torn between anxiety and also seeing some silver linings in the pandemic – chiefly, time to slow down and consider what is important to them.

Now, we’ve just wrapped a new version of that study, this time in China which we’ll be releasing shortly. It’s been a rewarding process in many senses, not the least of which has been seeing how similar the human reaction to these challenges is from NY to Shanghai.

Our platform, LookLook® is a tool that goes deep into people’s lives with intimate conversations and a periscope into lifestyle. It is qualitative research, so the sample size is small (20 women’s lives were explored, in this case). It’s not representative – not meant to be – but the depth of the conversations allows us to really probe beyond the obvious to gather truths hidden in plain sight.

What we found is that despite the headlines we get regarding China that always seem to exaggerate behavior (ie “people queuing at Chanel… Hermès racks up record sales upon boutique re-opening – hence, China will save the day for luxury!”) things are decidedly not normal.

Our focus for this study was women living in Shanghai, the most sophisticated and savvy mecca of fashion and luxury in China. This collective of twenty includes business executives, wealthy wives, and even students from wealthy families who had been swiftly shuttled back from the U.S. in March.

Many of them are still staying in by choice and/or working from home; some have suffered financial setbacks and all of them feel there is a frightening amount of uncertainty in the world. They are rattled by the chaos they see in the United States. They miss traveling. And their desire for luxury goods has definitely softened. (Skin care, as we saw in our U.S. study, is the one exception where luxury buying is stronger than ever. A desire to feel nourished and alive?)

Yet some of the silver linings are there for Chinese women that we also saw among American women. Says one: “I know Covid-19 is a devastating disease that killed many. Somehow and oddly, it has had a positive impact in my life, putting aside the obvious financial side-effects. It happened right before Chinese New Year when everyone goes home, and in these few months, Shanghai became a better place to enjoy life. Fewer people on the streets and in the restaurants. Life slowed down a little for me to better center myself and plan for the future. I feel calmer. I cook more and exercise more. I’ve hosted some small gatherings and made new friends. I feel more relaxed and my hair even grows thicker now.”

The odd paradox of financial anxiety and fear of the virus on one hand, and the myriad of benefits that have come from a massive slowdown in a world that was moving too fast will be one of many dynamics that defines this pandemic in retrospect.

There’s still a fog hanging over Shanghai. It’s hanging over everyone, everywhere. As it slowly lifts, joy and spontaneity will return and make us feel fully alive again. Maybe that’s what it will take to spark a genuine, heartfelt interest in fashion and beautiful things. And more importantly, from deep inside, we are spiritually more resilient as a result of The Big Pause and that may well be a global phenomenon. If we’re dialed into it, that’s something we can feel good about, even now.

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