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By Thami Kwazi

Lifestyle Print Editor

The rise of luxury fashion brands during Covid-19 in SA

South African malls may not be bustling with business but certain high-end luxury fashion brands are bombarded by shoppers. How is this possible?

The queue snakes at the Louis Vuitton store in Sandton right to the escalators. It’s 9am during a pandemic, the Covid-19 era. Is it possible that the luxury fashion brand is selling out in South Africa during these tough times?

South Africans complain they are unemployed and broke daily on social media, yet Sandton City’s Diamond Walk designer boutiques have never been busier.

Covid-19 restricts the number of shoppers in a shop but that does not seem to have any influence on popular brands.

Littered with top shops such as Jimmy Choo, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, McQueen, Armani, Cartier, Louis Vuitton and several others, Diamond Walk is the key location for high flyers looking for that African “Rodeo Drive” experience of shopping for luxury fashion brands.

It also makes one wonder where all this money is coming from, under the current circumstances.

According to the World Population Review, the third place on the list of Africa’s wealthiest countries is South Africa, behind Nigeria and Egypt.

Where are South Africans getting this money?

The site says that the GDP per capita in SA is at $12.440. The survey was carried out during the pandemic.

Sibongile, who stands in the store queue, anxiously waiting to go in and fetch her coveted bag says: “I’ve been saving for this bag for a year and nothing was going to stop me [from] getting it.

“I work so hard with little joy other than my salary I deserve a spoil.”

Her remark is joined by nods of others. The man behind her won’t say much except that as a regular, he felt the need to continue buying from his favourite brand.

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These may not be people impacted by the effects of unemployment. And even so, the dopamine rush from shopping supersedes the feeling of thinking about rent or overdue debts.

Luxury shops of Instagram appear to be trending. Recently, Luxity – a premium fashion reseller – opened two shops in Nelson Mandela Square and the Menlyn Maine, and celebrated five years in the fashion industry.

For fashion aficionados, the brand provides handpicked premium selections. If there was no demand, this would not be feasible.

Co-founder Michael Zahariev said the new shops were going to enhance South Africans’ buying experience.

Naysayers would question why such a store would open at a time like this but in Zahariev’s opinion there’s never been a better time for the luxury designer space in SA.

“We are constantly increasing our range of beautiful, unique products and making it easier to obtain an item which you can find online.

“The shops are there to ensure that we know what is a valuable item, or to peruse our collections at any moment,” he says.

Other co-founder, Luke Calitz, reiterates that luxury goods are also good for the earth’s carbon footprint as they are generational and reusable.

Pre-loved products are becoming increasingly popular and the Yaga web platform buys and sells online fashion. Yaga claims it is now the number one option for online shopping and sales in South Africa.

Yaga received an initial R12 million investment, and has over 100,000 registered users and 20,000 daily visits, because of the trends in preloved clothes.

Founder and CEO Aune Aunapuu said: “The pre-loved fashion market is growing more than 20 times faster than the traditional fashion retail market, and this trend is supported by other global players, such as Vinted and Depop, who have launched similar platforms.”

This month, beauty store ARC opened its doors in Sandton City, bringing the most popular luxury brands and items to South Africa. It boasts the products of every beauty enthusiast; Chanel, Dior, La Mer and Guerlain.

Meeting the demand

Speaking of opening a new store under current circumstances, ARC marketing executive, Kelly Fung, shared: “We are thrilled to be able to bring ARC to life, despite the difficult and unpredictable circumstances of the global pandemic.

“ARC is truly a first of its kind in South Africa so prepare to immerse yourself in our modern, energy-fuelled and beautifully designed store.

“From launching new and exclusive brands into the country, to offering unique interactive experiences, it truly is a beauty wonderland.”

Upon opening the store, it has been bombarded by celebrities and influencers proudly posting from inside the store, drawing in a larger number of shoppers.

It seems even though demand may have given the illusion of slowing down, buyers still want their luxury fashion brands.

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