A Closed H&M in Moscow, Russia on March 10th
Since February 24, Russia has both stepped up its attacks on Ukraine and forced more than two million of the country’s citizens to flee. Countries across the globe have responded by imposing sanctions on Russia and that’s led private enterprises to take action as well.
In an Instagram post on March 1st, Vogue Ukraine called upon the industry to make sweeping changes, urging “all international fashion and luxury conglomerates and companies to cease any collaborations” with Russia immediately, name-checking several top fashion companies.
Some of the first retailers and brands to halt operations and shipments to Russia were H&M, IKEA, and Apple, but many more have come forward since then. Here, we’ll take a look at the companies that’ve taken the largest steps towards supporting Ukraine and cutting ties with Russia.
Athletic brands Under Armour, Nike, and Puma
Under Armour, Nike, Adidas, and Puma are just a few of the sportswear giants who’ve taken action since February 24th. Puma and Under armor have canceled all deliveries to Russia and Nike and Adidas have closed their stores and stopped online sales in the country.
Since March 8th, Adidas and Nike have both pledged to donate roughly $1 million to UNICEF, children’s charities, the International Rescue Committee, and clothing to the Global Aid Network.
In a statement made by Nike on March 4th, the company maintained that “We are deeply troubled by the devastating crisis in Ukraine and our thoughts are with all those impacted, including our employees, partners and their families in the region.”
Nike’s largest competitor in the US, Under Armor, went further with their comments towards both the Russian attack and their stance for peace in the region.
“Like the rest of the world, we are shocked and saddened by Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine. We are partnering with humanitarian groups to provide what is needed for those displaced and have also stopped all shipments into our sales channels in Russia,” the company said.
“We are proud to stand with Ukraine against Russia’s attack on their democracy and will do what we can as a global company [who believe] standing for equality matters.”
Luxury brands Prada, Hermès, and Gucci
Luxury brands including Prada, Hermès, and Gucci were initially left out of sanctions imposed by Western governments, but they too have committed to ceasing operations in Russia for the foreseeable future.
French luxury house Hermès International SA was the first luxury brand to close all of its stores in Russia on March 4th. Without going too much into detail, the company said in a statement on March 4th that:
“[We are] deeply concerned by the situation in Europe at this time, it’s with regret that we have taken the decision to temporarily close our stores in Russia and pause all our commercial activities from March the 4th evening. We will continue to stand by our local teams.”
Another French giant, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, announced the same day that they’d be closing all of their 120 stores in Russia “given the current circumstances in the region.” LVMH’s spokesperson also told The New York Times that the company will continue to pay its 3,500 Russian employees, a commitment not all brands with Russian stores have taken.
And just two days later on March 6th, Prada shared on LinkedIn that “From today, the Prada Group suspends its retail operations in Russia. Our primary concern is for all colleagues and their families affected by the tragedy in Ukraine, and we will continue to support them.”
Since then, Prada has partnered with the National Chamber for Italian Fashion (CNMI) to make a “significant” donation to the UN Refugee Agency.
Footwear brands Skechers and Crocs
In one of the most strongly worded statements since the advent of Russia’s invasion, Skechers promised a temporary suspension on Russian shipments and a $250,000 donation towards humanitarian organizations in Ukraine.
“We have deep concern for Ukraine and its citizens, who are doing all they can to defend their country and survive while under siege,” Skechers President Michael Greenberg said in the March 9th statement. “And while our team in Ukraine is currently safe, this has been a heartbreaking time for them, their families and neighbors.”
On the same day, Crocs paused all business operations in Russia while making an unspecified donation to UNICEF to support those directly impacted by the war—specifically addressing displaced children and families.
“While our decision to pause all business operations in Russia was decisive, our commitment to doing the right thing is unwavering,” said Crocs’ CEO Andrew Rees. “Our hearts are with all those enduring this crisis and we hope for a swift and peaceful resolution to the war in Ukraine.”
Staying out of the Russian market, at least for now
Just weeks out from Russia’s initial invasion, it’s too early to tell whether or not the above brands will continue to make pledges towards Ukraine and suspend operations in Russia. And for many, there’s more at stake than what meets the eye.
Protecting the bottom line while cutting ties with Russia indefinitely will affect a brand’s margins, particularly when Western brands’ presence in the country has only strengthened in the last 20 years.
There is, however, a heavy moral imperative Nike, Prada, Skechers, or any other brand must consider before reinstating a relationship with the Russian market.
“The moral imperative not to trade with Europe’s first autocratic, imperialistic regime since WWII makes participating in a de facto luxury boycott better—possibly essential—for both reputation and, ultimately, the bottom line,” said Alan Behr, fashion industry attorney and partner at Phillips Nizer.
Whether we see another world war on the horizon or not, doing the right thing means staying out of the Russian market, at least for now. It’s clear brands across the spectrum are showing solidarity with Ukraine, but long-term commitments take accountability and it’ll be up to consumers to hold them to higher standards.