Is it possible to grow an exclusive brand in the digital world? That is the crux of a debate bedevilling the luxury fashion industry, where growth has slowed at a time when digital technologies have allowed other sectors ranging from transportation to short-term rentals to expand globally at mass scale.

The mood is sour. Global volatility and stock market uncertainty have led to an overall slowdown. Nearly 70 per cent of surveyed fashion executives, investors and industry observers believe conditions for the industry have become worse, according to a report last month by consultancy McKinsey and London-based publication Business of Fashion.

“The key message is that 2016 was a really bad year for the industry, probably the worst one since the financial crisis,” says Achim Berg, a lead author of the McKinsey report and leader of the firm’s apparel, fashion and luxury practice. “That was especially true for the luxury part of the industry, which was a bit surprising because we all knew 2016 was bad, but we didn’t expect it would be that bad.”