Fashion Stays Positive

How we react to coronavirus reveals the humanity at the heart of our community.


At times of crisis, the last thing most of us want to hear about is how the privileged and the super-wealthy are dealing with it. Which leaves the fashion world in something of a quandary. We are all worried, of course – and also aware that the COVID-19 outbreak makes us weigh up the things that really matter. Fancy clothes don’t seem to feature high on that list. 

But that’s a simplistic soundbite that doesn’t take into consideration that the fashion industry, like all other businesses, depends on – and provides a working wage for – millions of ‘real’ people.

And, for every live feed of a celebrity self-isolating, there are heartwarming examples of individuals and brands who have taken the time to think about what they can do to help. True, we can’t all be LVMH luxury group Chief Executive Bernard Arnault, who announced on March 15 that the company’s perfume and cosmetic factories were being repurposed to produce free hand sanitizer instead. (A magnanimous gesture that not only offers a practical solution to deal with immediate demand but also keeps factory workers in employment when everyone is worried about their job security.) But we can all think about something we can do ourselves that makes a difference – be it checking up on our neighbors or considering what transferable skills we have that apply to the many challenges that the current pandemic poses. 

In such circumstances, of course, we all respond in different – equally valid – ways. Humour is often one of the best responses, reminding us to not lose our sense of self. Witness Marc Jacobs sharing a spoof Public Healthcare Announcement via his personal IG account, revealing that the ‘Shit Show’ of misinformation surrounding the virus is as dangerous as Covid-19 itself. In a separate post, he explains, ‘I am taking it very seriously. Still, I have a sense of humor that I’m wearing as well. Maybe it helps with the fear…’ And stressing to his followers: ‘Be safe everyone. Be compassionate. Spread LOVE not fear.’ A similar sentiment was shared by US designer Jerry Lorenzo (‘At the very least let’s make sure we come out on the other side of this time as better, nicer, more compassionate and considerate human beings’).

One’s true nature is often revealed in such circumstances. We can clear the supermarket shelves of items vital for the needy and infirm; we can stockpile toilet paper, medicine – even guns – ahead of the coming lockdown. Or we can look out for each other and show some humanity. 

Corporate messages and policy updates are, of course, important to businesses. But nothing cuts through like a simple handwritten note that shows someone is thinking about their customers and not themselves (Sir Paul Smith), or a long and heartfelt message addressed to your audience and thinking about the ‘long tail’ of care (Brandon Maxwell). Likewise, Clare Waight Keller has used her profile to thank (and give a face to) the behind-the-scenes team at Givenchy. The theme of social responsibility has been picked up, best delivered via simple, Instagram-friendly slogans, as seen from French designer Simon Porte Jacquemus (‘Stay At Home: It has never been easier to save lives’); Anya Hindmarch’s heartfelt extension of hope, Ermenegildo Zegna (‘Our actions today impact tomorrow’).

Visual artist Juan Delcan’s animation of a matchstick stepping out of line to prevent the spread of fire – a brilliantly simple and effective way to illustrate the importance of isolation in fighting viral infection – has gone viral itself, being shared around the fashion community (at the time of writing, the original has had 850,000 views – the combined reach via luxury brands and celebrities is off the scale).

There has, of course, been a huge outpouring of messages in solidarity with the people of Italy, who are currently bearing the brunt of the ‘curve’ in Europe (Neil Barrett; Alber Elbaz; Peter Dundas; Pierpaolo Piccioli) – and Milan in particular, a city at the heart of fashion’s global community. There have been examples of huge generosity – Donatella Versace personally donating €200,000 to a Milan hospital, while Moncler as a company has donated €10 million to the building of a new hospital dedicated to the fight against COVID-19 on the site of Milan’s former fairground (matching the figure pledged by Italy’s former PM, Silvia Berlusconi).

Of course, not everyone can make such grand gestures – but if anything positive can be gleaned from the coronavirus scare, it’s how communities have connected and supported each other at the most human – and humane – of levels. 

Header Photo | Anya Hindmarch’s “A Love Letter to London” Chubby Hearts installation, 2019

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Hi Guys! In the last week, as our business has transitioned to working from home and finding new ways of creating together digitally, I have also been thinking of you, those that follow us digitally. I know that what we’re experiencing right now can cause panic, fear, and uncertainty, but I think it’s important that we use this moment of social distancing to bring ourselves together remotely, through mediums that have often times divided us in the past. Use this time to check on the ones you love, shine a light of positivity on those that are feeling dark, and most of all, make smart choices that protect the community around you. When I look at the analytics I can see that the vast majority of you that follow us fall in to the age range of 18-43, so I wanted to speak specifically to you here. I know that time off from work and regular every day life can seem like a good time to get together in large groups and socialize, but the smartest thing we can do in this moment is to distance ourselves in order to protect the health of others who are at risk. If you are otherwise healthy, it is responsible to remove yourself from situations that could affect those in an at risk age range and those with compromised immune systems. Wash your hands regularly, and if you are able, stay home when feeling unwell. What may be a brief moment of sickness for you could be detrimental for someone else. A good majority of people in this country do not have the option to work from home, or to halt their businesses, to provide for their families in this moment of crisis with what has been saved, and many do not have homes to self-quarantine in at all. Let’s keep those people in our hearts, and with all our digital savvy, let’s think of creative ways to help. This week we received an e-mail from one of our Italian colleagues that summed this situation up perfectly for me, “we must keep our distance in order to hug stronger in the future.” It’s true. I would love to hear your comments below on ways you are helping to sustain your communities and those in them. Stay safe and calm, love you ❤️

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Kisses @davidbeckham #weareallstayinghome X

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Tackling an issue of this magnitude requires unity. We have to reach across departmental and industry lines to pull in help from a global braintrust of brilliant creatives and business leaders. I’ve been doing live chats on Instagram with @kellyrowland, @bagsnob, and @therealphilliplim. We discuss the things that are really troubling us, whether it be about our businesses, or things that are more personal, emotional, or spiritual. I find myself particularly consumed by the human issues surrounding the coronavirus outbreak. During crisis and stressful times, we get to see human behavior in its truest form: greed, compassion, altruism, empathy, fear, strength, and xenophobia. All the positive and negative sides come out, and they are two sides of the same coin. I am so distraught over the hateful acts of racism and xenophobia I have seen towards Asians during this time. From people feeding into racist tropes on Instagram, to the leader of this country, President Trump, dubbing this “the Chinese virus” — I am disheartened to see these instances of fear and ignorance winning over compassion. Everyone must remember that this virus knows no race, gender, or sexual orientation. Ultimately, we are stronger together, or as I like to say “stronger in color.” It is my belief that the only absolute truth in this life is the impermanence of it. We all have to leave this world at some point. So what will we do to make an impact in this life, and what will we leave behind? This is a pivotal moment for introspection. I urge the industry, and everyone, to think about what they want their legacy to be, and how can we help each other get there. @voguemagazine @nicolephelps

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