March 22, 2020


We are living in unprecedented times. As the world grapples with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we are witnessing massive shocks to international economies, local businesses, tourism, the arts community—you name it—and, of course, the health, financial and social well-being of our people.

In terms of the fashion industry, it has been scrambling to survive the disruption. In my eyes, the moment the severity of the situation dawned on the industry was in Italy when we saw Giorgio Armani, the show that was meant to close Milan Fashion Week, being cancelled and live streamed behind closed doors. Paris Fashion Week cautiously continued on following Milan, but at that point, face masks were trendier than any designer handbag. Shortly after, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic and widespread temporary closures of retail stores and offices began. Even fashion’s biggest annual bashes, the Met Gala and CFDA Fashion Awards, have been postponed until further notice.

The growing prevalence of online shopping has helped curb the full devastation of fashion retail, but we’re still reeling financially. Burberry, who already suffered a hit at the outset from the loss of its Chinese market, has warned it expects a 70% to 80% decline in sales over the coming weeks. Fast fashion is also hardly immune. Inditex, the owner of brands like Zara and Massimo Dutti, reported a 24.1% sales drop between March 1 and March 16. Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) has echoed the bleak outlook. Its sales have seen a similar plummet since the outbreak, and due to the uncertain situation, the company announced it would be suspending earnings guidance for the rest of the year.

Yet despite concern for what lies ahead, I see the light amidst the darkness.

Luxury conglomerate LVMH announced it would start manufacturing disinfectant gel used to make hand sanitizer at facilities that currently produce perfume and cosmetics for donation to French health authorities, and has managed to source an expected 40 million surgical masks to help France cope with its shortage. Countless other major brands, including Prada, Versace, Moncler, Kering, Armani and Sergio Rossi, have offered financial support for hospital relief efforts.

When it comes down to it, I hope the industry knows what is most important. Hint: it’s not the sales figures. It’s about doing what we can for others who need it. It’s about compassion. It’s about valuing people over things.

Fashion and clothing can still have a role in our lives right now—just in a different way. When the days in self-isolation seem to stretch into nothingness, we can find little pleasures in dressing up and having fun with fashion, even if we don’t have to (or can’t) leave the house. They say to dress for the job you want. Why not dress for the future you want?

Looking beyond the fashion industry, we are at a point in history where we have the tools and infrastructure in place to accommodate and reduce the impact of social distancing. Say what you will about the role of technology in creating collective disconnect (I wouldn’t disagree with you), but in this time when self-isolation and social distancing are upon us, social media has given us the opportunity to stay together and come together.

I also see a globally unifying force that has brought people from around the world together in our shared experience of fighting against this disease. COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate across race, gender, age, socioeconomic status—and so neither should we. Our differences shouldn’t matter regardless, but they certainly don’t matter now in the face of something we can all relate to each other on. Our borders are closing, but our hearts are open.

Stay healthy. Safeguard others. Spread love. Just imagine the celebrating we’ll do when this is all over.

Image Source: New York Post, Business of Fashion, Footwear News