As the fashion industry stands together in a remarkable surge of support of the frontlines against Covid-19, the power of invention has never been so important
What will the fashion landscape resemble after Covid-19? An implausible, yet important question to consider. It is no secret that offline retail was already steadily declining as the digital age continues to flourish, but what is to become of the way in which we consume? Will fast fashion continue to mass-produce in a way that we know is harmful? Will luxury fashion houses return to the runways and the annual fashion calendar be maintained? Will designers continue to churn out multiple collections a year with no breathing space for creativity to thrive and develop?
In the meantime, what is certain is that the industry has proven ready to stand and fight together, for what has been witnessed in the last month is a remarkable surge of support and camaraderie in the plight against the pandemic. “By supporting one another, and aiding those among us who are most vulnerable, we will be able to work through and rise above this crisis, even more united than before,” confirms Alessandro Michele, creative director of Gucci.
Marco Bizzarri, Gucci CEO, made a personal donation of €100,000 to hospitals in the Emilia- Romagna region of Italy, while Dolce & Gabbana also donated to the Humanitas University in support of a study aiming to clarify the responses of the immune system to the coronavirus. LVMH continues to use its luxury perfume and cosmetics factories to produce free sanitizing gel for local hospitals and authorities in France. Similarly, Prada announced that the company would be funding six new ICUs in three Milanese hospitals.
In the Middle East, designer Mohanad Kojak is donating 100% of the profits from selected bestsellers, as well as contributing to the Abbassia Fever hospital in Egypt. “Our goal is to also be able to buy ICU beds,” states Kojak. Noon by Noor is giving 20% of sales to The Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund.
The shortage of protective clothing and masks is another issue the fashion industry has helped alleviate. LVMH ordered 40 million masks from a Chinese industrial supplier, financing the first batch of 10 million masks at a cost of €5 million. On a similar note, Prada began the production of 80 000 medical overalls and 110 000 masks in its factory in Montone, which remains open solely for this purpose. In recent weeks, Giorgio Armani has also donated €2 million to hospitals in Italy and has dedicated all of its production plants to manufacturing single-use medical overalls.
At Burberry, its global supply chain network is being used to deliver 100 000 surgical masks to the National Health Service in the UK. Additionally, the label’s trench coat factory has been repurposed to make non-surgical gowns and masks for patients. Smaller companies and designers such as Christian Siriano and Collier Strada, which don’t have access to medical materials and production methods, are doing their part by designing non-medical grade cotton masks for the public.
Should the industry be designing “civilian masks” without certified medical protection at all? According to the World Health Organization (WHO), non-medical masks should be worn when coming into close contact with someone with Covid-19, while medical grade masks should be reserved for medical personnel working on the frontlines. The WHO recommends that hands are washed before wearing it and after taking it off, and to replace the mask once it becomes damp. Homemade masks also help prevent the spread of droplets and deter incessant face touching. Much can also be said for creating a physical barrier with a mask as a reminder to oneself and others to self-protect.
“We should understand that while a non- medical mask may slow down the spread of the infection, it may not protect the person, as well as a medical mask, would. It has community benefits rather than personal protection,” affirms Dr Ahmed Abdelhameed, internal medicine specialist at Medcare Women & Children Hospital in Dubai. “It is impressive to see such support from market leaders, which will give a much-needed push to help overcome the international crisis of Covid-19, especially with such shortages of medical supplies.”
Perhaps for an industry that was blundering toward burnout, Covid-19 might spell the end of fashion as we once knew it. In the meantime, this spontaneous wave of creativity, empathy, and togetherness, along with the power of invention, is seeing fashion surge forward with a stronger collective vision. In trying times, this is something that can only be looked on as a tremendous opportunity to create and inspire as we once did – only now, with a new sense of sociocultural principles, creativity, and responsibility.
Originally published in the May 2020 issue of Vogue Arabia