In February, the idea of a global pandemic would’ve been laughable, but in March, quarantine and self-isolation became an alarming reality for people and businesses all around the world. How will the fashion industry, which depends on community and collaboration, survive such a crisis?
Many companies are stepping up to join this battle against COVID-19 in a variety of ways. Vogue’s editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour, announced that Vogue and the Council of Fashion Designers of America decided to repurpose the Fashion Fund, which launched after 9/11 to “cultivate the next generation of American fashion designers.” The CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund will support the fashion community affected by the pandemic by launching a video series called “A Common Thread”. This series will share stories about how American designers and their employees are coping, how businesses have been affected, and what to expect from the fashion industry.
The Saks Fifth Avenue Foundation will be donating $600,000 to charities that support coronavirus relief: NewYork-Presbyterian COVID-19 Patient Care Fund, Bring Change to Mind, and Girls Inc. The Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation announced that it will be doing $10 million towards coronavirus relief efforts. The funds will be split across the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, the Pink Pony Fund, the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund, and other financial grants for Ralph Lauren employees. Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, is donating $100 million to Feeding America, a nonprofit that is serving as a clearinghouse to distribute money to food banks around the country. Bezos’s donation is tied with the Gates Foundation for the largest single donation coming from a billionaire philanthropist.
Retailers have not only been donating money, but they have the facilities to make face masks and other protective gear for the frontliners in hospitals. On March 31, Revolve announced that it will donate 10,000 N95 FDA-approved face masks to two Los Angeles hospitals. Burberry announced that it is committed to helping with the COVID-19 pandemic by “retooling” its trenchcoat factory to make non-surgical gowns and masks and by delivering more than 100,000 surgical masks to U.K National Health Service Staff. Neiman Marcus partnered with Jo-Ann Stores, a fabric company, to combine their core capabilities in procurement, sewing, and logistics to produce masks, scrubs, and gowns for hospitals. Neiman Marcus Senior Vice President of Supply Chain and Group, Willis Weirich, said that “One of our associates brought the idea forward that we could use these sewing skills we have in house and find a way to make this personal protection equipment for the need that is out there in the communities in which we all live and work.” The pandemic has caused financial turmoil for the retail industry. According to the U.S Census Bureau, overall retail sales during March were down 8.7 percent seasonally adjusted from February and down 6.2 percent unadjusted year-over-year. Clothing stores saw the biggest impact with sales down 50.5 percent from February, while furniture store sales were down 26.8 percent and sporting goods stores were down 23.3 percent. The economy is starting to open in May, but it will take a long time for consumer behavior to return to pre-pandemic spending.
There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and as of right now, changes experts can only make predictions. The pandemic will bring upon a “new reality” and to cope with this, the fashion industry will have to be more innovative than ever. In the past few months, we’ve seen how we can all be connected digitally, and together, the industry will persevere.