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LONDON, United Kingdom — The outbreak of Covid-19 signalled major disruptions across the global fashion supply chain, from the garment workers left destitute in India and Bangladesh after retailers in the West cancelled orders to businesses temporarily shuttering brick-and-mortar sites in order to curb the spread of the virus. “This pandemic is shaping up to be one of those collective experiences of complete change… It seems like [there has been] such a momentous shift in perception and [in] the way all of us are thinking about life,” said BoF Editor-in-Chief Imran Amed.
For both Amed and BoF Editor-at-Large Tim Blanks, this period of uncertainty offered an opportunity for the industry to reassess the way it operates. “This industry is so important, it’s so big... and there’s so much of an opportunity to do things better,” Amed said.“We have a moral responsibility to do better as an industry.”
- Blanks first realised the enormity of the health crisis after returning from Paris Fashion Week. “March 3 [the last day of Paris Fashion Week] was the day that you could feel the storm clouds had well and truly gathered over fashion… there was this sense of some enormous, ominous force,” he said. Even as lockdown measures have eased and designers have set their sights on an iteration of September fashion shows, the feeling of uncertainty still looms. “September isn’t in our hands, we don’t know what is going to happen in September or in January… I think the situation is incredibly volatile,” Blanks added.
- Like many industries, the fashion sector has adopted digital tools in order to keep working in the age of social distancing, from virtual showrooms and live streaming to online-only fashion shows. For Blanks, the allure of sitting in the pews of an elaborate runway show, just inches away from visual masterpieces, can never be duplicated on screen. However, he also acknowledged that the brands and designers' response to the disruption of the fashion calendar using digital presentations “was really interesting, [especially seeing]... how so many different creative sensibilities approached the same challenge.”
- The pandemic and political unrest has accelerated the conversation around responsibility in the fashion industry. Now more than ever, brands are being called upon to address the lack of diversity and inclusion within their corporate structures. “This momentum for change cannot be diverted, it cannot be still. It must roll on and I think fashion has to be a part of… the solution not the problem,” Blanks said. “The most critical challenge facing the industry is inclusivity… it has to be more inclusive and embracing… Opportunity needs to be equal for everybody.”