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The BoF Podcast: Li Edelkoort Says the Coronavirus Is a Representation of our Conscience

In the latest special edition of the BoF Podcast, the Dutch trend forecaster says that the coronavirus pandemic is bringing to light what is wrong with society, teaching us to slow down and to change our ways.
Li Edelkoort | Photo: Thirza Schaap
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LONDON, United Kingdom — Nearly five years ago at BoF VOICES, futurist Lidewij 'Li' Edelkoort presented her "Anti Fashion" manifesto to an audience of global thought-leaders, executives and entrepreneurs, offering a provocative critique of the industry's consumption problem. In this episode of the BoF Podcast, the Dutch trend forecaster and Dean of Hybrid Studies at Parsons School of Design discusses the future of fashion week and delves into the challenges emerging designers will face as they are forced to reinvent themselves in the age of Covid-19.

“The virus, I think, can be seen as a representation of our conscience... it brings to light what is so terribly wrong with society and every day that becomes more clear,’” she told BoF Editor-in-Chief Imran Amed. “It teaches us to slow down and to change our ways.”

As this global humanitarian crisis mounts and fashion’s biggest names join the fight to curb the spread of the virus, donating to relief funds and manufacturing surgical masks, Edelkoort believes now is the time for the industry to “jump off the carousel” and address its retail model. Around 114 billion items of clothing are produced every year, a number Edelkoort believes will fall as shoppers and brands alike cut non-essential costs in this period of economic uncertainty.

The virus... brings to light what is so terribly wrong with society and every day that becomes more clear.

Edelkoort predicts that, in a post-Covid-19 climate, designers won’t have to make six collections a year or extra drops. It will “completely reset the way we produce, dress and consume,” she said. There will also likely be a reset when it comes to fashion education. For one, fashion universities and institutions may see applications decline if fewer students choose to study abroad.

“That is going to be a big readjustment of the schools in terms of budget and general outlook," she said. “It might be good for the fashion industry because it will give back a local flavour and intention to the courses."

Overall, however, Edelkoort believes that the current breakdown of the system could be a source for good in the long term. “The loss of assets and money will be colossal. It’s going to be very tough,” she said. “But if we decide to reinvent society and reconstruct and completely resync the systems we could... start with a blank page.” An opportunity to learn or create something new could come in this time, which Edelkoort describes as the “age of the amateur.”

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