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In lockdown: from retail staff to CEOs, the fashion industry is working from home

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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On Monday a Paris-based showroom was meant to return the collection samples to its clients. These were the selling samples for the Autumn Winter 2020 season shown to buyers during Paris fashion week that are required for press and production purposes. That moment never happened, as French couriers on Monday found themselves in a state of chaos and panic, affected by the lockdown that would be enforced by the end of the day. The ramification of collections being held near hostage in France will have consequences as the season unravels.

Fashion workers in isolation

In Paris, as in most fashion capitals, people are expected to work from home, in self-isolation. From retail staff to magazine editors, design teams, ceo’s, and factory workers, the fashion industry has been gripped by the coronavirus and must adhere to the same strict social distancing protocols called upon by governments around the world. The developments are ricocheting faster than a runway trend, as non-essential businesses are closed until further notice and most traveling embargoed while the pandemic continues to spread through cities and nations.

The fashion industry is on hold

We are now becoming immune to the news of fashion events being postponed or canceled, from the cruise season to Copenhagen Fashion Summit, from the New York Met Gala to Tokyo and Shanghai fashion weeks. There is an eerie sense of quietude even if the economic effect is going to be disastrous, because fashion folk, like citizens everywhere, have themselves and their families to look after first.

Watching with horror, we have followed the coronavirus shifting west, just as China is showing optimism where consumers are feeling well enough to head outside and slowly beging to resume their everyday lives. We are seeing the first hints of ‘revenge spending’, as coined by Bloomberg, where recently isolated consumers starved of stores open up their wallets again. In Europe and America it is the opposite, where the first closures of malls and stores is now becoming reality. Luxury brands are digging in their own pockets to support the front line with LVMH producing hand sanitizer in its perfume factories and Dov Charney, the former American Apparel pioneer, opening his factory for face mask production.

As fashion companies temporarily shutter their headquarters, from Nike in The Netherlands to FarFetch in London, employees are remotely working from home. Meetings are happening via skype, but some location-specific jobs, like fashion shoots, or the production line in factories, is either on hold or requires flexible and creative working arrangements. Some companies are sending fabric swatches and trims to their creative teams, who must still design collections but with less tools at hand than when in the studio.

If working from home during crises is the new normal, we have technology, social media and plenty of forms of digital interaction to do so, even if our urge to congregate and be with other humans is being tested. For some it could be a time to reflect and reset outside of busy office life, and something positive and purposeful will come out of being in isolation.

Photo by FashionUnited