The fashion industry is often criticised for its lack of social responsibility, but faced with a crisis that has affected the world, there has been no choice but to adapt to the new way of life and come together as a community to be a positive force for change. The closing of all retail spaces has obviously taken its toll on business, with any attempts to wean consumers off of ordering from online fast fashion brands out the window. However, the industry, worth over £2 trillion, has been using its manpower, social status, and factories in order to contribute to the global effort.
Early on, luxury conglomerate LVMH (behind brands such as Prada and Louis Vuitton), switched their production of perfume and cosmetics over to hand sanitizer, providing free bottles for health care workers in France in order to combat the depleted units in shops around the country. Some of the biggest fashion designers have also donated large sums of money to the healthcare industry, with Vogue reporting that Giorgio Armani donated over £1.1 million to hospitals around Milan, and Donatella Versace buying ventilators and other key equipment for the ICU at her local hospital.
In the hardest hit cities, such as New York, fashion designers have heard health care workers’ desperate cries for protective masks, rallying to use their access to material and staff in order to meet the needs that the government has so far not been able to. Brands from Christian Serrano to Zara have converted their factories from producing spring/summer wear, to solely making surgical masks to be donated to hospitals. Fears have arisen that as time goes on, companies will try to profit off of the essential need for these masks, but for now, it doesn’t appear to be on the cards. Even young designers at art schools, who will no longer get to put on their final shows to showcase their hard work, are turning to sewing surgical gowns, so medical staff don’t have to rely on bin bags to provide protection.
Fashion in of itself can be uplifting in these dark times, with magazines finding new ways to produce content; Bella Hadid’s Facetime photoshoot for Italian Vogue being a personal highlight. Photographers around the world are also turning over their archives to social media, with the likes of Arthur Elgort and Peter Lindbergh publishing their beautiful imagery from throughout the years, which are sure to spark some quarantine creativity. Isolation also appears to be igniting the inner creative designer in many, as Instagram is flooded with users finding creative ways to upcycle their clothes, from bleaching jeans to tie-dying t-shirts.Hopefully the positive that has arisen from this extreme situation will continue post-coronavirus, with brands reassessing how they produce clothes and their contribution socially, as well as towards the carbon footprint. But the immediate way that all areas of the industry have come together, is uplifting and reassuring during a time of such uncertainty.