Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Michel Gaubert’s Lockdown Playlist

The sound designer for Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Loewe, and Raf Simons, among many others, Michel Gaubert is an unmissable figure at the fashion shows. If you don’t recognize him by his omnipresent sunglasses, cheery shirts, and impressive sneaker collection, you’ll recognize his mixes. Gaubert likes to mash up unlikely genres, and make the familiar seem new.

He sent us this playlist from Paris under lockdown. On Friday, the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode announced that the spring 2021 menswear shows and fall 2020 haute couture collections, typically presented in June and July, have been canceled due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. “The crisis is definitely changing my habits,” Gaubert says. “I go deeper into research and information and take the time to listen to albums without skipping, which can be both satisfying and disconcerting. A lot of musicians are home making music and what comes out of it will be very significant.”

Gaubert’s Vogue playlist is 30-songs long. “I built it like a rollercoaster of emotions featuring tracks that mean something to me or remind me of shows and moments.” The opener, the Pet Shop Boys’s “It’s Alright,” he explains, is “the song I listened to in September 2001 when I came back from New York, it’s hopeful. It also closed the Chanel demonstration show” for spring 2015.

Isaac Hayes’s “Walk on By” made the cut because it soundtracked Phoebe Philo’s fall 2013 show for Céline—“I still cherish that moment,” he says—while Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s version of David Bowie’s “Life on Mars” is dedicated to Raf Simons. “It’s one of his favorite songs ever.” The Soul II Soul classic “Back to Life” is the optimistic closer. “It will happen, eventually,” Gaubert says, referencing the famous lyrics, “back to life, back to reality, back to the here and now, yeah.” To listen to the full playlist on Spotify, click here.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Chanel Joins Fashion’s Fight Against Coronavirus

Chanel is the latest fashion house to join the fight against coronavirus. It stands ready to pivot from womenswear to manufacturing masks and gowns, in order to help address worldwide shortages as a result of the pandemic. In a statement released on 29 March, Chanel said it was awaiting a green light from the authorities to begin production. “Today we are mobilising our workforce and our partners... to produce protective masks and blouses,” the statement said. Chanel has also donated €1.2million to help bolster the public hospital system, according to WWD.

France’s health minister, Olivier Véran, has said the country is using 40 million face masks per week, and that the government aims to distribute a further billion masks in the coming weeks and months. Chanel joins the likes of Prada, Kering and LVMH in mobilising to produce medical equipment – the latter converted factories in Orléans to produce hand sanitiser, and recently announced that the company had ordered 40 million FFP2 masks. Despite the significant economic repercussions of the coronavirus outbreak, Chanel has also pledged not to put any of its workforce in France into temporary unemployment as it weathers the downturn. 

Sunday, March 29, 2020


From the harvesting of fabrics to supply chain and inventory management, technology is utilised across all parts of the fashion operations network. Since 1991, e-commerce has totally revolutionised shopping; with the traditional brick-and-mortar presences all competing to be the next big ´destination experience.´Back to the origin of fashion and the designers themselves have been exploring new concepts with marketing strategies such as ´straight-to-digital´ in an attempt to appease one of the biggest commerce revolutions of the decade, the ´Instagram Checkout

Digital content and social media are enjoying an increasing convergence with the fashion industry. You only have to look no further than the ´Frow´ celebrity influencers who all too often appear to be documenting their moment, rather than celebrating the apparel which brought them there. Nevertheless, the fashion industry has voraciously embraced technology as an active marketing gadget, which it believes can help to democraticise its actions more readily in an attempt to achieve the ´access-all-areas´thirst within todays consumer experience. This they hope, can make the worlds of the 360-degree camera, live-streaming and virtual reality an everyday ´retail´ experience and one which introduces a more meaningful and immersive component to the shopping basket.

This chronology of fashion and technology commences with Austrian designer, Helmut Lang. Two decades ago,  his was one of the first design houses to encompass the digital world by presenting his Fall/Winter´98 collection through CD-ROM and the internet. To coincide with the launch, Lang issued a press statement justifying his actions; “I sensed at the time that the internet would grow into something much bigger than imaginable, so I thought it was the right moment to challenge the norm and present the collection online.” In doing this, he was not alone in feeling a shock to the system. These actions would go on to set a new precedence for the format from which to work and gain notoriety within fashion industry; so that both peers and public alike could obtain an unfiltered view of their work.
Even if you are still uncomfortable with the idea, you have to realise that today, technology rules the world- because it changed the world; both inside and outside of the fashion industry. The question that we need to be asking within this new decade is: How compatible is fashion with technology? My answer is very - why else then would Karl Lagerfeld have sent robots down the Chanel runway or Alexander Lee McQueen lamented the dead of Culloden in a collection terminating with an ethereal Kate Moss hologram.” - Charles Daniel McDonald
The landmark summer of 2000 saw the launch of digital style platform and e-commerce portal Style.com. Its philosophy left many design houses closed to the idea, due to factors such as rival accessibility and plagiarism. However, fast-forwarding several seasons down the line saw the vast majority of them offering ´sneak previews´ and ´behind the scenes special viewings´ in an attempt to monetise upon the publics curiosity. This global democratization also saw the birth of marketable sub-categories and new industry jargon such as ´mass-market´ and ´international luxury´- realms which continued to augment and develop well into the end of the noughties. An eruption of new wave reportage and street-style photography emerged which sat comfortably beside the new army of Vloggers (digital bloggers) and ´influencers´ who were capturing sweet moments though a rose tinted filter at the shows of in-the-know design houses such as Dolce & Gabbana and Alexander McQueen. Several decades on since its launch, statistics tell us that these rules have well and truly been broken, with fashion adapting to Instagram, in converse with its original intention.

Whilst most of these concepts and advances are happening to the environments within which fashion showcases, not much effort had been implemented to offer such technologies to the clothes themselves. Several noted critics have refereed to an emergence of ¨retro-futurism aesthetics¨, which were presented to voracious ´Cool-Hunting´ consumers in all the tones of monochrome and silver possible. Ironically,  this thought could not have been further from the truth as it is those garments which ´don´t look like fashion´that have advanced the most (taking for example, temperature-responsive active sportswear). A notable minority of designers such as Hussein Chalayan and Alexander McQueen are striking exceptions as they have proven their ability to accomplish these hybrid realities. Forget form follows function - today, it´s all about integration of style with an appreciation of functionality and application of future technologies, like these designers below have proven over the past two decades.


¨Helmut Lang sets the fashion machine in motion when he presents his fall 1998 collection via CD-ROM and the internet. (He’d do the same with his spring 2001 collection, following 9/11.)¨

¨Alexander McQueen’s spring 1999 collection (number 13) concluded dramatically with Shalom Harlow standing on a rotating platform while industrial robots spray-painted her white ´canvas´ of a dress.¨

¨For spring 2000 Donatella Versace showed the jungle-print dress that Jennifer Lopez wore to the 2000 Grammy Awards. The image of J.Lo in ´that dress´was so searched for, it inspired the creation of Google Images


¨Style.com launches.¨


¨Up until the finale of McQueen’s fall 2006 Widows of Culloden collection, it seemed to be a celebration of Victoriana and Charles Dickens via Miss Havisham. The unforgettable hologram of Kate Moss that closed the show was very of the moment.¨


¨For spring 2007, Chalayan provided his audience with a survey of fashion history via a series of mechanically morphing dresses. Here was wearable tech hardwired with romance.¨


¨McQueen partnered with Nick Knight’s ShowStudio to create history: Plato’s Atlantis, the designer’s spring 2010 outing, was the first to be live-streamed. Further disrupting the system, motion-controlled robots on tracks filmed both the models coming down the runway and the front row, offering a real 360-degree view of a fashion show.¨

¨The front row of Dolce & Gabbana’s spring 2010 front row was filled with laptop-carrying online personalities (influencers in today’s parlance). It was a fashion moment, as was Tavi Gevinson’s appearance, in a giant bow-shaped hat at Christian Dior’s fall 2010 show, causing a journalist sitting behind her to complain about having to watch the show through said hat. The meeting of the old guard and new was not without its snags.¨


¨In the lead-up to her spring 2013 show, in which models wore Google glasses, Diane von Furstenberg recorded her preparations using the ultimately ill-fated device.¨


¨Dutch designer Iris van Herpen upended the idea of customization that is central to couture by making dresses to exact specifications using 3-D printing. For her spring 2013 collection, she applied the technology to flexible materials for the first time; she also collaborated with artist Carlos Van Camp, who conducted electricity while wearing a specially designed Van Herpen suit.¨


¨Fendi live-streams its fall 2014 collection using drones.¨

¨Ralph Lauren’s Polo for Women line is presented in the form of a 4-D holographic light show projected onto the spray of water spouting from the lake in Central Park


¨Marc Jacobs created an immersive sound experience at his spring 2015 show with a specially designed vocal narrative that guests listened to using the Beats by Dre headsets left on seats. “The idea was to put everybody in their own world,” Jacobs said.¨

¨The ethereal finale to Richard Nicoll’s spring 2015 collection was a simple shift made of LED-operated fiber-optic fabric.¨

¨At Dolce & Gabbana’s spring show, models take selfies of themselves while walking down the runway. These images are projected onto giant screens in the venue and posted on the brand’s social media platforms.¨


¨Users who downloaded the Runway by SAP app could watch, select, and rate their favorite looks from Badgley Mischka’s fall 2018 show. By spring 2020 the app had been further enhanced to allow for shopping, simultaneous photography, and more.¨

¨Gucci models carry replicas of their own heads created using 3D-printing technology for fall 2018

¨Dolce & Gabbana’s fall 2018 show opens with an army of drones carrying the brand’s newest handbags that emerge from the Baroque set.¨

¨Selfie-loving Olivier Rousteing’s launches a Balmain Snapchat beauty filter that promised insta-glam. It was a fitting accessory for his very Kira-Kira collection of fall 2018


¨Coperni designers Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant go straight to Instagram with their fall 2019 collection, inviting users to interact with the lineup with a virtual experience via @copernize_your_life, modeled on the ´Choose Your Own Adventure´ books.¨

“Smash the control images. Smash the control machine. Proclaim a new era. Set up a new calendar, Nothing is true. Everything is permitted. I strive to live up to my words. Out of control.” Yang Li posted that message on his brand account in advance of his straight-to-Instagram fall 2019 collection and on those of the 27 women he asked to take selfies wearing the clothes he had sent.¨

¨Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty show, presented to a by-invitation audience who had to relinquish their cell phones at the door, is filmed to stream on Amazon Prime soon after.¨

¨The TommyNow x Zendaya fall 2019 show was not only recorded using 360-degree cameras for that true-to-life feeling, but insider access was also offered through a web-based VR (shopping) experience through tommy.com

¨Rag & Bone’s Marcus Wainwright offers a multi-sensory experience for spring 2020 with modern dancers, musicians, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, and a robot shooting video that played on LED screens during the show, which was also live-streamed on Instagram

¨Issey Miyake design director Satoshi Kondo put fashion in motion for spring 2020 via prancing models and skateboarders. Drones also dressed models in springy, colorful dresses.¨

¨Wanting to capture the movement in clothes, A.F. Vandevorst and Filip Arickx asked photographer Steven Sebring to capture their fall 2019 collection with his a 360-degree camera, which creates 3D holographic fashion images. This was their way of rethinking the fashion show. “With this way of filming,” Arickx said, “we could achieve that same experience, and it’s even easy to share with people all over the world.” Zac Posen, aiming for a balletic effect, worked with Sebring on his final collection, for spring 2020

¨In Copenhagen, the fall 2020 season opens with Carcel’s statement-making non-show. There were rows of chairs and a video, but no clothes and no models.¨

¨We “asked everyone to step up to the runway to change the industry together, abandon broken systems, and create a new vision for fashion in society,” brand founder Veronica D’Souza announced on Instagram

With all this in mind, can you even begin to imagine what the decade of 2020 has in store for us all?

'Put Earth First': Can A Greener, Fairer Fashion Industry Emerge From Crisis?

The shutting down of society as we know it is giving a lot of time for reflection, not least in fashion circles. In an interview in the design magazine Dezeen, the influential trend forecaster Li Edelkoort has called it a “quarantine on consumption” that is having a devastating impact on our economy and culture, but ultimately offers “a blank page to a new beginning”.

While sections of the fashion industry already knew they could not continue on their current trajectory, it was inconceivable that brands could be forced to slow down, let alone stop production altogether. But that is what has happened as famous names from Prada to Zara have turned their production lines to making medical gowns and masks, and luxury houses have changed from making perfume to sanitisers. It’s an unprecedented interruption of an industry that has relied on speeding from one season’s sales to the next. And it is bringing with it a new sense of connectedness, responsibility and empathy.

Until factories started to feel the effects of Covid-19, the global fashion business was producing 150bn items of clothing each year, far in excess of the needs of a global population of 7.9 billion. Clothing consumption globally was in 2017 projected to rise still more, by 63% by 2030, according to the Global Fashion Agenda and Boston Consulting Group. Who knows if those projections will be dented now that bricks-and-mortar shops are closed, orders have halted and supply chains have been stopped in their tracks?

As factory orders dry up, the lowly paid, overworked garment workers without sick pay or any financial cushion are the ones who are paying the biggest price. The question is how, when the self-isolation and fear abates, we can use this temporary moratorium on production to correct the course of a carbon-guzzling and exploitative industry. We cannot continue down this path of unchecked overproduction, waste and human misery.

On Saturday, people around the world will be reflecting on the temporary decrease in CO2 as they turn off their lights at 8.30pm (local time wherever they are), to take part in Earth Hour. This annual environmental campaign by WWF will remind us that, according to the UN, we have only 10 years to keep global warming to 1.5C. This is something the academics Kate Fletcher and Mathilda Tham are acutely aware of. In their new report, Earth Logic Fashion Action Research Plan, they write: “The time frame of 10 years is the same as a child’s time at school. One eighth of most people’s lifetime, or 10 annual reports for a business. Consider what you, your family, community, workplace will do in the coming 10 years. Every moment will count.”

Their argument pivots around the idea that the only way to ensure we cut carbon emissions and end the cycles of overproduction and waste is to imagine a whole new system that places the Earth’s needs before those of industrial growth. In a post-Covid-19 world, that’s beginning to look slightly more feasible. “We propose planet before industry as a radical idea in which the health and survival of our planet Earth is given precedence over business interests,” they write.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought into stark focus the fact that business as usual can be stopped in its tracks. Anything, it seems, is now possible. According to the environmental journalist and broadcaster Lucy Siegle, who wrote the foreword to the Earth Logic report, this break is a “lifeline” to the industry and a “chance to reboot our efforts and change our course based on evidence and fact”.

“Once we realise that the current system is always going to be self-limiting as there are finite resources, putting Earth first is the only option,” says Fletcher, of the London College of Fashion’s Centre for Sustainable Fashion. This is not about tinkering around the edges of the existing way of working, creating “sustainable” collections or clothing recycling schemes: Earth Logic attacks the very root of the problem: the existing economic model itself. This means a shift from production to the maintenance, use and care of existing clothes. It means reducing the volume of clothes we produce, and in turn, the amount of resources we are using. It means moving from globalised, tangled and unsafe supply chains to small production centres based around the needs and desires of local communities. “We need to find a role for industry scattered across communities,” says Fletcher, with multiple local hubs for people to be educated, to make and repair their clothes.

Patriarchy and growth logic are inextricably intertwined, says Tham. The same sorts of people are making the same sorts of decisions. According to Earth Logic, there would be respect for “fashion in non-western geographies. We can train the focus of fashion on supporting race and gender equality. Each perspective offers new models and practices for relating with fashion as well as broadening and diversifying the base of fashion expertise.”

These are all points the next generation coming into the industry is demanding, too. “The questions students are asking are very different now,” says Tham, who teaches fashion and economics students at the Linnaeus University, Sweden. How we design clothes must connect with the needs of society and the environment and work with them, not against them. We are seeing this happening with designers looking for ways to help make protective equipment and gowns for medical teams. These new positive role models must be allowed to lead the way forward.

We have uncertain and painful times ahead. But Fletcher says: “It’s about trying not to look away when the going gets hard.” We are seeing that in times of real emergency, people’s behaviour has to change. Even pressing pause on fashion’s relentless cycle for a season (possibly two) will have a profound effect. Already, so much has changed. The cycle of fashion for fashion’s sake has been broken. We must use this time to rethink how this industry can be redesigned with respect for the planet and the health of the people who work in it.

“It’s like turning a kaleidoscope and seeing new patterns emerge,” says Tham. “There are so many possible patterns. Things can change very quickly when we have a new perspective. It is not impossible.”

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Philipp Plein Designs Off-Field Uniforms For Atlético Madrid Soccer Team

Philipp Plein is in for a new athletic gig as the official off-field partner of the Club Atlético de Madrid soccer team, also known as Atlético Madrid. On Tuesday the luxury fashion brand revealed it has inked a four-season tie-up with the club, whose players and management will be wearing formal off-field Philipp Plein uniforms until the 2022-2023 season.

In particular, the uniforms include a black wool coat with a contrasting red undercollar, and a single-breasted black suit adorned with a Philipp Plein metallic logo embroidered above the blazer’s flap pocket. A logo embellishment also appears on the white shirts worn underneath.

This is not the first sports-related deal for Plein, which previously inked several partnerships, such as with A.C. Monza, A.S. Roma and A.S. Monaco soccer teams and with Lugano’s Hockey Club. Billionaire, also under the Philipp Plein Group umbrella, announced a sponsorship of the Monte Carlo Polo Club during the men’s fall 2019 show. Group ambassadors include Nico Hulkenberg and Jorge Lorenzo, as well as Philadelphia Eagles receiver Braxton Miller, to name a few.

Founded in 1903, the Atlético Madrid, which plays in the top division of Spanish soccer, such as Campeonato Nacional de Liga de Primera División, commonly known as La Liga, is the third most successful club in Spain, having won the championship 10 times.

Pirelli Cancels 2021 Calendar, Donates 100,000 Euros To Fight Coronavirus

In light of the coronavirus emergency, Pirelli canceled the production and launch of the 2021 edition of its signature calendar. The company pledged to donate 100,000 euros to support the research and fight the COVID-19 spread instead.

“The production of the Pirelli Calendar has been stopped before, in 1967 and then from 1975 to 1983. The unprecedented COVID-19 emergency has forced us to do so again today,” said the company’s executive vice chairman and chief executive officer Marco Tronchetti Provera. “We will return to the project when the time is right, together with the people who were working on it with us.”

As reported, last year Paolo Roversi was tapped for the role. Inspired by Shakespeare’s best-known love story, the Italian photographer created the concept of “Looking for Juliet,” merging photography — partly shot in Verona — and, for the first time, film.

In particular, in an 18-minute short movie, Roversi cast himself as a film director who interviews actors for the role of Juliet. One-by-one, would-be Juliets — including Emma Watson, Kristen Stewart, Claire Foy and Mia Goth, among others — pass in front of his lens to portray the multifaceted character, displaying a broad range of emotions.

Previous Pirelli calendar photographers included Albert Watson, Tim Walker, Peter Lindbergh, Annie Leibovitz and Steven Meisel, among others.

Burberry Devotes Its Yorkshire Factory To Making Hospital Gowns And Masks Instead Of Trench Coats

While the Covid-19 pandemic is transforming the nature of the fashion industry, key designers are doing more than their fair share to help combat the virus – from Prada donating six intensive care units to hospitals in Milan to LVMH repurposing perfume factories to make much-needed hand sanitiser. Now, Burberry has announced a series of remarkable philanthropic measures. Not only will the British house use its global supply network to deliver 100,000 surgical masks to NHS workers, it’s also dedicating its trench coat factory in Yorkshire to manufacturing non-surgical gowns and masks for patients in British hospitals.

Meanwhile, the heritage brand has committed to funding research for a single-dose vaccine, currently underway at the University of Oxford. “The university has one of the world’s best track records in emergency vaccine development, and its Covid-19 vaccine is on course to begin human trials next month,” reads a post on the house’s Instagram page.

No less important? The brand’s promise to help tackle food poverty across the UK, which has been seriously worsened by the Covid-19 crisis. Burberry plans to work closely with initiatives such as FareShare and The Felix Project to “expand their effort to help those struggling as a result of the coronavirus outbreak”. It’s a heartwarming decision – not least for the brand’s chief creative officer Riccardo Tisci. “I am so incredibly proud to be part of the amazing @Burberry family as we work to support our communities in this tough time – together we will get through this!” he wrote in an emotional post on social media.

Is There Still Room For Fashion Influencers In The Covid Era?

The President would speak at 8pm. We gathered around the television. I had a brief flash of my English grandmother’s tales of huddling round the radio for Churchill’s wartime rallying calls. “We are at war,” declared Emmanuel Macron, his brow furrowed, his blue eyes gleaming with emotion. He laid out the new measures, the rules of confinement, and our uniquely collective goal: fighting the spread of Covid-19. No one in France was to leave home for the foreseeable future, or at least not without a signed attestation for exceptional circumstances, or an urgent need for solitary exercise.

For some reason, I filmed the entire speech in Instagram story-length clips. After, as pundits debated the implications of Macron’s words, I looked down at my lap. What had compelled me to capture his every word?

Truth is, I probably filmed Macron because I’ve developed a strange compulsion to share anything I come across that means anything to me. This probably started around the 10k follower mark, although perhaps it could be more responsibly traced back to a childhood urge to be heard around the dinner table. My need to share can range from political commentary to a new outfit, to a painting I saw or to a nice hotel at which I feel privileged to be lodged. Privileged. The word felt weightier than usual once the specifics of our confinement were made clear by the President: we had 24 hours to choose our place of indefinite confinement. If we wanted to go someplace else, the time was now.

Normally I can brush this specific form of guilt aside. When it comes to social media, that fear of looking like a smug, self-satisfied show-off can be easily justified with a flippant “Instagram is all about beauty and voyeurism isn’t it?” Surely the whole point of fashion’s favourite app – and the fashion industry itself, for that matter – is to inspire and be inspired, by everything that comes your way?

But now the dreaded guilt-rock was firmly in my tummy. How might one justify scenes of ostensible enjoyment placed within a square and brightened with a filter when so many others have been chased back into lonely studios and basement flats with no end in sight? How might one inspire others through personal experience when the injustices of the human experience have just been so violently magnified?

I considered pressing pause on my Instagram account entirely. I had first joined the platform in 2011 while working as an editorial assistant at a fashion brand. For its first three-or-so years of existence, my account was mainly geared towards people I actually knew offline – a more aesthetically pleasing version of Facebook, if you will. When I went freelance, in 2016, and launched my podcast Fashion: No Filter, I began weighing up the potential value of an outward-facing account. I had some experience in the matter, having created social media content for companies I’d worked for, and knew the benefits arguably outweighed the loss of privacy. A year later, my follower count rose steadily thanks to the internet’s insatiable urge for a fashion-girl selfie and, I hoped, a witty caption or two. Brands began to request collaborations. Someone suggested I get an agent. People began referring to me as “an influencer”, which is by definition a status elected by a jury of one’s online peers. So I was one.

Grateful as I still felt for the recognition, maybe now, four years later, it was time for a break. Surely, my curated choices had no place amidst daily realities of unbearable claustrophobia, or supermarkets cleaned out by hoarders. But then, even in old photos of her wartime WRENs uniform, Gran had been the picture of elegance. “Those gorgeous stockings always cheered us up when there was nothing but bad news,” she once recalled. Could I provide my followers with the same cheer?

It was sunny the next morning and I went for a (several-metres-apart) walk up a Savoyard mountain with my husband – handwritten justifications for venturing out of the house in pocket, as per the French government’s new rules (supermarkets, pharmacies and brief bouts of outdoor exercise were permitted, albeit only with signed and dated attestations) – and felt the sheer, unabated elation of freedom in nature. A sort of Kantian sublime. I may have even meditated, though this remains unconfirmed.

Spirits lifted by my hour of self-discovery, I was moved to post a photo of myself in a meditative stance, with mountains in the background. In the caption I wondered aloud, Carrie Bradshaw-style, whether this seclusion might be an opportunity for us all to find our inner zen. Silver linings, I thought, positive thinking.

People liked the image, but it performed below average. Then came the messages, calling me a “spoilt brat, happy to rub it in others’ faces”. One person accused me of fleeing my adoptive and beloved France for my native Canada (I had not). Others quipped sarcastically that I clearly did not have children (I don’t). But I also wasn’t trapped in a 20-square metre apartment watching some chick brag about hiking in the sun. I felt genuinely ashamed. My husband, whose general attitude towards Instagram is an elusive blend of passive interest and blasé Parisian scepticism, told me I should consider locking my phone in a drawer for the duration of the quarantine.

The next day I noticed my pilates teacher, Julie Pujols Benoit, was giving a free live class at 6pm. Aha! Endorphins we could all access. I posted a very basic photo of myself in a pilates pose (same mountain as the day before in the background), and invited everyone to join. Lots of likes. Great engagement. I felt vaguely less like a moron. Over 600 people were present in the live class that evening – Julie is something of an Instagram fitness guru – and she promised to give more live classes from her apartment as the quarantine continued.

Enthused by the exercise, encouraged if still vaguely perplexed by the warmer reception, I called Sophie Fontanel, the French novelist, journalist, influencer, and general fountain of cultural wisdom. It turned out she’d also been grappling with how to communicate with her highly engaged following from her own lockdown situation on the coast of Normandy. “I’m staying with my brother who has severe melancholic tendencies, I couldn’t bear to leave him alone for 45 days,” she told me.

She had worried about appearing to have taken advantage of the situation for a beach vacation. But she was a woman with a plan. “As soon as the order came, I asked myself how my ‘influence’ could be of any service to others. It seemed to me that the best way of making myself useful was to hang onto my sense of humour. I write and publish fables daily on my feed. I show myself rarely, because it doesn’t seem like the priority right now.” I thought of my mountain photo and shuddered a little, but Sophie reassured me. “What feels inappropriate to me is the people who continue to tag their clothing brands as usual. It begs the question: What is influence really? Is it just about items of clothing or is it something bigger than that… something more noble?”

Wondering how my friends across the Channel were handling the situation, I decided to annoy – for the umpteenth time – the journalist Pandora Sykes during her maternity leave. “In all honesty, I think it’s hard to get Instagram right when it comes to a global crisis,” she said. “It’s easy to get on your soapbox, but it can often seem disingenuous if your content is typically escapist. I winced during the Australian bush fires when people wrote captions about how devastated they were – illustrated with a picture of not Australia, but themselves. I understand why: Instagram is individualistic and visual. But inserting your image into a global tragedy can make for uneasy viewing.” I shoved away another mountain flashback. “This,” Pandora continued, “is not the time to post a TBT to your last beach holiday – and it’s certainly not the time for paid partnerships. I think the answer, unsatisfactory as it is, is to post less – and more purposefully. Don’t feel like you have to have the answers just because you have a big following – you’re (likely) not an epidemiologist.”

Next, I texted fashion writer and influencer Camille Charrière, who was in Mexico, where she’d headed for some rest and recovery before things got out of hand. She, too, was having trouble deciphering what was appropriate to post. “We work in luxury. Our industry is about promoting luxury…beautiful, non-essential things, so it’s very hard to position yourself at a time like this,” she wrote. “Of course, entertainment is important. But entertainment and consumerism aren’t the same thing, are they?” Had she seen anyone get it right since the crisis began? “Chiara Ferragni has definitely used her platform for the greater good, raising over three million euros for hospitals, and even calling out Kendall Jenner for posting incorrect facts in an attempt to minimise the crisis.” Here, Charrière noted, we’re reminded how useful social media can be. “This is also where strong leadership comes in,” she added, “and I feel our leaders in Britain aren’t being clear enough. Give us clear facts, face the music!” Perhaps Boris Johnson could learn something from Ferragni too.

Other influential friends confirmed they were just trying to go with the flow. “I’m a dreamer,” said LA-based influencer Tylynn Nguyen, “and a voice inside is telling me to keep posting for the people looking to dream, too, at a scary time like this.” Influencer Guido Milani confirmed he had had the same instinct from his Milan apartment, where he’d been confined for over three weeks. Milani told me his priority was to strike the right balance between entertainment and vital info. He was posting cool outfits, guitar practice, French lessons, solo dance videos, and a sprinkling of news. “I’ve chosen to spread positivity insofar as I can, whilst occasionally throwing in news people shouldn’t miss.”

As I began to have separation anxiety from my own digital pals, I decided my next post would continue on the theme of collective self-improvement. “No make-up quarantine, who’s with me?” I captioned a mirror selfie. I suggested to my followers that we’d all have the best skin of our lives when we got out. My nakedness seemed to resonate. “YUP,” wrote one follower, “by the end of this thing we gonna be glowin’!” “Totally with you”, wrote another. Others enthusiastically discussed the benefits of their favourite lip balms, face creams, hair masks and sunscreens. This was more engagement than I could count on in normal times. I decided not to delete my account after all.

On day four, the news heralded economic disaster. I called Rosh Mahtani, the founder of Alighieri Jewellery, to hear her plan. “This week we were meant to launch new pieces but it felt wrong and insensitive to push product,” Mahtani explained. “At first, I wished I could use my business to make protective clothing or masks, but we’re a jewellery brand, and it occurred to me that all we can really do right now is make people feel like they’re not alone.” Mahtani decided to donate 20% of all her e-commerce orders, (still healthy, despite the crisis) to a network of food banks. She’s also converted her Instagram account into a sharing platform for friends of the brand, calling for quotes, poems, or any other handwritten bits of inspiration she might repost. Lou Doillon shared her favourite poetry lines, GQ Style Editor Luke Jefferson chose a comforting quote by Prince. “I’m using creativity as catharsis. Once it’s all over, everyone’s going to post me their letters and I’m going to create a time capsule and bury them. Then I’ll dig it up in five or ten years. We need to remember this moment and learn from it.”

French tailoring designer and founder of Admise Paris, Zoe Leboucher, took a different approach with a similar community-building aim. “I am sharing and reposting information and encouragement about all the other businesses on my road,” said Leboucher, whose brand has its flagship boutique in rue de La Folie Mericourt, in Paris’ 11th arrondissement. “There’s a real village feel in our street and I’m trying to foster that solidarity online as much as possible.”

I thought back to Gran. Despite the other obvious circumstantial differences between her experience and mine, the most clear cut is the instant access to the outside world. We’re all able to gather in a virtual room of our choosing. Loved ones, colleagues, social media followers – wherever, whenever. Perhaps then, it prevails upon us to share our own little contributions to a global, virtual time capsule, that we might dig them up when humanity looks back at this moment. That each of us should contribute our little something intentional, creative, uplifting, to stand the test of time.

Fashion Week Update: Men’s And Couture Shows Are Cancelled Due To COVID-19

Two major fashion events have been cancelled today in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe. Both Men’s Paris Fashion Week and Haute Couture Week will no longer go ahead.

Men’s Fashion Week was scheduled to take place in Paris from June 23-28, whilst Couture was on the calendar for July 5-9. According to WWD, the decision was made by the board of directors of the Fédération de la haute couture de la Mode today, adding that “alternatives are in the works.” The board also shared a statement which read: “In light of the spread of the Covid-19 epidemic worldwide, strong decisions are required to ensure the safety and health of Houses, their employees and everyone working in our industry.”

It remains to be seen as to what the alternatives could be, however alternate dates at a later time could be being considered, as too could digital presentations. As many commentators have noted in recent weeks, this pandemic is likely to reignite the conversation around whether there remains a need for physical shows in the future.

Friday, March 27, 2020

How Fashion Is Doing Its Part To Help Stop Coronavirus Spreading

After donating $2.2 million (£1.8 million) to the Red Cross in China last month, LVMH is continuing to aid in the fight against coronavirus. This week, the company announced that it would use its luxury perfume and cosmetics factories to produce free sanitising gel for local hospitals and authorities in France. As is the case around the world, antiviral supplies are running out quickly there.

LVMH’s move is likely to inspire other large businesses with their own supply chains to follow suit. But it isn’t the only major fashion player giving back during this time of global crisis. In fact, last week, the Italian fashion entrepreneur Chiara Ferragni launched her own online fundraising campaign and it has already raised more than $4 million (£3.2 million) for Italian hospitals.

As the fight to contain the pandemic rages on across the world, more and more of fashion’s most powerful brands are working to provide aid to the global medical community and to victims of the virus. Here, we’ve put together a list of the industry leaders who are donating money and supplies in the fight against COVID-19.

On 26 March, Alberta Ferretti announced that for every purchase made on their website, 15% of the proceeds will be donated to the Local Health Authority of Romagna and the Humanitas Clinical Institute of Milan.  Prada announced that the company would be funding two new ICUs in three of Milan’s hospitals: Sacco, San Raffaele, and Vittore Buzzi. Donatella Versace and her daughter Allegra Versace Beck have pledged more than $200,000 (£164,000) to the intensive care units of the San Raffaele hospital in Milan.

Early last month, Bulgari contributed to the research department at the Istituto Lazzaro Spallanzani in Rome, which was working to purchase a microscopic image acquisition system to help fight and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Giorgio Armani donated nearly $1.4 million (£1.2 million) to various hospitals around Italy, namely those larger establishments in Rome and Milan.

Marco Bizzarri, the chief executive officer of Gucci, personally gave more than $100,000 (£82,000) to hospitals in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, which has some of the highest numbers of infected coronavirus patients. While Sergio Rossi also donated more than $100,000 (£82,000) but to local Milan hospitals Fatebenefratelli and Luigi Sacco.

Renzo Rosso’s Only The Brave Foundation shared an Instagram asking followers to donate directly to the foundation so that they can distribute funds to smaller, more localised community organisations. Moncler have donated €10 million (£9.2 million) to support the construction of a hospital in the ex Fiera Milano area in Milan. The project – promoted by the region of Lombardy – will ensure 400 new intensive care units.

The 2020 BFC / Vogue Designer Fashion Fund Will Be Split Six Ways

The BFC / Vogue Designer Fashion Fund is traditionally a hard-fought contest between a talented shortlist of young designers, all of whom have proven they embody the creativity innate to the British fashion scene, and who want to take their nascent businesses to the next level. The 2020 competition, however, will be marked by a unique development: the £200,000 prize money, and accompanying mentorship programme, will be split across each of the six shortlisted brands for the very first time.

The decision to split the prize money was taken in early March when the coronavirus, and Covid-19, began to take hold in the UK. “At this unprecedented time, we need to do our utmost to protect and nurture the young talents that bring so much energy and excitement to the British fashion industry,” reflected British Vogue’s editor-in-chief Edward Enninful. “It’s a very challenging time, and we want to make sure the message is clear: We are here to support you.”

The move comes as the BFC announced the launch of the BFC Foundation Covid Crisis Fund, which will make £1 million of emergency funds available to designer businesses, with a portion of funds allocated to fashion students. The fund has been created through the pooling of the BFC/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund, the BFC/GQ Designer Menswear Fund, the BFC Fashion Trust and BFC NEWGEN.

Applications for funding from the new BFC Foundation Covid Crisis Fund will open within the next seven days, with applications closing on 10th April. The criteria for funding is five-fold and stipulations include, but are not limited to, businesses that are based in the UK, and are majority-owned by the designer or creative director with no outside equity funding.

Looking ahead to the mens’ shows in June, while no hard decisions have been made, the BFC said it was looking to “focus on digital activity, enabling designers, retailers and media to tell their stories through content.”

The Kindness Of The Fashion Industry Is Revealing Itself Amid The Chaos

An early recurring topic in Brandon Maxwell’s twice-daily Skype calls with his #WFH team was, “how can a New York-based fashion brand help the global community during the coronavirus outbreak?” An action plan was quickly formulated in these “80 per cent business, 20 per cent fun” virtual meetings. Brandon Maxwell, the label, pivoted from designing womenswear to creating hospital gowns and fabric covers to prolong the life of surgical masks used by medical workers.

“[Pyer Moss designer] Kerby Jean-Raymond led the charge,” says Maxwell, name-checking his friend with pride. “He made a commitment early on to turn his office into a medical supplies donation centre, and to help small businesses [the designer set aside $50,000 for minority and female-owned independent companies in distress]”. It was Jean-Raymond’s team who shared the information on how to create mask covers, and Maxwell’s studio who, in turn, passed on its research into durable, technical fabrics that work well for gowns. Worn over scrubs, these non-sterile garments – which are used as physical, not respiratory, PPE [personal protective equipment] – are more likely to be accepted by hospitals. (A fabric mask can’t protect a medical professional against contagious airborne viruses, but can be used by staff not directly treating Covid-19 patients).

“So many people see the fashion community as a negative space, but I’ve always known it to be a deeply human one,” says Maxwell. “If anything positive can come out of this, it is that the industry’s kindness is revealing itself.” Maxwell – who has been furiously riding his static bike in his apartment to combat anxiety – believes that the coronavirus pandemic is unique, because, “it’s not just fashion going through it, the whole world is in it together”. Taking a moment each day to work with his hands in his makeshift home studio – a process that had been put on the back-burner as his business grew and merchandising took precedence – has also helped to dissipate his woes around coronavirus. “The only option is to lean on each other and come out of this stronger,” Maxwell explains of his refusal to panic about a business slowdown. “This is a moment to look around, to see the greatness in each other, and to connect in a way that time, space, stress and pressure have otherwise not allowed us to.”

As well as Skyping and FaceTiming his colleagues – who laughed at their boss’s unfamiliarity with Zoom (he has since downloaded the app) – Maxwell has been logging into Instagram Live at noon and at 9pm to talk to individuals who are thinking twice about forging a career in fashion. “Beauty, optimism and joy are important – especially in times like this,” he says. “I don’t want anyone in school thinking that creating new fashion or art is no longer valid. We have to put work out into the world that inspires others to get through this.”

With a glass of wine in hand for the evening IGTV appointments, he has enjoyed immersing himself in the lives of budding entrepreneurs, craft enthusiasts and their grandmas, and people whose spirits need lifting with a little Maxwell positivity. “It’s never really been about the clothes for me,” he shares. “It’s about using a garment as a tool to make yourself, and others, feel better than you did earlier in the day.” In the same vein, Maxwell is also donating white gowns to brides whose weddings have been affected by the economic repercussions of coronavirus.

This rather saintly, but wholly self-effacing, figure truly believes that the world will be a different place after the social distancing rules are relaxed. “I don’t know what [fashion] collections or shows will look like going forward,” he opines. “But, truthfully, I’m not pushing myself to work this out.” For now, Maxwell is focusing on staying cheerful and taking time to have small moments of creativity, which, like everything else he does, he will share with others.

A Bit Of Fashion Magic: Thom Browne On The Making Of His Fall 2020 Collection

It’s early February, a time before social distancing and coronavirus panic in the United States. In New York, it’s raining and sirens are blaring, but we are in the considered calm of Thom Browne’s office in the Garment District. Browne is demonstrating his daily switch-a-roo from a custom sport wool blazer, now pristinely hung on the back of his chair, to a well-loved cashmere cardigan that he wears while sketching at his mid-century desk. Browne is framed between monolithic paintings of squares, triangles, and squiggly lines as he picks up a marker. My colleagues and I crane our necks while trying to stay out of the director’s frame. We’ve been promised that the designer will reveal how he turns these graphic sketches into living, breathing garments.

At first glance, it might seem impossible that one of Browne’s sketches, so square, finite, and inflexible, would become clothing. “I sketch this way because I can’t actually illustrate—at all,” the designer laughs, slowly walking us through his key shapes and their meanings. A triangle would become a pleated skirt, a staple of the Browne oeuvre. A square? That’s a shorter jacket, while a rectangle would be a piece of outerwear.

To the outsider, the Thom Browne universe can look cold, uncomfortable even. Why would you strap your body into tight little shorts, strap your mind into such a specific way of working? But within the gray walls of Browne’s offices in New York and Paris, there is much warmth, much play, and lots of room to push boundaries.

Vogue had the pleasure of following the designer as he built his fall 2020 collection. It uses Noah Ark’s as a jumping-off point for blurring gender lines—this would be the first unisex show of his career—and blurring the possibilities of Browne’s beloved gray wool suit. Instead of the traditional skirts (triangles, remember?) and shorty-shorts (presumably a tiny square), Browne and his design team built tops, skirts, and overcoats using pre-existing garments without cutting away any of the slack. In our video, you can see a muslin test of a skirt created from all the elements that would traditionally comprise the top half of a TB suit: The blazer, the cardigan, the shirt, and the tie are collaged together around the body, any errant sleeves left to trail or be tucked via a clever origami into the final garment.

The hero look, or should we say looks, in this documentary are the first ones out on the runway. Worn by a male and female model, the ensembles transpose Browne tropes into a new mode of fashion for the future: skirts as tops, cardigans as scarves, and crisp white shirts as trains on navy overcoats. It’s all the Browne signatures, topsy-turvied until they come out new, and paired with wonderfully silly giraffe-shaped bags to boot. Watch how Browne and his team make their joyous fashion magic happen in our exclusive video.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

This Interactive Frida Kahlo Exhibition Is An Ideal Post-Work Activity

First and foremost, Frida Kahlo was an incredible painter. But upon viewing her work, personal objects and photographs, you’d be reminded of her fearless advocation of women’s rights, how she defied societal beauty standards and the many ways in which she used her decorative prosthetic leg to bring disabilities into the mainstream. Eight hundred of such pieces now feature in an online exhibition. Better yet, the interactive exploration, entitled Faces of Frida, is the ideal post-work activity right now as we all stay indoors.

Brought together thanks to 30 collections found across the world – including the English National Ballet – Google Arts & Culture has curated a digital exhibition of Kahlo’s work. The Mexican artist may not have achieved the recognition she fully deserved in her lifetime, but her work and rebellious spirit still captivates us today. Through the interactive exploration, you can read her letters, zoom in on her self-portraits and see her personal possessions up-close. The best part? You can enjoy a virtual tour of her home and place of work, too.

Kahlo’s home was a central part of her work. After she died in 1954, her artist husband, Diego Rivera, kept all of her work and possessions inside a room in their home. Located on the outskirts of Mexico City, the Blue House served as a place of inspiration for both of them. Her husband kept her work locked away for a long time as a mark of respect for her legacy. But he needn’t have worried as our appetite for her artistry shows no sign of abating. Go on, take a private tour here.

Post-Crisis, Will All Fashion Events Go Digital

Events — the lifeblood of many fashion and luxury marketers in recent years — have come to a halt amid the coronavirus pandemic, and are likely to assume a more digital cast in the future.

But they are too vital and effective to disappear, and could even become a revenue-generating sideline for some brands, according to marketing educators asked to project how experiential marketing might look in a post-crisis world. 

Even before the health emergency, fashion brands were coming under pressure from sustainability advocates about the wastefulness of runway shows and elaborate parties. These experts say creative solutions, often incorporating technology, must be found to preserve events as a potent brand statement, emotional connector and community builder.

“There are many opportunities to produce completely digital or hybrid events. It’s a question of reorganizing the creativity, plugging it into new technologies, and taking account of how individual attendees will experience the event,” said Louise Stuart Trainor, a lecturer in consumer insights at London College of Fashion. “Skills in emotional intelligence, storytelling and experience design will be prized. It’s essential that physical events are not just filmed for a digital audience but rather that there is a shift toward a digital-first attitude.” 

To be sure, lavish, experiential events have become a principal tool for luxury brands to differentiate, just as retailers like Hollister or Abercrombie & Fitch use carefully curated retail environments to express their brand essence, according to Anne Michaut, a marketing professor at French business school HEC. 

“They’re a way to connect with customers through senses, through emotions, a lot more than products themselves, a bit more holistic,” Michaut said in an interview. She added that events can also have a “cognitive dimension,” mentioning as an example LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s biannual Journées Particulières initiative, during which the French group invites the public to tour leather goods workshops, vineyards, couture ateliers and perfume factories to exalt the craft skills that go into high-quality products.

Academics agreed that social media, which amplifies physical events and extends their life span, have compelled brands to funnel investments in this direction, especially luxury brands.

 “In general, luxury brands have spent roughly 20 to 50 percent of the marketing budgets on brand experiences in the last years, appreciating live events as critical to the company’s success and experiential marketing a vital part of a brand’s advertising strategy,” said Alexander Werz, co-chief executive officer of communication and public relations firm Karla Otto. “This applies to fashion as well as other industries such as beauty, design, art, hospitality and spirits.” 

Marie-Cécile Cervellon, professor of marketing at EDHEC Business School in France, said fashion marketers generally consider that experiential events offer a return on investment that is roughly 10 times higher than traditional marketing campaigns. A social channel “provides a much larger audience and it provides a way to be visible much beyond the frontiers of the physical event,” she explained. 

According to Michaut, events create a lot of “attachment to the brand,” and generate “memories” that can fuel future purchases. They’re also an effective forum for expressing a brand’s values, which have become preeminent for many consumers. 

Which means that brand stewards must ask themselves, “how will we in the organization of the company make sure experiences and events will be as creative as the products,” she stressed. “It’s a matter that creativity is no longer just at the service of product creation, but it has to take a new dimension.” 

These experts agreed that fashion events are likely to resume once the health crisis has ended, but likely blending physical and digital components. 

In China, the first epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, many brands and retailers created “mini events” for customers on WeChat every day, Michaut noted. Fendi, for example, last year introduced a video game featuring Xu Weizhou, ambassador for its Peekaboo bag in China, that involved Roman landmarks. 

She cited a Gartner L2 report showing that the adoption rate among fashion-focused luxury brands for mini-programs grew from 40 percent in 2018 to 70 percent in 2019. “The digital dimension will just increase,” she predicted. 

Stuart Trainor spies an opportunity for influencers and digital marketers to come to the fore. “They can teach brands how to engage an audience through digital media and ensure that audience attention is kept throughout the event,” she said. “Interactivity is key. The audience can contribute through live polling while XR (cross reality) technologies will have limitless possibilities to create hybrid experiences and personalized digital moments.” 

She allowed that cyber security, 5G, and live-versus-on-demand recordings will need to be considered, “but it is an incredibly exciting opportunity for creativity.” 

“The future of event marketing is going to be online,” agreed Cervellon, mentioning live-streamed fashion shows and avatars appearing in ad campaigns, as Louis Vuitton did in 2016 with Lightning from the cult Japanese video game “Final Fantasy.” Influencer marketing is likely to involve more virtual influencers in future, she predicted.

She also forecast more exhibitions to exalt heritage brands, and a proliferation of smaller, “private events” for top clients or influencers, citing as an example Ruinart’s recent “Carte Blanche” surprise pop-up nights at the Opera Bastille. “All of this is going to develop in parallel to digital and virtual events,” Cervellon said. 

Michaut went so far as to suggest that events and experiences, until now mainly a cost center, could ultimately become a revenue stream for savvy brands that can evolve their business models towards experiences that come with an entry fee. 

Some luxury car makers, for example, already sell rare experiences like the possibility to drive on a race track, and jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels operates a school of jewelry arts in several cities offering a range of courses for fees of about 200 euros. 

“For most of them it’s very limited,” she allowed, while predicting that unusual business models will multiply in future. While distant from fashion and luxury, energy drink maker Red Bull has transformed itself into a media company and content creator paid by networks and streaming firms for headline events it organizes, such as its Stratos jump from space. 

“Customers are increasingly asking not just for products but for live experiences with brands, they want to be entertained,” Michaut said. “All brands have become sort of entertainers for their customers as well.”  Educators agreed that sustainability questions will put additional pressure on events once the health crisis ebbs.

“The tide was already turning on fashion week in particular,” said Stuart Trainor, arguing it is “unsustainable for the attendees to travel for so many weeks of the year.” 

What’s more, “there is a growing sense that fashion week is becoming a blur; there are too many shows and not enough time to really review and analyze the collections produced,” she said. “The sustainability movement has already put a spotlight on the environmental effects of fashion week, but the aftermath of the coronavirus will accelerate change.” 

Cervellon agreed that large-scale extravaganza’s — Fendi’s show atop the Great Wall of China in 2007 being a penultimate example, propelling event marketing to a new zenith — are likely to go the way of air kissing.

If the 2008 subprime financial crisis is any guide, luxury and fashion brands are likely to behave in a more discreet manner once the health crisis ebbs, and even prominent logos could do a disappearing act, giving way to “stealth wealth,” according to Cervellon. 

Michaut allowed that the “desire for escapism and the need to see and experience beauty may become even stronger after the coronavirus. But the way that is experienced will come under intense scrutiny. Luxury brands will need to figure out how they can still bring their community together. If that is not at multiple gatherings across the globe, they will need to innovate in the digital space.” 

Michel Phan, a professor of luxury marketing at EM Lyon Business School, suggested that visual effects, such as lasers and holograms, are likely to replace “props that are destroyed after 20 minutes of use” at fashion shows. 

He also suggested that event marketing will become intertwined with social and environmental issues, lauding France’s big luxury groups for donating money to rebuild Notre Dame after the 2019 fire that destroyed the roof and steeple. “This is a way of communicating as well,” he said. “It shows they’re not only here to make money, but to give back to society as well.”

Virgil Abloh’s Lockdown Playlist

Music is vital to Virgil Abloh. Before he founded Off-White in 2013 and took the reins as men’s artistic director at Louis Vuitton, the first African American to helm a major global luxury brand, in 2018, Abloh was a deejay. “I always have music playing in the background of pretty much everything I do,” he said. That goes for when he’s in Chicago with his family, at Vuitton’s Paris headquarters, or in Tokyo with his latest collaborator, the Japanese streetwear pioneer Nigo.

Now, like the rest of us in this coronavirus crisis, Abloh is working from home, trying to “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of the COVID-19 disease. This is easier said than done for the famous multi-hyphenate; before his own illness last year (unrelated to the coronavirus), Abloh famously took eight international flights a week. One way he’s keeping himself busy is by sharing the songs that are soundtracking his downtime with Vogue.

The jazz legend Miles Davis, the American rapper Jay Electronica, and the Brazilian composer Arthur Verocai are all in the mix, but that’s just a hint of the eclecticism of his 17-track playlist. “This is the latest batch of what I’m listening to,” Abloh said. “Much like my art and design practice, my musical tastes know no boundaries; they don’t fit nicely within any box… The songs are just as varied in their genre-less thinking as I am.”

We asked Abloh if there was a standout song that would surprise his 5.1 million followers. Apparently not. “We are of a generation where this way of thinking and living—not locking ourselves into one box or role—is being deemed as formally okay,” he said in full spirit leader mode.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

How The Fashion Industry Has Rallied Together During A Global Crisis

What will fashion look like when we reach the other side of the pandemic? To answer that gigantic question from isolation at home in London this week feels impossible — like a grandiose attempt to conjure up a sci-fi world that might exist next year. While writing in real time, in fear — as the UK government implements emergency legislation — making fashion predictions feels like insanity.

But while I make no claims to be a data cruncher (what scientific guide is there to unprecedented times, anyway?), I’m still glimpsing something hopeful coming out of these worst of times. The seeds of a better future taking shape; the promise of a time when irresponsibility stops. It’s huge, but it’s small scale and personal, too: somehow, we’re coming to learn that creativity and public-spiritedness are radical superpowers. And they lie in everyone’s hands.

I was at Miuccia Prada’s office in Milan on 21 February, a day I’ll never forget. I was about to start an interview with her for Vogue Japan (whose editors were already in lockdown because of coronavirus in Tokyo), when Miuccia looked up and remarked, “The news of this morning is that there’s a case of coronavirus in Codogno, a little town near here,” she said. The air froze. Who could have foreseen that within a month, on 17 March, she and her husband Patrizio Bertelli would be donating six intensive care units to hospitals in Milan? “That day was our 9/11 in Italy,” says Tiziana Cardini, my Vogue Runway colleague.

The fashion industry has answered the call

As if Wuhan wasn’t warning enough in December, we’ve been seeing horrendous and piteous things as coronavirus death rates climb relentlessly outside China since. The hammer blows have rained down hard on fashion: on laid-off factory and mill workers; on the freelance ecosystem of models, photographers, hair and makeup artists and everyone involved with the production of shoots and shows; on students who won’t get the graduation shows they always dreamed of; on store workers’, retailers’ and designers’ businesses of every size. Yet, wherever it is on the planet we’re holed up, there is no one who hasn’t worried more about pleas of frontline medical staff for protective clothing and equipment. This is the major public health issue that has landed squarely on fashion’s doorstep, knocking on its conscience — and to an amazing degree, the fashion industry has been answering.

Across the board, there’s been a swift response from everyone, from young designers sewing in their bedrooms to factory owners with huge capacity, to the actions of the giant luxury brands and conglomerates. Nobody waited for somebody else to act. “I can’t sit here just staring at the wall,” said young British designer Phoebe English in London, who has spent the past week researching the safe construction of masks, asking, asking and asking, and spreading word to her peers about how to enlist production capacity on the UK government’s hastily set-up portal for goods and services. “At first, we started cold-emailing large organisations to see if there was anything we could do to help,” English says. “We didn’t get any responses. So I thought I’d try social media. We were immediately flooded with advice, tonnes and tonnes of people offering to help from their sewing machines at home; people from Hong Kong sharing videos of how to make DIY masks, people sending charts on the breathability of different household textiles.” She continues: “I’m still carefully sifting through all the information. More keeps coming every day.”

Meanwhile in Prague, self-isolating fashion students from Umprum Academy of Art, Architecture and Design instagrammed themselves sewing masks, heeding a call from Czech Republic local authorities for “simple sewn masks for seniors, volunteers or shop workers — so we got involved,” Czech fashion designer Alice Klouzková messaged me. Having released ‘how-to’ videos, she says, “Now the whole country is sewing!” Just watching videos online of young women such as Alice sewing and ironing piles of masks feels uplifting.

Information is running fast, though, and the technical specifics are vitally important to get right. The MoMu Fashion Museum Antwerp released an open-source design and making tutorial, in conjunction with the Belgian Ministry of Public Health. Kaat Debo, director of the fashion museum, emailed: “We’ve donated our entire stock of Tyvek, which we use to make covers for our objects, as well as our stock of cotton ribbon to sewing ateliers in Antwerp.” Tyvek, she explains, is “synthetic, breathable and water repellent, so ideal for face masks.”

A spontaneous community effort

The fashion industry is often stigmatised for its self-regarding lack of social responsibility, yet exactly the opposite is happening now. People are learning at speed, sharing design intel, becoming conversant with scientific fact — organising, co-operating, adapting and working really hard to come up with new solutions. That this is happening when nobody is making any money — but especially when they aren’t — is of course part of the general mood of volunteering and neighbourliness, which has surfaced as one of society’s biggest saving graces in the last few weeks. Perhaps we’ll look back on this spontaneous community effort to produce face masks as a decisive test-run for a new behaviour and thinking in fashion that couldn’t have been dreamt of even a month ago.

Facts must be adhered to. Designers have quickly established that although homemade masks are not suitable for hospital use (so donating them is redundant), wearing one if you venture out, or if you’re working in a public-facing job or with vulnerable people, is of public benefit. (However, if you’re wearing any face mask — homemade or bought — it’s vitally important that you must not remove the mask and put it on again, or touch your face while wearing it. And don’t put it in your bag after — machine or hand wash it straightaway.) The terror of Covid-19 is that you’re at your most infectious two days before you realise you’re sick; and some remain asymptomatic. But there is also social responsibility in not using up supplies. “There is more and more evidence from countries where people are being advised to make their own at home in order to free up reserves of the certified ones for medical teams and their support staff,” says English. “Either way, we’re in a worldwide pandemic, and stocks of these items will be suffering.”

The generosity movement

The emergency response across the fashion industry has been quicker than that of most western governments. The sudden realisation of how unprepared and uncoordinated they are — and of how the competitive free market works against fair distribution of supplies — surfaced on 22 March when New York governor Andrew Cuomo posted on Twitter: “I’m calling on the Federal Government to nationalize the medical supply chain.”

One of the first responses was from Stacey Bendet of Alice + Olivia. “I have factories that can make masks and gowns. We need help identifying what is most urgent and we can mobilise the fashion manufacturers,” she wrote. “But we need guidance in terms of [medically] approved materials.” Cuomo replied: “Thank you so much. Really appreciate this. DM-ing you.” In Britain, the flood of fashion volunteers, from sample machinists at home to brands with UK factories suddenly lying idle quickly overwhelmed the first government point of contact: they have not been prepared. Now, the British Fashion Council has been asked to filter and channel requests. “There is a sense that the fashion industry will do the right thing,” says BFC CEO Caroline Rush.

So it is proving, right to the top. Could it be that living through time of coronavirus will reconfigure the organisation of fashion, fundamentally changing how brands practice their role? I hope it can be so. The big guys — normally ruthless competitors — immediately opened their financial reserves to try to save lives in Italy. Giorgio Armani (who had been prescient in running his women’s mainline show without an audience back in February at the Milan shows) pledged €1.25m (£1,101,169) to Milanese hospitals and to Protezione Civile, Italy’s civil defence. Donatella Versace and her daughter Allegra Versace Beck donated €200K (£183,528) to the ICU at San Raffaele hospital, saying: “This is when we, as a society, need to stand together and care for one another.”

Remo Ruffini of Moncler committed a further €10m (£9,189,160) to assist the emergency construction of a hospital in the former Fiera Milano area — where the international fashion audience used to flock to shows in the ’80s and ’90s. “Milan is a city that has given us all an extraordinary time,” he said in a press release. “It is everyone’s duty to give back to the city what it has given us so far.”

What we know now is that vast companies can think on their feet and change their practices, just as quickly as they wish, and are doing things they never imagined they could: a new-think time that surely has long-term potential for a revolution in sustainability. LVMH, L'Oréal and Coty have swiftly repurposed factories to produce hand sanitiser for medical use. Gucci is awaiting medical authority go-ahead to make hospital masks and overalls in its Italian factories. Its parent company, Kering — which owns Gucci, Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga and Alexander McQueen — has donated $2 million (£1.7 million) to coronavirus medical research. In Sweden, H&M, and Inditex — the owner of Zara in Spain — are stepping up to offer the EU mass manufacture of protective masks, gowns, gloves, goggles and caps to meet the emergency.

The big question is whether this spontaneous surge of human spirit, practicality and creativity will grow strongly enough, for long enough, to turn fashion’s priorities around. Will this nightmare time actually become a historic and positive turning-point, converting both industry producers and wearers to, literally, a new way of seeing and valuing clothes? There’s a possibility that all these weeks of staying at home will result in discovering a streak of waste-not creativity we never knew we had, also giving children the knowledge that they can use their hands to make things. Already the mushrooming crafting and mending DIY videos on Instagram and YouTube say that. By all means, have fun making face masks! (There are patterns for children’s sizes, too.)

These unprecedented experiences — the grand corporate gestures, and the personal ones being of equal moral value — will change us in ways we can’t yet foresee. So far, fashion and the many people working within it have behaved in exemplary ways. I’m hoping that this hideous time will make so many things so much better.