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COVID-19

For Fashion Week, the industry tries to reinvent itself

Erika Beras Sep 24, 2020
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Models pose at the Rebecca Minkoff presentation on Sept. 15, during New York Fashion Week. Arturo Holmes/Getty Images
COVID-19

For Fashion Week, the industry tries to reinvent itself

Erika Beras Sep 24, 2020
Heard on:
Models pose at the Rebecca Minkoff presentation on Sept. 15, during New York Fashion Week. Arturo Holmes/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
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We’re in the middle of fashion week season: New York’s and London’s have wrapped up, Milan’s is going on right now and Paris’ will round out the sequence next week.

The runway shows have been scaled back, socially distanced and mostly virtual. The slimmed-down events are one indication of how the fashion industry’s scrambling to make sense of a world under lockdown.

In the program for his New York Fashion Week event, designer Tom Ford wrote that at the height of stay-at-home orders, he felt fashion should simply go into hibernation for a year. He’s not alone in that thought. Susan Scafidi, founder and academic director at the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham University, said these fashion week shows are “in some ways a placeholder.”

“At the moment, the way we dress is really the way we don’t dress anymore, Scafidi said. “Fewer places to go, fewer formal events, a significant percentage of people still working from home.”

She said that means designers and the companies that distribute clothes have to evolve.

Last week, Rent the Runway, known for leasing workwear and formal wear, said it is getting rid of its unlimited subscription. Retailers that sell high fashion have shuttered. Supply chains have been backed up. Thomai Serdari, luxury marketing professor at New York University, says there’s “a general feeling of uncertainty.”

“We don’t know where we’re going to manufacture the product, we don’t know what the product will look like. We don’t know what our life would look like to even imagine the product,” Sedari said.

The products for now on the virtual runway: couture masks, flowier, comfier clothes and home decor. Laticha Brown, a professor at Fashion Institute of Technology, said designers are using this time to rethink what they want to create and what consumers will buy. Brown said her own style has changed now that she spends lots of time on video calls.

“I’m looking at neckline, so am I wearing a crewneck or V-neck,” she said. “I want to make sure perhaps my necklace is a statement necklace something that they can actually see.”

That’s influencing what she and other shoppers have been buying.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?

Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.

How has the pandemic changed scientific research?

Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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