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COVID-19

As New York Fashion Week begins, the clothing industry ponders its future

Marielle Segarra Feb 15, 2021
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A model walks the runway for Christopher John Rogers during New York Fashion Week in 2020. This year, the runways are mostly virtual. Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for NYFW: The Shows
COVID-19

As New York Fashion Week begins, the clothing industry ponders its future

Marielle Segarra Feb 15, 2021
Heard on:
A model walks the runway for Christopher John Rogers during New York Fashion Week in 2020. This year, the runways are mostly virtual. Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for NYFW: The Shows
HTML EMBED:
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New York Fashion Week has begun, with mostly virtual shows. It’s been a very strange year for fashion. Sales of clothing and shoes are down, and the things people are buying are geared to comfort.

But that may change. The Biden administration has made deals with Pfizer and Moderna to acquire enough of their coronvirus vaccines by late July to immunize the entire U.S. population.

If things go according to plan, sometime this year life will start getting back to normal.

“The bars will be open, the restaurants will be open, people will be going to weddings with 150-plus people as opposed to small numbers,” said Michael Londrigan, associate professor at the fashion college LIM.

People will buy new clothes to wear to these events. And to their offices, if they still have offices.

The question is, what will they buy? Because, well, a lot of us have gotten used to this whole elastic-waistband, comfortable-shoes thing.

“We’ve been doing it now for close to a year,” Londrigan said. “So I think that there’s going to be a continuation of that.”

Maybe we’ll see dress codes at offices loosen up.  

“Comfort is here to stay,” said Bronwyn Cosgrave, host of the fashion podcast “A Different Tweed.” “But if you notice the way people are reacting when they get vaccinated, there is this tremendous sigh of relief.”

She thinks that’ll be expressed in clothing. Dresses. Bright colors. Whatever makes people feel like they’re celebrating.

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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