This pandemic has forced us all to reconsider and reimagine the things we accepted as normal and, even, presumed to be essential. The fashion industry lept into action in the early days of the virus; producing masks, gowns and hand sanitizers in their factories and donating to various charitable causes. They are now forced to reassess previously uncontested traditions in our cultural embarking into this “new normal.” For some, the coronavirus has provided a long awaited opportunity make the fashion industry more practical, accessible and environmentally sustainable.
Suggestions to accomplish these objectives include the limitation of guests at fashion shows and realigning the buying cycle so collections are revealed in the season they are designed to be worn in– both changes made in the intention of decreasing the industries’ carbon footprint. On May 12th, these propositions and a subsequent call to change was announced in an “Open Letter to the Fashion Industry.” The letter has already obtained the signatures of designers such as Chloé, Thom Browne, and Gabriela Hearst alongside retailers such as Nordstrom, Bergdorf Goodman and Selfridges.
The letter is sustainably-focused, calling into question the value and subsequent cost of extravagant fashion. It calls for a reevaluation of both the consumer and production experiences. Fashion can and will continue to be luxurious but is now being urged to utilize its resources to better support its employees, customers, and the environment. This shift away from abundance and excess encourages designers to narrow their focus to better serve the world they are selling their work to. This removal of calendar expectation on releases allows collections to be sacred again, held in reverence before their reallocation to the sales rack. In all our innovation and progress, the artistry of production is often forgotten in the light of the finished product. This open letter reminds us that fashion is a privilege, one we have taken for granted for too long.
We are reminded of the sanctity of the artistic process from inception to creation. Our society’s obsession with result and finality has resulted in an optimization of the creative process that devalues the curiosity and exploration at the heart of all artistic endeavors. If we are paralyzingly afraid of failure and mistakes, we will never create anything that hasn’t already been done. It seems that the fashion industry has taken this observation as of late and in turn, unveiled and revealed the inner workings of many ateliers in various short films produced while in lockdown. This honest, vulnerable look into the work behind the garments reminds consumers that each work has held massive value, long before it ever clothed a model in Bloomingdale’s.
This letter coincides with the release of many designer’s Fall collections, being shown digitally in place of a physical fashion week. Personally, the release of these collections was a surprise– I hadn’t expected such luxuriously conscious work to emerge from this time of social distancing. In researching the production of these collections and the adjustments that had to be made for the coronavirus, I was reminded that each garment is precious, an artifact of the artistry of our time.
The notion of fashion as disposable and frivolous is just one element in our culture of waste. Across all aspects of our lives, lockdown has forced us to see the things that previous busyness had hid from us. Often revealed is an exorbitant waste: of our time, money, and energy. We are all questioning our previous standards in this time of preserving what matters most. This is an opportunity for all of us, in the fashion industry or not, to imagine new ways of doing things moving forward; a way that honors our initiatives, challenges “good enough” and protects each other.
Image sourced from Pinterest, Artist: unknown