Susie Menkes on how the fashion industry is fighting the coronavirus epidemic

“This difficult time will reveal in people their best and worst qualities, I am glad to read the news about grand gestures,” says Alber Elbaz. – I’ve always loved our industry, so I’m not even surprised. But I think that we humans have considered ourselves the masters of the world around us for too long. Now we understand that we are only part of it. “

For designers, as for many other representatives of the fashion industry, isolation is a time for reflection. Now, when the coronavirus is spreading across the planet at an incredible speed, there are real heroes among them, whose exploits will not be forgotten.

The fashion industry, considered by many to be frivolous and wasteful, was suddenly at the forefront of the fight against the epidemic. Atelier workers, unnamed laborers, accustomed to dealing with delicate fabrics like silk and satin and hand embroidery, now sew medical uniforms for hospitals, and LVMH perfume factories have retrained to manufacture antiseptics.

It is incredible how many brands and designers have volunteered to help those in need not by word, but by deed: while some donate millions of dollars, others supply hospitals with everything they need.

Last week in Italy – the European epicenter of the pandemic – Miuccia Prada launched the production of 80,000 medical overalls and 110,000 masks, which will be donated to the Tuscany region. Photos of the employees of the Prada factory in Perugia, who tirelessly sit at sewing machines in disposable rubber gloves, evoke both sadness and excitement.

Gucci has also responded to the needs of Italian hospitals and has already purchased 1.1 million masks and 55,000 workwear for them. Earlier, the Kering conglomerate made an impressive donation to the Hubei Red Cross Foundation.

Fashion has always been one of the first to react to changes in mood in society in connection with any cataclysms, be it war, natural disasters or great depressions.

In February, when no one even thought about the global spread of the virus, Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce showed their new autumn-winter 2020 collection – instead of the brand’s usual bright colors and bold prints, we saw black monochrome on the catwalk, occasionally diluted with accents in the form of red roses … I asked the designers why they made this choice.

“I think it was a sign that the world is on the verge of global change, and instinctively we felt it,” says Stefano. – I can’t say why the collection turned out exactly like that. Naturally, there is no marketing plan behind it. We just realized that now people want something simpler and more honest. ” He also adds that the company donated coronavirus research funding to Humanitas University even before the outbreak hit Italy and across Europe. “Everyone can make their own contribution now, even if it is rather modest,” Stefano said.

The forces thrown by the fashion industry to confront the pandemic are invaluable support that states so need.

On Instagram, important industry figures such as Donatella Versace and her daughter Allegra or Sylvia Fendi now and then talk about their personal donations. Moncler has donated 10 million euros to charity – the chairman and CEO of the company Remo Ruffini said the money will go to the construction of intensive care hospitals in the Italian region of Lombardy. “It is the responsibility of each of us to return our debt to this city,” he says.

Among other things, Giorgio Armani donated 1.25 million euros to hospitals in Rome and his native Milan. It is worth recalling that the designer canceled the show of the fall-winter collection as part of Milan Fashion Week, and this happened long before everyone realized the scale of the tragedy.

However, industry assistance is not limited to financial investments. In Paris, Balenciaga and Yves Saint Laurent, owned by the Kering conglomerate, are planning to launch medical masks. In addition, the company donated funds to the French scientific Pasteur Institute.

The young Swedish eco-activist Greta Thunberg, who is called a modern prophet, harshly criticized the fashion industry for its negative impact on the environment and lack of ethics. A huge amount of waste, environmental pollution, the burning of unsold goods, 300 thousand tons of clothes that end up in landfills in Great Britain alone, terrible working conditions in production (suffice it to recall the accident at the Rana Plaza factory in Dhaka, which took away in 2013 1135 lives) – here is a rough list of Thunberg’s claims.

Could it be that after the pandemic, the fashion industry will be presented to the public in a new light? Will our idea of ​​her change, and will she herself start looking at her internal mechanisms in a new way?

Sergio Rossi CEO Riccardo Schutto announced that all funds from the brand’s online sales will go towards fighting COVID-19. He is sure that the virus epidemic is not only a serious test for all of us, but also an opportunity to reconsider our habits.

“We must believe in positive energy, in the strength and resilience of the human spirit. To survive the crisis, we need to look at ourselves in a new way – in forced circumstances, we cannot but do this. The whole system will change, and we must be ready for this. It is necessary to find the strength in oneself to support each other, give each other hope and move together towards a brighter future. I am confident that in this challenging situation we can create new opportunities and form a successful strategy that will help us become even stronger. “

I am reminded of a phrase spoken by Albert Einstein: “Suffering breeds creativity just as deep night breeds day. It is during the crisis that the most incredible innovations, discoveries and strategies appear. “


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