What does luxury entail in the Covid-19 era? What are our thoughts on fashion? And, in a time of crisis, what use does it serve? When you’re grieving a loss, worried about a sick loved one’s prognosis, or struggling to make ends meet, it might be tough to appreciate the worth in a clothing. Much of our lives have been reduced to two categories as we enter week six of lockdown: essential and non-essential. And the luxuries we formerly took for granted (a flight to a hot, sandy beach, for example, or a day of shopping on a crowded high street) suddenly seem unattainable. In this era of solitude, we’re all re-evaluating our lives and decisions, and fashion is no exception.
That last round of fashion weeks, when the runway shows swept through New York, London, Milan, and Paris, trailed by the at-the-time still-unknown coronavirus, feels like a lifetime ago. As editors crammed onto benches in cramped locations, waiters served out little bottles of hand sanitiser and flutes of champagne on silver trays. We substituted arm squeezes, caustic jokes, and anxious laughter for double kissing and prayed for the best. And, during backstage interviews, creative directors reminded us that we must still get dressed in the midst of it all. And we have to. Fashion has always had the ability to lift people’s spirits. But what about the $2.4 trillion global business – the people, the employment – that is dependent on that most basic of daily actions?
We could tell that the fashion industry was at a crossroads even before the epidemic, as worries about its frantic pace, massive carbon footprint, and shaky track record on diversity overshadowed the garments. But, with the globe at a stop, luxury isn’t what it used to be. It resembles a meandering walk outdoors with family, an afternoon on the sofa reading a book, or the simple feel of human touch, rather than a wait-listed handbag or limited-edition footwear.
As terrible as the pandemic has been, it has also brought out bright spots in the fashion industry, as a global community of huge companies, new designers, and fashion students gather to assist front-line medical workers. We’ve seen photographers band together to help one another as their own businesses and livelihoods hang in the balance. And, when they contemplate their impact on the environment and reconsider their operations, brands announce new sustainability programs.
Could the great pause be the catalyst for fashion’s rehabilitation and inspiration for all of us to dress more thoughtfully? To purchase fewer, higher-quality items. Wearing and appreciating them on a regular basis. To value the humanity of those who created them and the ingenuity of those who created them? That transition is already taking place, according to our talks with the following British designers. May it continue for a long time.