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Stella McCartney, Marc Jacobs on Letting Go ‘Old Ideas’ About Fashion

Like the rest of the world, Marc Jacobs is grieving.

In the first of the Vogue Global Conversations that debuted on Tuesday, Jacobs told British Vogue’s editor-in-chief Edward Enninful that fashion will never be the same as a result of COVID-19, and while some of the changes are bound to be positive ones, it’s important to acknowledge those feelings of loss.

The pandemic has forced non-essential businesses to close until further notice throughout the world—and while many find comfort in the idea that it’s temporary, Jacobs said the stages of sadness, anger and fear are “very real.”

“I’m in a process of grief right now,” Jacobs said. “We’ve got to let go of old ideas. [Grief] is a very human experience when you’re in something which has so much uncertainty.”

The designer, whose eponymous luxury brand sources nearly all of its fabric from Italy, told Enninful he’s not working on a new collection because of the uncertainty. “To design a collection, I need my team, and my team needs to look at fabric. There are a lot of things that go on, so until we discover a new way to work, we really have nothing to do,” he said.

Other designers disagree. Stella McCartney, whose label is built on a foundation of sustainability, said one of the key pillars of sustainable production is long-term thinking.

“I work so far in advance [to get my fabrics] because I want to use my crops more efficiently; I want to have items transported more efficiently; I want to use less pesticides, which takes longer,” McCartney said. Because of this long-term, sustainable thinking, she currently doesn’t need to order new fabric to make new pieces.

Designer Gabriela Hearst agreed that living a sustainable lifestyle and operating a fashion brand with similar ethics have taught her to do more with less.

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In the first of Vogue's Global Conversations, Marc Jacobs, Stella McCartney and Kenneth Ize discuss COVID-19’s effect on sustainable fashion.
Nigerian designer Kenneth Ize in his debut at Paris Fashion Week in February. Ize relies on global platforms like runway events to promote his work to buyers and consumers. “Creativity needs to keep going,” he said. WWD/Shutterstock

“Waste is a design flaw,” she said, adding that she and her family lived minimally out of necessity while growing up in South America.

One thing all designers could agree on is that the coronavirus will force fashion to slow down.

“This is the first time in history that we can measure the damage we’ve done,” McCartney said, calling out the sudden drop in carbon emissions in China. “We’ve seen in such a short period of time how incredible nature is; how she bounces back so quickly when we just stop for a second. I always thought, ‘how could we ever get out of this issue—will we ever be able to heal?’ It looks like we can. We have to come out realizing we consume too much.”

On the business side, Jacobs predicts that COVID-19 will cause the fashion schedule to change, beginning with shows. He noted that they will likely either scale back in frequency and size or cease completely, pointing to the consistently underwhelming turnout at recent New York Fashion Weeks.

But one thing that will never cease, according to Jacobs, is art.

“Creativity will never stop,” he said. “Where would everyone be during this quarantine if they didn’t have books to read and movies to watch?”

Kenneth Ize, a Nigerian designer, sat down with with Enninful separately and echoed similar sentiments, noting that the show must (figuratively) go on.

“Creativity needs to keep going,” he said.

Ize, who debuted his first show during Paris Fashion Week just before countries began enforcing isolation orders, relied on global platforms like runway shows to promote his work. Ize employs Nigerian artisans to make the aso oke fabric he uses for his collections, maintaining the authenticity of his craft. Shows add credibility to his brand, he said, and assure buyers and consumers that his style belongs around the world.

Without them, Ize said, he’s searching for other ways to share his story. “I believe the way forward is just to keep sharing creative content,” he said.