As coronavirus cases begin to level throughout some of the world’s greatest hotspots, the fashion industry prepares for its long journey to a new normal.
Vogue Global Conversations continued on Wednesday with a panel of fashion experts and designers who discussed how they could continue their work while isolated from team members and society.
According to Wen Zhou, chief executive of 3.1 Phillip Lim, this conversation started long before the pandemic when her team initially considered the logistics involved in working remotely. “How can we be creative outside of the office when our products are so tactile? This is a conversation [our company has] been having for a long time,” said Zhou, adding that the pandemic has forced the business to “fast forward” to an answer.
Her team’s approach includes regular meetings and company-wide Zoom calls. However, she notes that physically seeing and touching products is still a key component to the business, and as a result will often mail products to colleagues across different countries.
“This is really teaching us, and especially me as a business leader, how to be able to take the best part of this opportunity, and to implement something that works for the future,” she said. “What is our work-from-home policy going forward?”
Others agreed that the current pause is giving the industry an opportunity to better itself.
Designer Simone Rocha suggested that the pandemic could result in a change of delivery timelines, as the traditional schedule causes consumers to “respond to sales rather than the season.” Restructuring the schedule could make discounts less necessary—and potentially eradicate the notoriously wasteful Black Friday that has fallen under scrutiny in recent years, she added.
“You don’t need to put a coat on sale in November,” she said. “I think that could slow the pace in a way that still leaves a lot of room for creativity.”
Making room for creativity is a concept that surfaced in a previous Vogue Global Conversation with Chloé creative director Natacha Ramsay-Levi, who said fewer fashion shows as a result of the pandemic could translate to more creative, impactful ideas. This approach is also something Zhou touched on when discussing her company’s “making less, meaning more” philosophy that focuses on honing the craft and less on adhering to a schedule.
When it comes to finding inspiration during crises, designer and creative director John Galliano, who Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour interviewed earlier in the discussion, says the real creativity will come from the period following isolation, when people cautiously make their way back into society.
“Honestly, I think what people wear will be inspired by how the ‘de-confinement’ kicks in,” he said.
In the meantime, the uncertainty has given Galliano a sense of creative freedom. He toyed with the idea of producing a runway show that depicts some of the design process, and wondered if he would even have a show at all.
“Do I want to do a virtual show? I don’t mind doing [that], but now isn’t it maybe time to propose a new way of presenting collections and how we sell them?” he said. “When I thought about that, I became much more inspired.”