The Thread That Binds

Harper's BAZAAR Singapore|May 2020

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The Thread That Binds
As the world plunges into crisis and uncertainty, the fashion industry steps up, whipping up masks, sanitisers, hazmat suits and donations in the millions. Jeffrey Yan ruminates on what we’re doing now and what comes after
Jeffrey Yan
In the best of times, fashion can be a source of delight, inspiration, invention and fantasy. These are not the best of times. As the coronavirus pandemic rages on, the trappings of modern fashion— epic shows in glamorous locales, new must-haves every season, product drops at frantic speeds and frequencies—are suddenly looking painfully out of touch. From retail networks to supply chains, the industry as we know it has been disrupted.

But one of the powers of fashion is also its ability to reflect the times, and in these times of grave uncertainty, the industry has shown surprising resilience and adaptation—putting thoughts of profitability aside to throw its considerable muscle and resources behind relief, research and emergency efforts.

When the virus first started seeping out of China in January, the major fashion weeks still carried on. It wasn’t quite business as usual—face masks and hand sanitisers were spotted everywhere, from front rows to backstage—but the threat hadn’t yet exploded to its current scale. When Giorgio Armani cancelled his Milan Fashion Week show in lieu of a virtual live stream, more than a few viewed it as an abundance of caution.

In the weeks since, Italy has turned into an epicentre of the pandemic; hospitals were overwhelmed. Fashion brands sprang into action. The Armani Group donated €1.25 million to Italian hospitals. The Prada Group donated six intensive care and resuscitation units to three Milanese hospitals. Donatella and Allegra Versace each pledged €100,000 to Milan’s San Raffaele hospital. Moncler gave €10 million to support the construction of a new hospital with 400 intensive care units. Kering committed €2 million to Italy and Tod’s, €5 million. Bvlgari and Dolce&Gabbana poured money into research efforts focused on finding a cure.

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May 2020