“Out of adversity comes more creativity,” says Trish Fairbairn from Australian online retailer Dead Pretty.
It’s a sentiment that evokes positivity, something that’s proving a rare commodity as the world watches governments try to contain the globe-spanning COVID-19 pandemic.
While fashion has taken a big hit, brands, retailers and online stores have been doing what they can over the last month to support and help out while creating unique responses to serve a community socially distancing itself.
Dead Pretty is one of these online retailers who is finding ways to create and change the way customers engage.
“I think that everybody is in the same boat and they’re going to find ways of getting across. Luckily we live in an age of fantastic social media, we can be creative,” says Fairbairn.
Roxy Leung, owner of beauty label Salt & Glow, has also adapted the focus on what she produces.
“It’s not just about the money, it’s about the customers,” she says.
In February she launched hand sanitisers and now, while other retailers are capitalising in this period due to high demand, she has kept sale prices the same.
“If I bring up my price, people won’t be able to afford it, think of those who have lost their jobs.”
In all of this Leung found stockists “who do value people”, getting creative with her business model and negotiation she says “more people can now buy it [hand sanitisers] as the retail price stays the same.”
Globally the fashion industry has been swift in responding to the rapid increase of novel coronavirus cases with many high-traffic brick and mortar stores shutting shop temporarily, such as Glossier, Anine Bing and Reformation.
We also saw the Met Gala postponed indefinitely and Tokyo fashion week cancelled.
Now we are seeing stores such as Citizens of Humanity use their sewing and manufacturing facilities as a place to make “necessary supplies to keep medical staff safe”. They follow in the footsteps of global giants such as Prada, Balenciaga, Gucci and, most recently, Louis Vuitton who are using their manufacturing facilities to create PPE for the shortage of gear for nursing homes.
Our local industry responded accordingly with Mercedes-Benz Fashion week cancelling its 25th anniversary on March 17.
IMG’s executive director of fashion events, Natalie Xenita, said: “This decision was made after careful consideration, as the health and safety of everyone remains our priority.
“(We) look forward to celebrating our 25th anniversary in 2021.”
Australian Melbourne based label Nobody denim is also assisting in creating medical masks and gowns, while helping with the shortage, they are also supporting staff by keeping jobs.
Yet while fashion brands and retailers are doing what they can to step out and help out, Fairbairn says COVID-19 has been “destabilising incomes, and therefore we are seeing any [revenue] slow right down”.
“I’ve got to let go of some of my freelance contractors that I employ,” she says. “I feel terrible because the people I employ need that money… it’s hard.
“If you don’t have the income stream coming in you have to take more on yourself, so there is a lot of burden on the owner.”
Despite this Fairbairn, alike many other online retailers, is choosing to take the opportunity to make brand content more “than a typical purchase” but rather an “interesting, hopeful experience”.
Dead Pretty is also getting creative, and answering the governments call for businesses to help with the PPE shortage, through sustainability. Re-usable masks created in-house from dead stock fabrics can now be purchased with 50 per cent of profits to go to the Women’s Community Shelters in Redfern.
Retailers such as Revolve have also placed a focus on content while many customers find themselves socially isolating. Taking to their social media platforms, many brands are going live, launching idea’s such as #revolvearoundthehouse. A weekly Instagram live schedule containing workouts with favourite brands and influencers.
Mecca who closed their doors two weeks ago, has launched Mecca.live. This new platform is allowing customers to keep up to date with all the latest in beauty, from product launches to announcements.
The company said they were “brainstorming new ways to continue to bring MECCA (into) the homes and hands” of their customers in a bid to “keep everyone connected to the world of beauty”.
Richard Poulson, co-founder of Morrison and chief executive of eCommerce environment Showroom-X, says: “The Australian fashion industry has never experienced tougher times, but we are a creative and resilient industry, by uniting and putting a spotlight on the industry impact and response we are able to support each other and contribute to the rebuild of Australia.”
Now, in a bid to keep the industry afloat and rebuild the Australian fashion community, Showroom-X and The Australian Fashion Council (AFC) have launched the initiative #WeWearAustralian, due to the unplanned closures of brick and mortar stores and lack of stock clearance.
With an additional goal to help vulnerable communities all participating brands, which includes the likes of Ellery, Jac + Jack and Lee Mathews, will donate to Australian charities Dress for Success, who assist women returning to the workforce, and Together, who redistribute excess stock from designers and manufacturers to those in the community who need it most.
The AFC’s chief executive Leila Naja Hibri said: “Despite the havoc of these unprecedented times, it is so wonderful to see the Australian fashion community step up and come together.
“For those who can, please support your favourite Australian designer by buying Australian and wearing Australian. Help Australian fashion unite, help Australian fashion survive.”
Alongside these local initiatives Vogue will be holding a series of global conversations, over Zoom, from April 14-17.
The international team of Vogue editors will moderate a series of panels, that will include the likes of Nordstrom and Virgil Abloh, where a range of topics will be discussed about the future of fashion and creativity.
The question now remains. What will fashion look like after the coronavirus pandemic?