October 30, 2020 – November 30, 2020
November 20, 2020 – November 20, 2020
November 28, 2020 – November 29, 2020
October 17, 2020 – October 25, 2020
June 11, 2020 – June 13, 2020
March 24, 2020 – March 26, 2020
January 25, 2020 – January 29, 2020
January 10, 2020 – January 12, 2020

An ongoing conversation

Fashion in times of the coronacrisis, and post-crisis

by Emma Disbergen

Daniëlle Bruggeman and Hanka van der Voet started an ongoing conversation about fashion in times of the coronacrisis (and post-crisis). What is the impact of the coronacrisis on the fashion system? What is the relevance of fashion today? What is at stake? How could - or should - fashion play a role in re-imagining our post-crisis society? And how does this all relate to Dissolving the Ego of Fashion?


Epe, May 25, 2020

Dear Hanka,

Thank you for your letter and invitation to participate in an ongoing conversation with you. I relate to your concerns regarding the fashion system and the crisis. One of the many questions that I personally have had during this time, is a question that I have not been able to answer myself: Is fashion essential? Or do we only need clothing to cover and protect? And other questions, such as: Why is everyone baking banana bread? This question seems less relevant, but if you compare the Google search data of banana bread, chocolate cake and apple pie you can see there is a big peak from when the corona crisis [1] occurred at the end of March 2020. Food experts also noticed this trend and believe that people are seeking comfort into baking, as they are making use of their too ripe bananas which would have been waste.[2] Is this also what is happening in the fashion system? Due to the stay at home orders; are people taking the agency to work with the material that was previously seen as waste to create and build? Is Lidewij Edelkoort correct and are we moving towards the age of the amateur? [3]

In these corona times, I am doing just that, I am making, upholstering and reviving my furniture, clothing and jewellery. Nevertheless, I am also spending a lot of time to reflect upon my decisions and my role in this crisis. This crisis emphasises that we need to make a change and that we can only do it together. This definitely is not the case for all - I am not sure if it is the extra time that people have gained from staying at home or their inner fantasies, but I believe that the coronavirus has made room for even more conspiracy thinkers. The internet has exploded itself to become a fear generator, where new theories of the coronavirus are being spread, duplicated and adapted. The most recent theory being the connection with the 5G network and the coronavirus. The Atlantic phrases it suitably: “They are barely part of each other’s story; they are just the latest headlines” [4] It is not that only the news or social media accounts are creating and spreading corona related content, my latest spam emails have also been infected by the virus. Instead of getting my usual yeast toe infection emails (not so pleasant either), I now receive sketchy face mask and other protective gear to buy in my mailbox. That makes me think about all the non-conventional businesses, how are they coping with the corona crisis?

If you are working from home, this probably means that you are just like me in a privileged position, you still have your job and you are able to do your work. ‘Working from home’ means being fully dependent on digital communication, what does this mean for how we use the internet? An editor for The New York Times states that: “the virus is forcing us to use the internet as it was always meant to be used — to connect with one another, share information and resources, and come up with collective solutions to urgent problems. It’s the healthy, humane version of digital culture we usually see only in schmaltzy TV commercials, where everyone is constantly using a smartphone to visit far-flung grandparents and read bedtime stories to kids.” [5] This resonates with the internet in corona times being a full replacement of all communication: your usual office talk, your friendly conversations, your gym workouts and also your shopping interactions. It makes me wonder how e-commerce is changed by the corona crisis: are people buying, if so, what are they buying? In a crisis you would expect people to only buy essential products, but what does essential mean in a crisis and what will it mean post-crisis? To come back to my first question if fashion would be essential, we can take a look into e-commerce data to get an idea of what people are spending money on thus investing their morality into. Common Thread Collective is capturing this information while writing this letter there is only a slight increase of fashion and apparel sales, namely 3%, this is a very light change compared to other branches such as medical: 430%, household and cleaning: 210%, baby products: 200% and toys and games: 90%. [6] Noticeably the luxury and jewellery industry has a 19% decrease in e-commerce sales. This all seems quite logical, as to why would you be consuming clothing if you can’t go out and wear it? Will we adapt our consumer behaviour post-crisis? In the report of the State of Fashion from The Business of Fashion, they believe in ‘revenge buying’ that if the threat of corona has vanished consumers will be feel-good consuming after all the months spent in lockdown. [7]

As I am a firm believer in the use of digital communication and how that can help us to be more efficient, the crisis is showing how efficiency is not a factor what drives us as humans. From what I hear around me, the motivation and concentration are seriously declining. But what does it mean for the workers in Bangladesh, Vietnam or India that you are mentioning in your letter, are they able to adapt in this type of crisis? Or is there only room for the privileged to speak about efficiency and motivation? An online network is beneficial, but can never fully be replaced by the physical dialogue we need. In my education, the online classes are a valid replacement of what it could have been in real life, but that is only because of the personal connections we have built together.

In one day, my whole daily life routine changed, as the school closed down and I moved back to my parents’ home. I was no longer having small talks with my fellow students in the cantina, no longer sleeping in the comfort of my own house and no longer seeing all of my friends. As every student’s life has drastically changed in a matter of a day, I wonder how the other students are doing? Especially the ones that are now being limited to their home as a workspace. Therefore, I would like to invite Lindy Boerman, a fellow student who is researching the human pace within fashion. How do you see the connection with the change of speed regarding the use of online communication and sales? Is the fashion system able to slow down, or is it moving faster than ever before? And how do you see the role of fashion in re-imagining our post-crisis society? Afterwards, maybe we can even have a little bit of small talk, anything fun planned for the weekend?

With warm regards,