December 09, 2020 – December 09, 2020
June 17, 2021 – June 19, 2021
October 20, 2021 – October 22, 2021
October 23, 2021
November 28, 2020 – November 29, 2020
November 20, 2020 – November 20, 2020
October 30, 2020 – November 30, 2020
October 17, 2020 – October 25, 2020

An ongoing conversation

Fashion in times of the coronacrisis, and post-crisis

by Lindy Boerman

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?


Arnhem, June 6, 2020

Dear Emma,

Thank you for inviting me to participate in this ongoing letter conversation. I am fine, I hope you and your family are fine as well. I would love to have a little chat with you, it’s one of the things I miss most during this ‘’intelligent’’ lockdown, as we call it here in the Netherlands. It’s funny you ask about my weekend plans, because I am planning on baking. It’s not the banana bread you are talking about, but it’s a white chocolate cheesecake with raspberries on top. Even though I am not such a baker, I am guilty as well to baking more during the coronacrisis. When I think of an answer to your question, I cannot give a response that applies to everyone, but I can tell you why I bake personally: it gives me a relaxed but above all a satisfied feeling.

This satisfied feeling originates in the fact that I fill my leisure time useful. As you are receiving e-mails about buying sketchy face masks and protective gear, I am receiving e-mails on how to get in shape by a 30-day squat challenge or I am scrolling through ‘how-to’ headlines on how to decorate or restore your house, since the beginning of the coronacrisis. This constant message of ‘’you should be useful’’ by the internet, gives me a new kind of FOMO, a new kind of fear of missing out. I have the feeling I need to use my time as useful as possible, and when I do not, I experience a fear of being useless while others are useful. This feeling of constantly being useful is something The New York Times dedicated an article to saying: ‘’Stop trying to be productive’’, and ‘’The internet wants you to believe you aren’t doing enough with all that ‘extra time’ you have now’’.[1] You told me about the making, upholstering and reviving of your furniture, clothing and jewellery, but it makes me wonder, do you otherwise also experience this new kind of FOMO as well?

This feeling of being useful or being productive is also visible within our contemporary society. We are being productive because we constantly want to do something to acquire capital, accelerate and self-improve. These are criteria of a modern society we live in. According to the sociologist Hartmut Rosa, a modern society and modernity means setting the world in motion as this interesting Ted Talk on rapid social acceleration shows.[2] We are bringing things into movement and ideas, images, capital and communication are moving around the world. With the arrival of online communication and sales I have the feeling the change of speed has even become bigger, since people do have more and easier access to these movements, ideas, images, capital and communication all over the world.

An example of this communication all over the world are the people coming forward to make statements about fashion during the coronacrisis and how it should be post-crisis, as Daniëlle and Hanka already discussed. Someone who also dropped a statement is Rinke Tjepkema, Editor-in-Chief of the Dutch Vogue and she said: ’I hope we will move towards a more human pace in fashion’’.[3] While reading this I immediately wondered: What is a human pace? What does it mean? And how is a human pace expressed in fashion?

In my view there is no strict answer, but I came across an interesting explanation which shows a human pace in my believe. The editor of Vestoj, Anja Cronberg stated: ‘’Speed will forever return you to your starting point, slowness by contrast allows you to advance at a pace that encourages contemplation and observations. To be slow is far from remaining static; instead slowness is a temporal notion that prioritizes the journey over the destination’’.[4] When I project this idea on fashion, a human pace has a focus on the process of the garment instead of the garment as an end product. When we implement a human pace in the fashion industry, there is no obsession with the new, as it is in the fast fashion industry[5], but we are more focused on the process and this process is approached with care and attention for everyone involved.

You asked me if the system is able to slow down, or if it is moving faster than ever before, and I find it hard to answer. On the one hand you see some initiatives such as Gucci who announces in seven short diary fragments that they will only show a new collection twice a year, and step away from seasonal labels such as pre-Fall, Spring-Summer or Fall-Winter, to find a new rhythm.[6] On the other hand, newsletters arrive in my mailbox saying: ‘The sale has started! Buy now, before it’s too late’ and ‘The new collection it out now!’ Retailers are selling anything they’re able to at significantly discounted prices online to maintain some income.[7] This duality is something that gives the feeling it’s too early to give an answer to your question if the system is able to slow down or is moving faster than ever before.

Duality is something I have been struggling with for a long time in fashion, fashion is a source of both pleasure and pain, expression and exploitation. [8] Where in my feeling pain and exploitation are even becoming more and more visible during the coronacrisis than before. Workers in garment factories in Bangladesh are forced to return to work despite the coronavirus lockdown with no respect for the social distance or protective gear masks. Ayesha, a Bangladeshi garment worker, spoke about her fear of going back to work but also pointed out: ‘’I have no other option’’.[9] How is it possible that seven years after Rana Plaza which a lot of newspapers called ‘’a wakeup call’’, social harmony is still absent?[10] When seeing this, I find it hard to say something about the relevance of fashion.

This duality of pleasure & pain and expression & exploitation in fashion ensures I only experience the pain and exploitation, and I couldn’t experience pleasure and expression for quite some time now. However, for the first time in a while I noticed both sides of the duality in a garment. It was a garment of HACKED by_ which is a Dutch designer label by Van Slobbe and Van Benthum[11] and is an example of a label who is occupied with a human pace in my view. The garment was made from old sale articles from H&M. The honest story showing both sides of the garment touched me. With the garments HACKED by_ wants to create a dialogue about the big overstock problem in the fashion industry and the environmental and social problems it causes in an open way.[12] In my view, the garment shows and opens up about the duality in fashion. Is this the relevance fashion needs? Is this the role fashion should take in our post-crisis society? Should fashion open up about the dualities and play a more fulfilling role in an honest way?

To hand over this ongoing conversation I would like to invite Femke de Vries. She works as an artist/researcher in fashion where she explores the interaction between clothing as material objects of use and fashion as a process of value production. How do you feel about this duality in fashion? Do you think fashion is still relevant and what kind of role do you see for fashion in our post-crisis society? I am wondering how you feel about this; would you like to participate?

Best wishes,



[8] Sullivan, A. (2016). ‘Karl Marx: Fashion and Capitalism’ in Thinking through fashion: a guide to key theorists (eds. Rocamora A. & Smelik, A.), London: I.B. Tauris, p. 28