SoFA Institute and Fashion Leaders Discuss Adapting Fashion During a Pandemic
A raw undraping of the pandemic’s effects on the fashion industry
This year’s global health crisis has affected many businesses, forcing them to sink or swim. Although the fashion industry is a multi-billion dollar powerhouse, it is not immune to the detriments of this pandemic. When the whole world is uncertain of what comes next, who do we turn to for help? Well, each other. Bag designer Marie De La Roche, Creative Director Monique Madsen, SoFA co-founder Amina Aranaz-Alunan and Fashion Editor Randz Manucom discuss how the fashion industry has opened the doors to empathy and community.
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Fashion and Its Relevancy During COVID-19
Consumer behavior has changed drastically due to the eye-opening realization that fashion is not a bare necessity during a health crisis. Designer Marie De La Roche confesses, “We’re making (sorry) shallow, beautiful things when people are dying!” After questioning her entire career and company, she concludes that the industry is a large provider of employment. The industry, after all, hosts professionals including designers, journalists, photographers, models, retailers, garment workers and so much more.
Fashion and the way we know it is changing, but it will never disappear. To question its relevance would be to underestimate its ties to years of historical events that have marked eras of evolution. Fashion matters to the economy and each of us personally. It’s an immediate and intimate form of self-expression that cannot be replaced. It is still relevant to those who are passionate about it. And as long as there are people who believe in the art form, it will never die.
To quote Blair Waldorf, “Fashion is the most powerful art there is. It’s movement, design and architecture all in one. It shows the world who we are and who we’d like to be.”
Unlocking New Skillsets to Adapt to Any Situation
Whether it’s shifting from in-person interactions to digital conversations, these creatives find comfort in uncertainty as they discover new territories. Randz Manucom poured his passion for fashion into culinary as a way of releasing creative energy in quarantine. Just like most of us in lockdown, the kitchen has been the place to be. Randz reveals, “If I’m not going to be in fashion in 10 years, there are other things I can look into.”
Metro Style’s fashion editor isn’t the only one who considered taking a new direction. Amina Aranaz-Alunan has always promoted her brand as a lifestyle. Considering that her materials and craftsmanship go hand in hand with interiors, having a Home Section for her customers seemed fitting as everyone is currently stuck indoors. The brand’s main strength remains in handbags, but home goods are everyone’s “band-aid solution” to translate product to sales. The trick is to find opportunities to sustain growth despite the setback.
As these transitions occur, one thing remains certain: e-commerce. It will continue to be the new space for retail for as long as we can endure. Monique Madsen was initially intimidated by jumping into the online platform, but she admits, “As creatives, we are asked to think out of the box.” The world needs creatives now more than ever to bridge the gap between the previous way we used to do things and the way things are now. Online platforms may not be ideal for those who prefer physical interaction, but we’ve always known that the future would be digital. Maybe now is the time to start.
Being Fashion Conscious
Brands are encouraging us to look into the roots of fashion and how the products are made. Fashion has been appreciated for so many years, but it has not been appreciated for the work that goes into it. Consumers are starting to look for more meaning behind each purchase and what it represents to them. If a purchase has sentimental value backed by good intentions, the purchase feels worth the money spent.
As a Filipino designer, Aranaz emphasized buying local to support brands that work with different communities around the country. Now that consumers are searching for socially conscious products, local designers have a leg up as their handmade pieces spread the Filipino story. Purchasing from small businesses also uplift the local economy by providing more jobs for neighboring nations, which reduces environmental impact.
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From an international perspective, Marie De La Roche shares her emotional experience working with a group of female artisans who lost their income due to factories shutting down in Europe. Instead of following a particular season, De La Roche decided to honor the women who make their bags by naming the collection The Gentlewoman. The timeless collection features fresh takes on the brand’s classic handbag designs. Manufacturing items that are meant to be worn out has been a struggle considering that everyone is required to stay home. But being sensitive to the world’s crisis has influenced designers to be more meaningful with the items they produce as well as crafting for a market that cannot prioritize luxurious goods at the moment. The brand decided to extend The Gentlewoman into a newsletter series to feature empowered women from different fields.
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Our biggest takeaway from this webinar is to remember that this pandemic is temporary and so the solutions provided are based on survival instincts. These fashion creatives are not afraid to admit that they do not have all the answers, but they are willing to pave the way for others. Adapting fashion to this day and age has more to do with being socially aware and conscious of the things we produce and purchase. The fashion industry is changing, and we believe it’s changing for the better.
Words Marga Sibug
Art Alexandra Lara