Fashion, Beauty and Lifestyle

What Will Become of Fashion When the Epidemic Is Over?

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Italian creators, from Giorgio Armani to Silvia Venturini Fendi, agree on one thing: the crisis is an opportunity to regain our long-lost soul.

RAGUSA, Italy — The longer we endure social distancing, and in some cases complete self-isolation, the darker our moods, and the lower our energy levels. At least, this is what’s happening to me. I have been in self-imposed quarantine in my hometown of Ragusa in Sicily since March 6th, a couple of days before the Italian government imposed the lockdown in Lombardy and other heavily affected northern regions and, then, the entire country.

I was supposed to stay at home for a couple of weeks, unwinding after two consecutive fashion months and tending to my writing duties before going back to Milan, but here I am, still. It is the afternoon of March 20 as I write these lines.

I am secluded in the library, my most beloved room, filled with stacks of beloved books, now feels like a prison. I try my best to stay mentally and physically healthy, but some days are not easy. It must be the same for everybody, I guess. I am bad at calling and keeping connected. And yet, I feel optimistic and positive. At least, I want to.

I have a lot of time to myself to read. I have rediscovered drawing, which satisfies me immensely. And I also have plenty of time to ruminate. I know it’s just thinking for thinking’s sake. Crystal balls are not my forte. Still, I cannot help but speculate.

What will become of fashion when the crisis is over?

It’s easy to say that nothing will be the same again. The whole of our lives will be different, from the way we connect with other humans and other species — oh bats, oh pangolins! — to the way we travel. We are at a junction: we might all end up in a completely sanitised world of regulated seclusion and fluid-free digital connections, or we might rediscover what truly matters, and do away with the clutter, the overconsumption, the superficiality that’s been clogging our minds, and destroying our environment.

I wonder if the crisis that’s hitting fashion — and it’s hitting very hard, on both the supply and demand sides of the equation — is one of those cases in which only the strong will survive. But are those strong, I ask myself, the usual suspects, the money-fuelled Goliaths? Or will the smart and agile Davids have their revenge?

The big conglomerates, for sure, are better equipped to survive the hardship right here and right now. They have the resources to weather the storm. And yet, they ultimately rely on huge volumes of consumption, which the current epidemic has perhaps already shown to be blatantly superficial. Who needs all this product? And, when this eventually passes, could we witness a comeback of small-batch, beautiful products, produced and sold locally by skilled artisans? When it comes to media, could we see a decisive shift away from large legacy print titles and the rise of new digital formats, mixing drawing, collage, memes, videos?


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