How the fashion community is supporting the fight against the coronavirus

It’s 2020 and Glossier stores are closed, everyone’s favourite celebrity, Tom Hanks, fell victim to the pandemic coronavirus and was self-isolating on the Gold Coast (eating way too much Vegemite) and Naomi Campbell’s approach to airport hygiene now seems completely reasonable. Here in Australia, it feels as if we have transitioned from beginning emails with, “Hi, I hope you are safe and well in these bushfires” to “Hi, I hope you’re safe and well in this uncertain time” and now, to top it off, we can’t even buy toilet paper. It is an uncertain time. The fashion industry is feeling the effects of Covid-19 too, but like with several crises before it, the big players in the community, as well as in the beauty and technology industries, are stepping up and helping out. 

Your favourite stores across the globe are leading by example and have shut their doors temporarily in order to contain the spread of Covid-19. It may seem like a small step but health professionals have confirmed that social distancing is a crucial part of containing the virus, given that it’s spread by person-to-person contact. On March 13, Glossier founder and CEO Emily Weiss was one of the first to do so, announcing the company had made the “difficult decision” to close all Glossier retail locations temporarily to help mitigate the spread, given that “2,000 people gather daily from around the world, often lining up down the block to connect with Glossier and with one another.” Across the globe, brands ranging from cult sustainable fashion brand Reformation to Mecca and even Apple have gone online-only.

Here at home, local retailers and designers followed suit, as have cultural institutions. As of March 16, the National Gallery of Victoria has temporarily closed its doors to contain Covid-19, following the lead of the iconic Metropolitan Museum of Art, which recently did the same. On March 17, the Metropolitan Museum of Art confirmed it will remain closed until at least April 4, 2020, and also shared that the annual Met Gala has been postponed indefinitely, all in the spirit of containing the virus. The statement said: “In deference to this guidance, all programs and events through May 15 will be canceled or postponed.”

On the same day, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia was cancelled, which you can read about here. “Due to the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC)’s mandate against holding non-essential, organised public gatherings of more than 500 people in light of global health concerns regarding Covid-19 (coronavirus), we regret to share that Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia 2020 will not take place,” said a statement issued by IMG. Days later, on March 18, another key event on the fashion calendar was also postponed. The CFDA announced its annual award show, which was scheduled for June 8, wouldn’t be going ahead. A statement said: “After carefully reviewing the guidelines of federal and state governments, as well as public health agencies, CFDA Chairman, Tom Ford, and Steven Kolb, President and CEO, along with the full support of the board, have made the decision to postpone the 2020 CFDA Fashion Awards.”

Meanwhile, the largest international fashion, beauty and tech companies are finding ways to pledge monetary assistance to the cause, or to contribute by making much-needed health supplies. Luxury fashion conglomerate LVMH announced on March 16 that it will convert some of its facilities, including those that make products for Dior and Givenchy, to producing hand sanitiser in light of the global shortage of this much-needed health staple. A statement said: “LVMH will use the production lines of its perfume and cosmetic brands … to produce large quantities of hydroalcoholic gels from Monday.” The statement confirmed the gels, or hand sanitisers, will be delivered free of charge to health authorities. On March 31, Christian Dior announced that in addition to already making hand sanitiser, it would now reopen a Baby Dior workshop in Redon, in the Brittany region of France, to produce masks. On the same day, Bulgari joined the fight by announcing it would manufacture and then donate hand sanitiser to medical personnel throughout Italy. This is in addition to a donation the brand made to the Spallanzani Hospital in Rome earlier in March, to assist in purchasing vital medical tools.

On March 22, fellow French fashion conglomerate Kering confirmed they will also dedicate some of their facilities to making medical supplies. Some of their brands, including Saint Laurent and Balenciaga, started by making face masks for health professionals in France, after the immense shortage there was revealed.

On March 16, Gucci announced it would make two donations to crowdfunding campaigns in Italy to fight the virus—one of one million euros to the Italian Civil Protection Department (Protezione Civile) in partnership with Intesa Sanpaolo; and a further one million euros to the Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund in support of the World Health Organisation. This is in addition to the donations of funds and medical equipment already confirmed by the brand’s parent company, Kering. In addition to this, the brand has announced it will support the World Health Organisation via its social media accounts, by sharing accurate public health messages in Italy. “Gucci has created a world, open and free: a Gucci global community. We ask all of you to be the Changemakers in this crisis, to stand together with us in the fight against the Coronavirus. We are all in this together,” wrote Alessandro Michele, creative director of Gucci, and Marco Bizzarri, president and CEO of Gucci in a statement.

On the same day, March 16, Ralph Lauren announced his company will set aside $US10 million via the Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation for causes related to the coronavirus. “At the heart of our company, there has always been a spirit of togetherness that inspires our creativity, our confidence, and most importantly our support for one another. In the past weeks and months, that spirit has never wavered,” Ralph Lauren said in a statement. “We believe that no matter who you are or where you are from, we are all connected. That is why we are taking significant action to help our teams and communities through this crisis.”

Beauty brands have joined the cause too. On March 18, L’Oreal announced it would also begin producing hand sanitiser in its factories, as well as donating one million euros to companies working with the disadvantaged at this time. “In this exceptional crisis situation it is our responsibility to contribute in every possible way to the collective effort,” said Jean-Paul Agon, L’Oréal chairman and chief executive officer. “Through these gestures, L’Oréal wishes to express its appreciation, support and solidarity with all those who mobilise with extraordinary courage and abnegation to fight against this pandemic.” On March 24, Estée Lauder announced it would convert a factory to start producing hand sanitiser. “The Estée Lauder Companies is proud to contribute to the broader Covid-19 relief efforts by reopening our Melville manufacturing facility this week to produce hand sanitizer for high-need groups and populations, including front-line medical staff,” said a statement from the company. 

On March 18, the fashion conglomerate that owns Zara, Inditex, confirmed it will start using its Spain-based factories to make medical masks, which is already underway, and also medical attire. In a statement from a company representative, Inditex explains that it “will make a delivery at least once a week of materials we purchase directly.” 

Earlier in March, Giorgio Armani donated approximately $1.8 million to fighting Covid-19, while Donatella and Allegra Versace have both pledged more than $350,000 to the intensive care department of San Raffaele hospital in Milan. Also in Italy—one of the countries worst affected by the global pandemic—Chiara Ferragni and her husband, Fedez, made a donation to the same hospital as the Versace family in order to fund more beds and urgent supplies. Then, in late March, The Armani Group announced it will be converting all four of its factories in Italy to start making single-use medical overalls that will be donated to doctors and other healthcare professionals fighting the virus in that country, in addition to the donation. Similarly, in early April, Capri Holdings, the luxury fashion conglomerate who owns Versace and Michael Kors clarified that across its brands it had donated more than $US3 million in support of Covid-19 relief efforts. “Our hearts and souls go out to those who are working on the front lines to help the world combat the Covid-19 pandemic,” said John D. Idol, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Capri Holdings Limited. “This is clearly a time for people to come together in every way and on every level, because we are all stronger in our united resolve. I want to thank Donatella [Versace] and Michael [Kors] for their personal commitments.”

On March 16, Prada announced it was donating two complete intensive care and resuscitation units to three of Milan’s hospitals: Vittore Buzzi, Sacco and San Raffaele. A day later, Moncler announced it would donate $18 million euros towards a project to build a hospital to fit more than 400 intensive care units in the Milan area. “Milan is a city that has given us all an extraordinary time,” said Remo Ruffini, Chairman and CEO of Moncler. “We cannot and must not abandon it. It is everyone’s duty to give back to the city what it has given us so far.” Then, on March 23, Prada confirmed that in addition to its previous donation, it would also convert its factory in Montone to start manufacturing medical overalls and masks, pledging to create at least 80,000 and 1110,000 of them, respectively.

Valentino has meanwhile pledged to donate 2 million euros to the cause; the first one million euros will go to improving the Intensive Care Treatment Unit at Sacco Hospital in Milan and the additional one million euros will go to the Protezione Civile Italiana in order to support the organisation and its work through Italy.  “Our production plants and offices are widespread across the diverse and beautiful Italian regions: Lazio, Lombardy, Piemonte, Veneto, Tuscany and many others,” said a Mayhoola spokesperson, “It’s absolutely remarkable how Protezione Civile Italiana is operating within the entire country and the way in which it continuously stands behind the needs of Italian citizens.”

Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference is kicking off in June with an all-new online format, and yet the brand is committing USD$1 million to local San Jose organisations to offset associated revenue loss as a result of WWDC 2020’s new online format. On March 22, Apple CEO Tim Cook shared this tweet, detailing further support his company is providing.  Locally, Optus is helping those who are self-isolating stay connected with additional data, offering customers a one-off add-on of 20GB of data during April 2020. Meanwhile, Bill Gates is stepping down from Microsoft’s board to focus on his charitable foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has already committed $US100 million to research and treatment of the coronavirus. Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, is pledging $US14.4 million, a third of which will go to two Chinese organisations working on a vaccine. On April 8, Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s chief executive, pledged to donate $US1 billion to fund coronavirus research.

On March 18, Pyer Moss founder Kerby Jean-Raymond announced that he would be turning his label’s New York City office into a donation centre, collecting much-needed items such as gloves and masks to distribute to those on the front-line of the Covid-19 pandemic. Citing his alarm at the shortage of supplies that medical professionals, such as his sister, are now facing, Jean-Raymond also pledged to reserve $5,000US ($8,543.50AU) in order to obtain such supplies separately. The designer did not stop there; on a second Instagram post, he reached out to his industry colleagues, specifically minority and female-owned independent businesses currently struggling with the economic fallout of the pandemic. On this front, Jean-Raymond has set aside $50,000US ($85,400AU), and has also urged anyone in need of help to email his team personally at [email protected]

Nike and its namesake foundation is also committing a sum to aid response efforts to Covid-19, setting aside over $15,000,000US ($25,629,420AU). The funds will be directed to the Oregon Food Bank and Recovery Fund, as well as to Oregon Health and Science University with the aim of increasing “patient access, and ramp up operational readiness for expanded diagnostic testing for COVID-19.” Additionally, the donation will also be made to the United Nation Foundation and the Swiss Philanthropy Foundation’s  Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund, community funds in Greater Memphis and Boston, as well as across Europe, the Middle East and Africa through the King Baudouin Foundation.

On March 20, it was announced that the annual Cannes Film Festival would be postponed for the first time in history. For now, the festival, which was set to take place from May 12 to 23, seems up in the air; the statement released by the festival’s organisers suggests that they are weighing up a variety of options, and not necessarily cancellation: “As soon as the development of the French and international health situation will allow us to assess the real possibility, we will make our decision known, in accordance with our ongoing consultation with the French Government and Cannes’ City Hall as well as with the Festival’s Board Members, Film industry professionals and all the partners of the event.” This postponement, however, comes as no surprise; the festival is attended by thousands of industry professionals and celebrities from all over the world, and this year’s event comes on the heel of the French Government’s recent ban on public gatherings of over 1,000 people. On April 15, the organisers of the Cannes Film Festival made another statement, noting that instead of postponing the event, it will go ahead but will not take place “in its original form” this year. Though, the organisers are yet to announce what the new format will be. 

Individual members of the fashion community are also doing their bit. On March 17, Derek Blasberg posted to Instagram to share he was delivering hot food to those in self-isolation in New York via a program called Citymeals. Similarly, individual designers, including Christian Siriano and Brandon Maxwell are also pitching in. Siriano took to social media to confirm his team is expected to make approximately 1000 masks for doctors in the coming days, while Maxwell shared his team are currently training to manufacture medical gowns. “We have spent the last week researching the appropriate medical textiles to create these gowns and are proud to provide these much needed items to the doctors and nurses on the front lines of this crisis,” Maxwell added.

On March 26, sustainable fashion label Reformation joined the list of brands using their clothing factories to make materials for health professionals, stating they’re going to be making medical-grade N95 masks in conjunction with the City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. So too did Anine Bing, who has pledged to produce 10,000 masks. 

French maison Chanel will also make face masks, in light of the news that France is currently using 40 million of them a week to protect the many health staff fighting the virus. “Today we are mobilising our workforce and our partners… to produce protective masks and blouses,” Chanel said in a statement. Meanwhile, Burberry is also making hospital gowns.

Closer to home, everyone’s favourite Sydney-based distillery, Archie Rose, has announced that in response to the Covid-19 pandemic it has shifted its production of spirits to making a chic hand sanitiser. The hand sanitiser, which is $20 and available for pre-order here, is made using 100 per cent natural ingredients and is also keeping staff employed while the on-site bar is closed.

In early April, Clarins announced it would donate 30,000 moisturising hand creams to hospitals, in order to help protect the hands of health professionals, who are currently using hand sanitiser virtually 24/7. This is in addition to Clarins continuing to produce hand sanitiser, which it is delivering to hospitals in Europe.

New Zealand sustainable sneaker brand Allbirds have donated $US500,000 worth of shoes to healthcare workers and are now launching a buy-one-give-one offer, where if you purchase a pair of shoes you can donate one to a healthcare worker on the front lines of the Covid-19 pandemic in the US. Meanwhile, also in America, Colorado-based brand Osprey has converted its business operations into making masks for the local communities, which it is donating to health professionals, local hospitals and even nursing homes.

On April 6, Kering added to its already generous donations by announcing that Tiffany & Co. would be making a commitment of $US1 million to fight the coronavirus via its charity, the Tiffany & Co. Foundation. “During this global health crisis, we must all be responsive to the urgent needs of our global communities,” said Anisa Kamadoli Costa, chairman and president of the Tiffany & Co. Foundation. “We are proud to support organisations providing immediate relief for communities impacted by Covid-19, including our hometown of New York.” Therefore, the brand will donate $US250,000 to The New York Community Trust’s NYC Covid-19 Response and Impact Fund and $US750,000 to the World Health Organisation’s Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund. It said it will also match any employee donations to not-for-profit organisations supporting the fight against the coronavirus. 

Three days later, Louis Vuitton announced it will reopen 12 of their 16 leather goods workshops in France to assist with the huge demand of non-surgical masks for their staff and for nearby nursing-homes to aid in the battle against Covid-19. Read more about the brand’s announcement, here.

On April 21, Loewe’s CEO, Pascale Lepoivre, and the brand’s creative director, Jonathan Anderson, announced the luxury house’s threefold contribution to the cause in a statement: “To ensure a better future for children in socially vulnerable groups affected by… Covid-19, Loewe will be donating, for every product of the Paula’s Ibiza collection sold between May and August 2020 in Loewe stores and on, 40 euros to educational projects, starting with an initial donation of 500,000 euros. To achieve this Loewe is collaborating with Plataforma de Infancia. At the same time… Loewe is donating 100,000 surgical masks to the Spanish Red Cross. In addition… Loewe is producing non-surgical masks in its Getafe factory. The masks are to be distributed to volunteer workers, Loewe employees and their families.”

Locally, Glasshouse Fragrances has mobilised its in-house team of chemists to start making hand sanitiser. Made in Sydney, the hand sanitiser is $29.95 and can be purchased here. The team will also donate 500 care packs to three local hospitals in the wider Sydney area. Similarly, The Jojoba Company, another Australian brand, is also making hand sanitiser, infused with its hero ingredient: jojoba. The hand sanitiser will be free with any purchase over $19.95

Yes, it is an uncertain time, but there are lots of ways the fashion industry is stepping up to assist. You can do the same by following the advice of health professionals and where possible, pledging to #stayhome. 

We’ll continue to update this story, so stay tuned.