Learning From 2020 to Rebuild Into a Resilient, Diverse, Supportive Fashion Industry
Looking back on the past year generates feelings of reckoning, fortitude, accountability, forward thinking and survival. In early 2020, the fashion business immediately shifted course to create personal protective equipment for those on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as for the public.
“We retrofitted our equipment. We get our fabric on Wednesday, and we make masks that will be donated in New York,” said Trinidad Garcia III, a United States Marine Corps veteran and founder of the Los Angeles premium-denim brand Trinidad3, during an April 2020 interview. “It’s pretty amazing to have opportunities. As Marines, it’s rooted in us to answer the nation’s call.”
Remaining connected while sequestered at home was vital to maintaining the health of professionals within the fashion community and the industry. As the year progressed, fashion-show producers and trade-event organizers launched virtual editions. By investing in digital-event platforms, launching online discussion panels and employing avatar models, the industry remained committed to continuing its creative mission through innovative alternatives to its former practices while recognizing fresh opportunities for event production.
While these noble efforts were greatly helpful, additional shockwaves were felt throughout the United States. Financial destruction followed in the wake of the pandemic as businesses awaited crucial government funding that eventually arrived—in time for some but too late for others.
Following the May 25 killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, the country’s history of systemic racism was catapulted to the forefront of a national conversation. This period generated a time of reflection and opportunity for the industry to become accountable for its exclusion of Black professionals.
“Unfortunately, Black designers don’t receive the support necessary to build viable businesses,” wrote iconic designer Kevan Hall in his June 2020 California Apparel News opinion piece. “America appropriates Black culture because we bring the cool factor, yet we are not granted a seat in the rooms where design, marketing and advertising decisions are being made.”
In addition to these challenges, the end of the year saw a contentious presidential election in the United States. Again, fashion answered the call by creating campaigns, policies, products and apparel that promoted voter registration.
“Our democracy doesn’t work if we don’t participate,” Levi’s Chief Marketing Officer Jennifer Sey said in an August statement aligning with the brand’s #UseYourVoice LIVE campaign. “So, as a company, we are supporting voting-rights organizations and giving our employees time to vote.”
Through this collage of California Apparel News covers, stories and newsletters from the last 12 months, the fashion industry has a mirror as it relies on its achievements, flaws, resilience and foresight to rebuild into the best version of itself.