The fashion industry’s opalescent skies are overcast in the climes of COVID-19, worldwide, and it is viewing its mortality with a perspective that is humane and community driven rather commendably. The world of haute fashion is galvanising its voices and finances to support the fraternity in the wake of COVID-19’s debilitating effects on the industry and global fashion economies, both thriving and aspiring.
On March 27th, 2020, legendary American designer, Ralph Lauren, committed $10 million toward COVID-19 relief through the Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation, aside from commencing the production of 250,000 masks and 25,000 isolation gowns in the US. These funds will contribute predominantly to the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, a global effort supporting countries to prevent, detect, and respond to the pandemic, build on the label’s 20-year commitment to cancer care through their Pink Pony Fund by supporting international cancer institutions that are caring for people with cancer, who are vulnerable at this time and $1million to the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s A Common Thread fund, in support of America’s fashion community. Anna Wintour, Vogue EIC and the CFDA Chairman, Tom Ford set up A Common Thread to offer up-and-coming artists, seamstresses and manufacturers funds to help them pay bills during the pandemic.
The Indian fashion industry, with its indigenous textiles and embroideries, handmade by craftsmen poring over intricate designs for months, sometimes years, are lauded the world over, not to mention their handiwork is incomparable to any machine in the world, has stepped up for its people. The Fashion Design Council of India, headquartered in New Delhi, has set up a COVID-19 Support Fund called CSF by FDCI to provide financial assistance to small businesses and fledgling Indian designers in need. Couturier extraordinaire, Rohit Bal, extended his support within seconds of an email being sent out by the FDCI to its Board announcing the CSF, as did Sabyasachi, Rajesh Pratap Singh and the FDCI Board Members.
“There is no way I would not support my fashion community and of course, the CSF by FDCI has my resolute support. It is a great initiative and the rightful thing to do. This is the time when humanity has taken precedence over everything else as our species is in danger due to our own undoings. COVID-19 has humbled us and shown us how fragile we humans are, and the damage we have done to our planet. This is our greatest opportunity to love and look after the Earth,” says Rohit Bal, who’s design metier is largely influenced by flora and fauna. “It is absolutely imperative that we understand this and work together as one. The Earth doesn’t belong to us – we have not destroyed the planet wilfully, but we have not been mindful of what we are doing to it either. It is not ours and we cannot fuck around with our planet anymore. We have to protect it and COVID-19 is the awakening we all need to learn from. I haven’t seen bluer skies or rarely-sighted birds in Delhi in what seems like an eternity, like I do today. The Earth is healing itself; the world has paused and is on a reset. This planet belongs to every living being. We humans were the last entrants on Earth and the foremost to destroy it in the shortest period of time. Only humans are prone to COVID-19, not the animal kingdom as they respect our Mother Earth.”
The CSF by FDCI is seeing non-members like three-time National Award winning film costumer, Ana Singh, Nitin Passi of Lotus Herbals and Shalini Passi, Founder – MASH Art Foundation supporting the fund. “As soon as I heard of the fund, I wanted to contribute to it instinctively. The fact that I am not a current member of the FDCI wasn’t even a factor for me given the circumstances we are living in. I understand how the fashion business works – how tailors, karigars, khakha artists and junior staff survive. I help my own team who have spent almost their entire lives working with me. I understand that many young designers may not have the means to support their own teams as effectively so it is paramount that we contribute as much as we can towards our community. It is irrelevant where the support comes from as long as it helps someone in these critical times,” says Ana Singh, who was working on her 1011th film when the pandemic struck. “I have always favoured Indian fashion and supported our designers as a patron. I am committed to supporting CSF by FDCI financially to provide small businesses and designers who will be, or are in want of fiscal aid due to the pandemic. We are all in this together,” says Shalini Passi, Founder – MASH Art Foundation.
Sunil Sethi, President of the FDCI, envisaged the CSF fashion fund to benefit Indian fashion designers in the darkest era of fashion across the world. “At the moment, we have not asked for contributions from the Indian fashion industry. Everyone who has stepped up so far has done so of their own volition and human spirit. It is collective unity at its human best I think. What is even more heartening is that non-members like our India Fashion Week title sponsor, Nitin Passi of Lotus MakeUp, Ana Singh who is a stalwart in Bollywood as a costumer and Shalini Passi of MASH have offered financial support to the fund. As of now, CSF is only for FDCI’s designer members in our first phase. The finances will be disbursed to the designers in genuine need of fiscal assistance, in a transparent manner, with all the requisite paper work in place,” says Sunil Sethi, who has contributed to the CSF funds, along with the FDCI Board Members.
Despite the grim reality all around us, it is wonderful to see humanity coming together as a unified voice in the fashion business. It is rousing that the generosity of spirit is not just limited to the fashion world, but has everyone who wants to help, engaged in their own unique way. I am in support of CSF by FDCI as I believe in the good that will come through this enterprise.
And to those who are all talk and self-serving, well, you stand exposed, with or without a mask!
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