FASHINNOVATION And The Future Of Fashion Post-COVID-19

Mabel Gago speaks to Jordana Guimarães about FASHINNOVATION, its impact in the industry and what the future of fashion looks like post-COVID-19.

The COVID19 pandemic is generating very interesting conversations internationally at all levels. FASHINNOVATION is a platform that has provided several of the most inspiring talks within the fashion industry during this strange and uncertain time.

Since its inception in 2018, FASHINNOVATION has emerged as the epicentre for New York Fashion Week professionals and, therefore, much of the industry worldwide.

Running form the 20th to the 21st of April, FASHINNOVATION hosted a virtual worldwide conference with the theme “Virtual Unity. Real Action. One Heart” at the core of the conference. The exceptional speakers’ panel included Diane von Furstenberg, Mara Hoffman, Kenneth Cole, Javier Goyeneche, Eva Kruse, Roberta Annan and Arwa Alammari to name but a few.

So, we sat down with co-founder Jordana Guimarães to talk about FASHINNOVATION, its impact on the industry and those in it as well as what the future of fashion looks like post-COVID-19.

How did you manage and achieve such an influential panel? Do you think your professional profiles have helped ease your approach to the speakers?

Truthfully, I do feel that we are living in a day where everyone around the world for the first time in a long time is at home and have more time than they did before. Also due to everyone seeing what a pandemic can do to the world, people have become more compassionate in helping others and listening to ideas as no one quite knows what the “next normal” or “new normal” will be. Most of the outreach was “cold emails”, however, pre-COVID we had 4 “live” summits at NYFW with over 200 speakers, we have been building quite a community that all came together to make this happen!

This extraordinary and historical situation that we all find ourselves in has impacted the entire world very, very deeply. Did you notice this when arranging the event?

Everyone asked me a question which we never had before: “What should I speak about?”. I think this shows that everyone in lots of ways is in the dark, yet they are trying to partake in things to see how they can best adapt or pivot their business models – especially in the fashion industry where so many changes will come into play. But then again, the fashion industry is always changing (as per Kenneth Cole).

Your DNA and manifesto are focussed on facilitating a necessary change within the fashion industry. Today, in the current situation, how far do you see this change?

I see the change “clearer” than ever and I’m more hopeful than ever for “positive” change in lots of aspects in the industry when it comes to transparency, collaboration, inclusivity and sustainability.

During these two days of talks and conversations we listened and learnt a lot regarding diversity and female empowerment. What are the main goals that will lead the immediate future?

Females have always been incredible at multi-tasking and having many different aspects that they have to focus on, but now with quarantine/lock-down, where a mother who’s also an entrepreneur and a wife has to balance everything in a confined space with all of the different personalities, I believe people will finally say – “wow, women are superheroes”. But again, that’s what I believe. I also think lots of companies & brands that have been using their voice throughout this pandemic to give hope happens to be female-owned business (of course there are the men that are being exceptional at this time too).

Transparency and sustainability have had substantial coverage throughout the various talks. Because of the pandemic, we listened to some ideas regarding how consumers and brands should be more local-orientated, instead of pursuing a global strategy. Could you share with us which were the most surprising conclusions and ideas you have discovered through these conversations? Do you think that, perhaps, without the disruption of the COVID19, some messages and conclusions might be slightly different?

Yes!! I do believe that the companies and brands that don’t adapt to ways of sustainability and transparency will not survive. Sustainability of course comes in different formats… DVF is sustainable in a sense as it’s timeless and so when you have a piece from the collection, you don’t get rid of it which in turn doesn’t turn to waste, etc. We are already seeing – if you pay attention – that the “fast fashion” companies have been silent throughout this entire pandemic. And consumers will finally pay notice to that. They’re quiet because they don’t have anything to say.

China is having its own conversation on “Sharing & Engaging: Consumers Transformation Insight from China”. Indeed, Chinese consumers and the Chinese market have taken part in many other talks. How relevant is China to the fashion industry? Do you think that Chinese consumers would end up saving the fashion industry as a whole?

China is very relevant and so is every country around the world. Again, people have to get off this notion that there are enemies. We are all ONE and thinking this way we can be way more evolved as a world! China is also super important to listen to because they’ve passed the phase of COVID lots of us are still in and are on to the next phase where businesses are picking back up. This gives hope and we can get a sense, if we watch closely, of “what is that new normal”?

Another great thing about FASHINNOVATION is that the talks discuss all of the aspects and facets of the industry as a whole. With logistics and retail having been included as talking points as well. When it comes to physical retail, the outlook is quite bad. What are the main hopes retailers could find post-COVID-19?

I think retail will always exist, but I think people won’t buy “stuff” anymore. They’ll buy less and what they really need. It’s a good idea – since it will diminish a bit and that there will not be as many retailers as there was – to collaborate!

LUXURY. Do you think the concept of luxury has slightly changed since we have experienced our vulnerability and mortality in this pandemic?

That is an interesting question and hard for me to answer because I’ve never been into luxury items as I’m very simple by nature. I think with the “new normal” it may be something that fewer people buy or appreciate at least immediately after we all go back to our lives. But luxury is something that will always remain I believe.

TECHNOLOGY. Let’s move on to this because what you have organized, worldwide, around many platforms has truly been amazing. I think this might be a good example for many of us. Could you perhaps share your tips and advice?

I’d say the best advice we can give is since we are by “no means” technology experts, is to use Zoom and truthfully navigate the “how-to” forums on Google. However, nothing happens without collaboration and a team! So we got a tech team on board as partners who took care of that entire aspect of the summit.

FASHINNOVATION And The Future Of Fashion Post-COVID-19

COMMUNICATION AND PR. Having paid close attention to the organisation I have noticed that there a lot of information and feedback available on the summit and beyond. And all of this has been arranged remotely due to lock-down. For me, you have offered an extraordinary example of how PR will most probably work in the future. I truly believe that you have found the perfect balance between the digital era and “old school PR”. I’d really appreciate if you could tell us something about your experience with this and how do you see the role of PR during this crisis.

We were fortunate to have reached out to Apples and Oranges PR who truly know exactly how to navigate media. To ensure that they were a part of the process from the very beginning of the summit, to having them attend the summit, to then reaching out on thoughts and making them a part of the post conversation as well. Engagement and transparency is key and we have a wonderful PR agency that knew exactly how to navigate this.

Do you think the fashion game it’s over?

Not at all. The fashion industry will have changes – the new or next normal. But the fashion industry is always changing even with “no” pandemic. Therefore, it’ll never be over but modified.

What was the one sentence mentioned during these conversations that have impacted you or even consider it as a kind of mantra?

“This is the time to reflect… by getting to know yourself you may realize you like yourself more than you thought”

Diane Von Furstenberg