March 14, 2020
I took the train on the 26th of February from Berlin to Paris to present TAUKO’s AW20 collection for the international buyers at the Paris Fashion Week. The event turned into a puzzled conversation about coronavirus which was slowly and steadily affecting the everyday life of the Parisian. The fashion shows got cancelled and the venues were empty. I talked with journalists who embraced our concept of extending textile lifecycles, the luxury label next to us got crucified for not having sustainability in focus. The flashy and amazing art pieces seemed out of place. The international buyers were absent.
From Paris I continued to Valencia to an international conference focused on innovative projects between European businesses. There were hardly any hands shaked, some of the talks were streamed from Italy. But there was still the idea that the virus will stay in certain areas, it will not reach out. This was a week ago.
And then the news started really coming in: first lockdowns in Italy and all of a sudden my calendar filled with conferences, fairs and events got wiped out. It became as empty as the concert calendar of almost all European artists at the same time.
Now the whole Europe seems to be on hold yet there is a feeling of urgency in the air. People are advised to stay home. I’m having the fifth home office day today due to a flu which I’ve got after coming back home, to Berlin. This is the first time ever I’m at home because of a flu. I’ve cancelled all my appointments.
Being on hold and still – the speed in which things are happening is just crazy, overwhelming. The phase and the scale of the spreading virus creates the feeling of unpredictability which multiplies and exhilarates. Decisions on national level of lockdowns are praised and condemned at the same time. All of a sudden, we need to accept and live in a world where there are officially no right or wrong answers, just highly advanced guesses of scientists, economics and politicians of what can be done.
We need to make the decisions, without really knowing what will happen, of how we can secure TAUKO as a business during and after the pandemia. How can we act as a business to set an example for stopping the virus? My empty calendar means that TAUKO’s collections, production and business concept will not be presented in any of the events we’ve been invited to. It is probable that we will need to close our store in Helsinki and our sales online will drop dramatically. How will we make up for the lost income?
Regardless of all my concerns, I agree with Li Edelkroot and many others: this crisis can also turn into an opportunity for self-reflection of our economic system, new kind of creativity, improvisation and communal spirit. There are already many initiatives which are creating platforms to support the small businesses, designers, artists and all freelancers. Many professionals have been committed in telling about the struggle of the small businesses and what it means if we lose them. These are initiatives and skills that we will probably also need in the future. It is quite likely that this pandemic is a prelude of what is to come. Living in a world that becomes much more unpredictable is very probable. We need to learn to live in a world where things we’ve been taking for granted are simply just not there anymore.
Three weeks after I left for Paris, I’m now sitting in my home and looking at the traffic slowly passing by on six-laned Karl-Marx-Allee. I’m trying to guess if there is less traffic than on a normal saturday. I have a huge pile of notes and to do lists around me and roughly 20 web pages open on my browser. I’m trying to figure out what to do next.
Last week has definitely been a wakeup call for us as a business also. We rely on the structures of the very conservative fashion industry and on the consumer behaviour of our clients. Now, we do not have the structure anymore and we are unable to predict the consumer behaviour. I’m looking at our strategy and our campaigns and they are out of date.
Doing small adjustments and taking some time to reflect: It is time to see if we can really change the system itself. We need to reinvent and build something that is much more adjustable, slower, softer. More respectful and honest as a system.
Luckily there is some space in the calendar for working on this.
Text: Mila Moisio
Photo: Till Bovermann