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  • Danielle Wightman-Stone

Tom Ford discusses Covid-19 challenges on CFDA

Tom Ford has written to Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) members on the challenges to the fashion industry due to the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the future of fashion.

“I, like many of you, am constantly challenged with trying to manage the impact Covid-19 is having on our companies, our personal lives, and those of our loved ones,” said Ford, in the open letter on the CFDA website. “The challenges we are experiencing truly are unprecedented.”

Ford, who took over as chairman of the CFDA last year from Diane von Furstenberg, who had been the face of the CFDA for over a decade, wouldn’t have realised at the time what an important and necessary role he would have in assisting American fashion navigate through the coronavirus crisis.

“The fashion business has been hit very hard and from every angle,” added Ford. “Our suppliers are suffering, and our supply chain was interrupted as the entire world has literally been all but shut down. And, of course, retail in most regions and certainly in the US has ground to a halt.”

Ford continued: “The landscape changes every day, and so it is almost impossible to predict with any certainty the ultimate damage that this will have on the economy and, specifically, on our businesses. Part of the CFDA’s mission is to provide you with information and support to ensure that as many businesses survive this pandemic as possible.

“This has been an extremely difficult moment; yet, it has also made me feel incredibly proud to be a member of the American fashion industry, which has led the way in raising awareness and funds for the fashion community and helping those working on the frontlines of the pandemic. The CFDA has diligently been working to ensure that designers have the information and resources to source, donate, and provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and many of our members focused on making masks as well as isolation gowns.”

CFDA and Vogue relief fund receives more than 1,000 applications for support

The American fashion designer also noted that the ‘A Common Thread’, the joint CFDA and Vogue fundraising relief fund to help the US fashion community who have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, had so far raised 4.2 million US dollars and received more than 1,000 applications for support.

While the letter didn’t reveal how many recipients would receive money, Ford did say that funds would be distributed later this month, and added: “We know we can not save everyone, but our hope is to help businesses survive the immediate and in turn be positioned for future survival.”

Ford also spoke about the economy reopening and the challenges that brands may face, stating that fashion and retail will need to “evolve” as restrictions are gradually lifted. “Brands need to make adjustments to their retail stores to create safe environments for employees and customers,” he explained.

He also noted that many fashion retailers still faced many unanswered questions - such as what to do with excess inventory and how to handle markdowns, and he said: “Will there be reasonable open-to-buys given the significant carry-over merchandise from the previous season? And then of course, will people even be running out to stores and spending money? What kind of products are they going to want when this is all over?.”

Ford went on to add that there are no “quick fixes” that the CFDA was there to “help support and guide” to the American fashion community and that it was “actively” exploring opportunities with digital retail destinations to help us sell these existing collections.

In addition, he added that he was in “regular communication” with his counterparts in Paris, Milan, and London on how the industry can “collectively” determine how fashion weeks will look this autumn.

“The industry will change; but change also presents an opportunity to reset, restart, and create a strong foundation for the future of American fashion. The one thing I can promise, is that there will be a future for us all,” concluded Ford.

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