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How fashion is helping to fight against coronavirus

Unless you’ve been meditating in the middle of a desert like Jared Leto instead of working from home, you’d know that the whole world is currently seized by the coronavirus pandemic.

The virus, which also goes by COVID-19, has not been discriminatory; everyone from politicians to musicians has been affected. Even Tom Hanks has caught the bug. Still worse, there seems to be no escape from all the bad news. Music festivals like Coachella have been cancelled for the first time, as are sporting events and fashion shows.

Brands like Dior, Chanel, Prada and Gucci have all postponed their Cruise 2021 shows in light of the outbreak. It’s a good call, though: besides the fact that social distancing is an important practice right now, it’s impossible to think about travel — what the Cruise collections are designed for — as countries close their borders.

In the same vein, fashion’s biggest nights out, namely the Met Gala and the CFDA Fashion Awards, have been indefinitely postponed too. The industry as a whole has been badly hit (stores are shuttered, stocks are in free-fall), but it’s not all gloom and doom. Fashion has often had a way of lifting our spirits in trying times, whether through awe-inspiring runway shows, dreamy couture creations or acts of philanthropy.

The last of the three rings especially true now. Breaking the bleak news cycle this week was an announcement from LVMH: the luxury goods giant is converting three of its perfume manufacturing facilities to make hand sanitisers, replacing fragrances for Dior and Givenchy. They will be donated to hospitals around France, which is currently experiencing a nationwide shortage of the antibacterial gel.

LVMH hasn’t only been focusing on home ground, though. Earlier this year, the Paris-based conglomerate donated S$3.1 million to the Chinese Red Cross Foundation in response to the shortage of medical supplies in Wuhan. Likewise, fellow French luxury group Kering, which owns Gucci and Bottega Veneta, pledged S$1.5 million to the Hubei Red Cross Foundation.

In Italy, which has over 35,000 coronavirus cases, fashion designers are also doing their part to stop the spread of the virus. Donatella Versace and her daughter Allegra have made a personal donation of €200,000 (S$314,964) to the intensive care unit of the San Raffaele hospital in Milan.

Miuccia Prada, together with her husband and co-CEO Patrizio Bertelli, has followed their lead, funding six new ICUs across three of Milan’s hospitals: San Raffeale, Sacco and Vittore Buzzi. Italian designer Giorgio Armani, too, gave €1.25 million (S$1,966,393.75) to hospitals across the country.

Gucci has pledged €2 million (S$3,160,013) for the cause. The donation will be split between the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund and the Italian Civil Protection Department.

Ermenegildo Zegna, together with members of his family and the Zegna Group, have made a total donation of €3 million (S$4,701,596.90) to the Italian Civil Protection Department too.

Similarly, Valentino’s non-profit organization, the Valentino Garavani and Giancarlo Giammetti Foundation, has donated €1 million (S$1,579,314) to fund the Columbus Covid 2 Hospital in Rome.

Taking it up a notch is Moncler, whose CEO Remo Ruffini has donated €10 million (S$15,779,342.37) to fund the construction of a hospital in Lombardy, the worst hit region in Italy.

(Photo credit: Moncler)
(Photo credit: Moncler)

But Italy isn’t just being bolstered by big brands. After calling Kendall Jenner out for downplaying the pandemic, Italian influencer Chiari Ferragni launched her own online fundraising campaign last week. It has since accumulated over €4 million (S$6,288,620) for Italian hospitals.

Speaking of smaller players, New York designer Kerby Jean-Raymond (whom you might recognize as a guest judge on Next in Fashion) has turned the headquarters of his label Pyer Moss into a donation centre. As the city’s hospitals are running short on N95 masks and latex gloves, the Pyer Moss founder is encouraging fellow New Yorkers to mail brand new supplies to his office to be redistributed.

Jean-Raymond is also pledging US $5,000 (S$7,235.50) for the cause. That’s on top of the US $50,000 (S$72,351.25) that his brand is setting aside for smaller, minority- and women-owned creative businesses in the city that are suffering from the financial impact of the coronavirus epidemic.

Fellow American fashion house Ralph Lauren has donated US $10 million (S$14,256,950) to several charities fighting against the coronavirus outbreak, such as WHO’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. Like Gucci and Balenciaga, the New York brand will also be supplying 250,000 masks and 25,000 isolations gowns to hospitals that need the medical equipment.

Also on American shores, the Oregon-based sportswear giant Nike has donated US $10 million (S$14,466,200) to the Oregon Food Bank, Oregon Community Recovery Fund and the Oregon Health & Science University — all organisations providing coronavirus relief. On top of that, The Nike Foundation has also contributed US $1 million (S$1,446,555) to the aforementioned COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.

In the UK, Burberry is now funding research for a vaccine developed by the University of Oxford. “The university has one of the world’s best track records in emergency vaccine development, and its COVID-19 vaccine is on course to begin human trials next month,” the English heritage brand stated in an Instagram post. It will also be supplying masks and gowns.

Just like the videos of quarantined folks singing from their balconies that have taken over our social media feeds, these gestures from the fashion industry are heart-warming and inspiring. They also drive home an important message, best worded by Donatella Versace: “This is when we, as a society, need to stand together and care for one another.

This story has been updated on 30 March 2020.

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Pameyla Cambe
Senior Writer
Pameyla Cambe is a fashion and jewellery writer who believes that style and substance shouldn't be mutually exclusive. She makes sense of the world through Gothic novels, horror films and music. Lots of music.