Independent fashion designers feel the wrath of the pandemic, but prove adaptable to any challenge coming their way.
No industry has managed to avoid feeling the hard-hitting impacts of the current pandemic. From large corporations to small independent businesses, everyone has had to make sacrifices when it comes to how their business functions now and going forward. The fashion industry is no different, and these impacts can be felt all across the country.
The Midwest fashion scene may not be on the same caliber as on the East or West Coast, but it has still been heavily impacted. Midwest designers rely on the seasonal runway shows and various community marketplaces in order to display and show off their latest creations. The COVID-19 pandemic has effectively brought those to a halt.
Many runway shows and marketplaces have been forced to attempt to shift everything virtually, or cancel events altogether, leaving small businesses and designers scrambling to come up with new ideas to gain exposure during this trying time.
One excellent example of a runway team that was able to adapt to the current environment was that of Kansas City Fashion Week; within a few short months, they were able to completely change the plan of their runway to conduct the show 100% virtually. As a designer participant, I can say that while the experience without a live audience was not entirely ideal, it was still presented in a way that allowed for potentially greater exposure. Would you be more likely to travel a long distance and get all dressed up to attend a 2-hour show, or watch the same show from your TV in the comfort and safety of your own home? There’s a good chance that the virtual move permitted more people to view the show, than would have attended a live event. It could be that we are seeing a cultural change with how fashion shows are produced in the future, even after the pandemic.
As an independent fashion designer myself, I can say that my brand has been greatly impacted by this pandemic. Many other local designers’ brands have been impacted as well. Social media has been a popular option many have turned to, in order to keep in touch with brand followers and promote their business through various options such as Facebook and Instagram. The rise of TikTok has also been a game changer for some designers; my colleague, Kyndra Jade, who began her journey with TikTok when the pandemic started, ended up going viral, with one of her videos amassing over 1.7 million views. With so many popular social media options nowadays, designers have more than enough resources to create engaging content and build brand awareness through just their phones or computers. Designers have demonstrated that they are resilient and can adapt their brand strategies to overcome any challenges.
Independent designers and small business owners alike have proven themselves to be greatly adaptable with anything that could get thrown their way; how they weather the COVID-19 pandemic will be no different.
Cover Photo: MAANG by Yasi Fayel at Omaha Fashion Week, Photo by Heather and Jameson