Thoughts on a Crisis

Making sense of the moment and a case for hope.

Written by Sal Seah / Published: Apr-29-2020

T is in Livingwear's Smart Undershirt and Modern Trunk.

There is the idea that trying to make sense of a crisis, once it’s happened or as it’s happening, can lead to growth.

So, now that the initial hammer of shock and sadness has levelled into a low drum of uncertainty, we want to do at least that — attempt to learn, make sense of things for ourselves, and see where we can go from here.

We can do this fairly easily at the moment, because we’re one of the lucky ones.

Admittedly, it was hard to see this at first. In March, during a single concentrated period, our investments got pulled, main plans had to be pushed, and there were fresh signs of collapse all around. The fashion industry was freaking out.

Li Edelkoort, who has been forecasting trends in fashion and design for decades, reframed that conversation. She told design publication Dezeen:


…Suddenly the fashion shows look bizarre and out of place, the travel ads that enter our computer space seem invasive and ridiculous, the thought of future projects is vague and inconclusive:
will it even matter? Every new day we question each system we have known since birth, and are obliged to consider their possible demise... We will have to pick up the residue and reinvent everything from scratch once the virus is under control.

Building a new world was something that, as a team, we’d always talked excitedly about — a world that was more just and less wasteful. But now that a potential gateway to that world had suddenly materialised, it seemed a little terrifying.

In hindsight, perhaps a global pandemic wasn’t how we hoped to arrive at it. Perhaps we had thought we would build something atop a civilisation, not on its debris.

The virus acted like a magnifying glass under the sun. Whatever we were doing, as a business…
Did it even matter?

C and T both in Livingwear's Everyday Crew Neck Tee.

Even before Covid, we were trying to grapple with complicated feelings about being a young clothing line in 2020, producing new clothes. Before Covid, it was no secret that our industry was steamrolling across the globe at an unconscionable rate, chewing up people and nature for profit.

Our conclusion was that we wanted to make fashion better, precisely because we wanted it to endure.

At its best, fashion makes us feel seen, beautiful and powerful. It helps us and others understand who we are, and connects us with people outside of ourselves. Clothes are hugely important on an emotional and communal level — just take a look at all the people dressing up to take out their trash during quarantine.

So yeah, we don’t want clothes to go away, and we don’t think they should. The question has to pivot: how do we make them?

Even before Covid, we were trying to grapple with complicated feelings about being a young clothing line in 2020, producing new clothes. Before Covid, it was no secret that our industry was steamrolling across the globe at an unconscionable rate, chewing up people and nature for profit.

Our conclusion was that we wanted to make fashion better, precisely because we wanted it to endure.

At its best, fashion makes us feel seen, beautiful and powerful. It helps us and others understand who we are, and connects us with people outside of ourselves. Clothes are hugely important on an emotional and communal level — just take a look at all the people dressing up to take out their trash during quarantine.

So yeah, we don’t want clothes to go away, and we don’t think they should. The question has to pivot: how do we make them?

In those few days in March when the months ahead had never seemed rockier, the team met to figure out next steps.

Just seeing each other’s faces seemed to restore something inside. Everyone was worried in their own way, for their own reasons, but sharing these anxieties seemed to make them lighter. Collaborating on something together, and focusing on what was within our control, seemed to make the path forward look a little less dark.

One result of that meeting was the decision to write to you, our Livingwear community. We wanted to be open about our predicament, and to make sure that people were okay. Many of you wrote back responses that blew us away. You were kind and calm and open about your own struggles, and it’s hard to imagine we’ll forget that.

M (left) is in Livingwear's Smart Undershirt and Modern Trunk. A (right) wears our Everyday Crew Neck Tee.

Right up to the slowdown, we’d spent months reweighing our values as a brand — plunging into the genetic makeup of Livingwear in order to understand our position in the world and the change we wished to make in it. Yet on rough days it felt like what we were doing was barely a drop in the ocean. It felt like we were seas apart from the company we fully aspired to be.

Funnily, this pandemic has silenced that doubt.

We had known it before —
that we are all connected, that our actions ripple.

But in today’s light, that theoretical knowledge has photosynthesised into a comprehension that is real and lived. This pandemic has proven that we literally cannot survive without others — the people who stock our grocery shelves and who deliver, the technicians who still repair, friends we video-call or text. Not everything, it turns out, has to be a big, momentous statement. A kingdom is built from humble, persistent gestures after all.

Currently, no one knows how this virus will change us, only that it will. At Livingwear, we’re hopeful. We’re hopeful that we’ll emerge, collectively reoriented towards love of each other and of nature.

N in Livingwear's Smart Undershirt.

We believe that we can be hopeful while still being scared. And we believe we can be hopeful by acting in ways that justify that hope.

So, back to Li Edelkoort and considering our own “future projects” — will they even matter?

Yes, we have to believe that they will.

Thoughts on a Crisis