The Fashion World Is in Self-Quarantine but Avoiding “Virus Hysteria”

The Fashion World Is in Self-Quarantine but Avoiding “Virus Hysteria” 1

In Paris, there were fewer Americans than usual in attendance—one magazine staffer estimated only half of editors from U.S. publications attended. “The fear was not ‘I’m going to contract this,’ says Vanity Fair’s executive fashion director Samira Nasr, recently back in the office from France. “The fear was ‘I’m not going to be able to get home to my family.’ But there was also this sense that we were in it together.” The V.F. fashion team divided the European circuit; market director Nicole Chapoteau is among the self-quarantined after returning from Milan. Some companies, including the Goop fashion team, canceled their trips to Paris Fashion Week entirely, though a few Goop employees kept unrelated Paris business appointments. Others, including Saks Fifth Avenue Fashion director Roopal Patel, left early. (Through a company spokesperson, Patel declined to comment.)

 

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With news of the virus changing daily, and sometimes hourly, brands adjusted to the fluid situation in real time. “About 70%–75% of our clients made it to Paris and our showrooms,” Commes de Garçon president Adrian Joffe told Vanity Fair. “For all our clients who did not come to Paris, we spent two days taking photos of every single item, back and front, for all our collections, plus image shots and coordinations,” adding that budgets were only “slightly down.”

Departing Milan Fashion Week attendees had their temperatures checked at the airport in Italy, whether Paris or U.S.-bound—but not, they say, at the airport when they landed in the United States. When they got home, they entered “self-quarantine”: liminal, company-structured periods where employees have been told to work from home but aren’t held there by any official or governmental mandates. The New York Times and Penske Media Corporation (publisher of the Robb Report and WWD) instituted two-week office bans for those who have traveled to the affected countries designated by the Centers for Disease Control. Meredith Corporation, the publisher of InStyle, asks employees “to voluntarily refrain from coming to work” for the same time period. The World Health Organization estimates a 1-to-14-day incubation period for the virus, which indicates publishers’ two-week quarantine impositions are sufficient—assuming those with a choice actually do voluntarily refrain from coming to work.

And the policies are generally not only accepted, but appreciated—the attitude is “whatever keeps everybody safe.” One creative director in self-quarantine says his publisher’s policy is to “keep calm, follow protocols, and get on with it.” Editors across publishing are following suit: Though self-quarantined WWD style director Alex Badia has experienced problems getting models and photographers out of Milan for photoshoots due to canceled flights, his team has so far been able to source all the samples they need. One Hearst fashion assistant notes, “The Paris riots caused me more problems.”

 

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Media companies are taking other precautions; they are, after all, in an industry that relies on and influences global interaction. Condé Nast, which publishes Vanity Fair, has canceled some international photo shoots and instituted a temporary ban on meet and greets among the celebrity wrangling Talent Group. In an email last week to staffers, Condé Nast says, “The general advice from governments is that anyone who has traveled elsewhere in the north of Italy, including Milan, should monitor themselves for symptoms of Covid-19. It is not required to self-quarantine”—or, as Hearst calls it, “self-isolate.”

The rundown of the self-quarantined reads like a front-row seating chart: Editors stuck at home include T magazine editor in chief Hanya Yanagihara, Town & Country editor in chief Stellene Volandes, Marie Claire editor in chief Aya Kanai, Elle editor in chief Nina García, Esquire creative director Nick Sullivan, outgoing Harper’s Bazaar editor in chief Glenda Bailey, and three InStyle staff editors, including their editor in chief, Laura Brown, plus Chapoteau and Blasberg. Yanagihara and Brown posted about their self-quarantine on Instagram, while sources relayed the status of Volandes, Kanai, García, Sullivan, and Bailey. A representative for InStyle confirmed that three employees were working remotely after returning from Europe. Condé Nast creative director and Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour is visiting London before returning to Condé Nast’s One World Trade headquarters on Monday, travels that are compliant with the company’s suggestion to spend two weeks out of the office after traveling from Italy.

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