The world has turned upside down. Entire industries are on the edge as the Corona virus takes hold but some are stepping up, pivoting to purpose and people over profit.
Take the apparel industry. Multiple brands have responded by shifting away from fashion to producing much needed PPEs. It’s not about luxury anymore, but about essentials badly needed around the world.
The initiative to leverage fashion expertise to respond to the pandemic at Chargeurs PCC Fashion Technologies, the worlds largest apparel interlinings company, is the brainchild of managing director Angela Chan.
“We had knowledge of the types of filtration materials needed and we suspected early on in January that this could become a pandemic that would spread quickly,” she said. “We anticipated a shortage of face masks and knew that in our global and interconnected community this could only get worse.”
Chan, an industry expert on sustainable fashion, has led the charge for sustainable solutions for the notoriously unsustainable apparel industry (the second most polluting industry in the world), knew something had to be done – and that something needed collective action.
“It is important to remember the three Ps – planet, people and profit. I’m in commerce, running a company with more than 1200 employees and many global partners. I need to both make sure they and their families are taken care of, while at the same time addressing the need right now for PPEs. This is something we can all help with.”
On the first weekend of April, this global initiative packed and shipped millions of masks to Europe and USA. Orders are on route to other countries now.
She said: “We’re part of a global company with 40 offices around the world and multiple partners in our source chain: as a group, we felt that this was the right thing to do.”
It has meant not just a pivoting of purpose, but a pivoting of the company set-up and leadership style in order to deliver on the pledge.
“We’re in crisis mode,” she said, noting how proud she was of her workforce. “Although this was not our core competency, we had the entire team pivot. Whether you’re an auditor, a delivery person or a designer, you are now in sourcing and production. Everyone has changed their roles so we can get all these masks out of the door.”
Chan is no stranger to crisis and reinvention. As the the founder of the go-to maternity designer and retailer, Mommy Chic, a brand beloved by Hollywood’s pregnant A-listers, such as Uma Thruman and Catherine Zeta-Jones, she had to shift her focus when the business became a casualty during the late nineties economic downturn. Pivoting from that hardship, she had to reinvent herself from entrepreneur to industry leader, becoming one of the foremost experts on sustainable fashion innovation and establishing the Sustainable 50 Initiative.
This has given her the grit to deal with this new normal and plan for better, more sustainable, times ahead.
She hopes this current crisis will reset the fashion industry and, that collectively, help it realize what’s important – personally and professionally. “What’s happening today is a wake up call,” said Chan. “It makes you think about what we’re doing, producing and selling and if we are driving the industry with a purpose that is more fulfilling and sustainable. It is not just about managing and growing a business but about our contribution to society, whether that’s providing PPEs or producing materials that are more sustainable. Making it better for the planet and, more importantly, better for the people.”
Initiatives such as this demonstrate just how the fashion industry is putting its best foot forward. At a time when governments around the world over are struggling to source enough PPE, the technological and logistical know-how of Chargeurs and its partners, are demonstrating fashion’s greatest collaboration.