It is almost impossible for Partow to work remotely. Fashion is a tactile pursuit. He could not do the right equipment through video conferencing. Pattern makers can’t function. Still, he checks his employees every day. “I spend more time with them than with anyone in my life,” Partow said.
Partow is a type of business that occupies one of the most dangerous positions in the fashion world. Not big enough to be a nuisance. And it’s not so small that it’s really still a dream. But it is important for the industry. His is the type of business that shapes his soul. And the fashion soul is in New York City, the current epicenter of the country’s coronavirus crisis.
Partow, and others like him, tried to remain strong. They have confidence in their own tenacity. They saw a piece of silver lining in the very dark sky. They believe in fashion.
“I might have to take three steps back,” Partow said. “But I know what it’s like starting from three steps back – because I’m starting from nothing.”
Partow clothing is very easy to access but it is also quite beautiful – the type of style that might cause someone’s vision to linger for reasons they cannot use their fingers. Partow, 40, has never been the darling of the industry; the title is usually reserved for young men who are charismatic. He never installed a provocative runway production. Instead, she only focuses on creating beautiful clothes for ambitious women who want to panic in pragmatic clothing.
Partow opened his business after the recession in 2008 and managed to make a profit after only three years – an almost miraculous achievement in an industry where entrepreneurs sometimes work hard for a decade or more and never see their dedication pay off.
He had every reason to believe that if he continued to do as he always did, the momentum would continue.
“We are thin. I learned to operate like that, starting from nothing, “Partow said. Last year “was the best year of the brand. The business has just begun to develop. “
Now, the $ 400 billion American fashion industry, along with every other segment of the economy, is in the midst of a huge setback. The terrible news has been extraordinary, from Macy announced that it was laying off around 125,000 people – almost all of its workforce – to Gap and Kohl cutting 80,000 employees each from their payroll. The runway presentation has been canceled or postponed. The trade show has been postponed. Factories and workshops that usually issue fancy perfumes or cocktail dresses have made hand sanitizers and face masks. The others are just closed. Dark brick-and-mortar boutique. And online retailers are touting large-scale e-commerce price reductions on merchandise that they barely get to market at full price.
For independent small and medium-sized companies, those without a global footprint or brave fame, the struggle for survival can be very lonely.
To help the business – both design houses and retailers – Vogue and the American Fashion Design Board have launched a fundraising initiative A Common Thread. About $ 700,000 which was originally intended as prize money in an annual competition to foster new designers has been transferred there. The Ralph Lauren philanthropic foundation donates $ 1 million. Designer Gabriela Hearst made $ 20,000. And others who have connections to the industry have offered financial assistance.
But many of the outreaches – online video messages from designers, email blasts from Vogue editor Anna Wintour, social media posts – have focused on asking the public to help keep fashion afloat.
Similar community requests come from the restaurant industry. And in many ways, this small fashion company is similar to a chef’s restaurant that gives character to the environment – and the food world, in general – and gets them excited.
Fashion holds a very different place in public awareness. That does not arouse the same intimacy for most people. Consumers may like fashion creativity but are irritated by everything else: cost, exclusivity, inability to find a single swimsuit in a store in August because everything is sold or discounted in April.
But what is produced by these brands is no less personal and satisfying. They helped change our culture from one of the formalities of a business suit to casual by wearing casual shoes. They make the main streets places of discovery rather than homogeneity. They consist of real people who fill roles.
“More than ever, people need to be appointed,” Partow said.
This crisis is a test, not only of fashion as a business, but also as a culture. Common Thread is testing whether people believe that self-expression is worth maintaining.
Two weeks ago, when Congress was debating a $ 2 trillion coronavirus aid plan, the fashion industry is lobbying hard to be included. Nearly two dozen chief executives, as well as representatives from industry trade organizations, asked for immediate funding to help pay employees and rent, along with a break from fees and tariffs, said designer Tory Burch, who was a key person in the effort. He, together with Wintour, made a call to Minister of Finance Steve Mnuchin, chairman of the House of Representatives and New York senators to request that Seventh Avenue receive consideration of the same focus as the aviation industry and the hospitality trade.
“I don’t know how to underestimate the sense of urgency,” Burch said in an interview during that period. “We won’t have an industry if we don’t get help.”
The final bill includes leaner access to small business loans, some of which will be forgiven. But that hasn’t stopped layoffs or closure. The industry wants more support. And the big question is not whether consumers want it want fashion when the lights come back on. Are they in a financial position to buy it.
“I think the situation of the government with loans, in theory, is a fantastic idea. My concern is how the whole process will work and how long will it take and when funds will be available. “It’s scary in the sense that there is so much that is unknown,” said Nancy Pearlstein, owner of the Relish independent boutique in Georgetown. with vendors and their desire to survive. “
Fashion is an ecosystem with one segment that is often in conflict with another. Independent retailers are often upset by the sales cycle of larger competitors. Small design houses often feel overwhelmed by large traders who have the power to negotiate asymmetrical contracts. Large company-owned labels specify a minimum amount of merchandise that small boutiques must provide – and pay – if they want to sell the label at all.
This pandemic has forced the industry to set aside those differences. “We need to help our competitors,” said Burch, who so far has not had to complain to his 4,500 employees. “We can’t be political.”
“Lots [industries] in danger, “added Burch. “But I don’t want ours to be left behind.”
Partow saw the storm happen.
He sent the spring collection to the store in full. That includes purple pants that managed to be professional and manly. A striped shirt dress that falls just above the knee. And one very striking day dress with attractive stitches encircling the waist.
Neiman Marcus, who is one of his biggest accounts and is reportedly considering applying bankruptcy protection, including collections in store-at-home flash sales. At Bon Marche in Paris, collections are only offered in-store, not online. And the shop is closed. So do small boutiques.
The autumn 2020 collection is a winner – full of generous silhouettes, nubby sweaters and deep, refreshing blue color like the Mediterranean Sea. If Partow was lucky, the clothes – at least a few of them – would reach the store. Most of its production is in northern Italy. When the health situation began to deteriorate there, he moved some of it to factories in the south. And then, being chased by a raging corona virus, he brought as much as possible to the U.S. But knitwear manufacturing cannot be moved to America – the machinery to make it is just not here as far as he knows.
Brett Johnson, 30, is an American male fashion designer who decided to move his business from New York to Milan in January 2019. It made sense at the time. High-end sewing, restrained attracts most European customers who see it as the American version sprezzatura, an imbalance learned. Production is already in Italy. He was so committed to his decision that he even named his 16-month-old daughter, Siena, after the city of Tuscany.
Johnson also wants to risk claims for African-American men as customers and entrepreneurs in the luxury market – the pinnacle of fashion pyramid.
“My hope, my goal when I talk about my core values, is to give an example for black men about how to dress, how to adapt, how to immerse themselves in a culture that is largely run by white men,” Johnson said, who has been working from his apartment in New York since returning from Italy a few weeks ago. “I think with streetwear, you become pigeonholed or labeled as a lower demographic, whether that’s true or not. That’s the perception that people have. “
Johnson does not design streetwear. Sports clothes are a rebuke to that. He was wearing one of his company’s cashmere hooded sweaters that even in the gloomy lighting of the FaceTime conversation looked as luxurious as a baby blanket.
Johnson, the son of one of the founders of BET, Robert Johnson and Sheila Johnson, benefited from his parents’ entrepreneurial knowledge. But this situation? There are no case studies, no templates. The business is six years old, self-financed and not yet profitable. The fall collection is in the middle of production when everything is closed. Now, instead of taking it to the store in May, he hopes it will arrive in August. He hoped the store would open.
Spring is a lost season. And fall? When will it arrive? How many merchandise must stores prepare for the future that make people hungry but that will be shaped by unmatched and devastating events? “This is a balancing act,” Pearlstein said. “That’s what I’m fighting for.”
If there is a positive sparkle, the system mode, remaining from it, can be reset. If the autumn merchandise is postponed, that means consumers will enter the shops in September and see new autumn clothes arrive – instead of being asked to start thinking about parkas and snow boots in June.
It was an old system – the way fashion works before countless drops and special editions. The planned store is involved in two planned sales a year instead of panic discounts. Buyers are seduced with creativity, not in large numbers.
Before Partow launched its own brand, he is an immigrant child, grew up in Laguna Beach, California, and was obsessed with fashion television in the 90s, defined by MTV’s “House of Stye”, and “Style with Elsa Klensch” from MTV. by Gianni Versace and Yves Saint Laurent.
“I come from a family who left Iran as a result of the revolution and everything was taken,” Partow said. “My father ended up in a luxurious room selling cruises. My mother’s family side is an artist. “
When he decided he wanted to be a designer, his parents argued that a business degree would be the best foundation. So after doing due diligence at San Francisco State University, he studied fashion at the Parsons School of Design. He was apprenticed at Donna Karan and later worked at Calvin Klein and John Varvatos.
But what probably best prepared him for this punishing moment was a hobby he took as a teenager: boxing.
This culminated with the Golden Gloves championship battle at Madison Square Garden in 2007. He climbed into the ring wearing bright blue satin shorts and a matching tank – the blue headgear that fit over his black hair piled into a bun. Fighting commentators praised his relentless and fearless punches in the face of opponents who were higher and had a longer reach. Partow won by unanimous decision.
“You study in a boxing ring to deal with storms,” Partow said. “It’s like a form of meditation. The calmer you are, the more you see. “
So in the midst of this tsunami, he was stubborn, shocking – perhaps reflexively – even refusing to assume that his efforts would fail.
“I don’t,” Partow said. “I thought that was a fighter in me.”
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