Tom Ford

A LETTER FROM THE CHAIRMAN: When Tom Ford accepted the post of chairman of the Council of Fashion Designers last year, he knew it was a big job through which he would have to address complicated issues. He could have had no idea just how big and how complicated.

On Monday afternoon, Ford sent a letter to the CFDA membership in which he addressed the coronavirus impact of the industry. “The challenges we are experiencing truly are unprecedented.” Ford wrote. He said that part of the CFDA’s mission now is to provide information and support “to ensure that as many businesses survive this pandemic as possible.”

Ford noted that A Common Thread, the CFDA-Vogue fundraising effort to benefit businesses impacted by the COVID-19 shutdown, has raised $4.2 million — and has received a whopping 1,000-plus applications for those funds. While he did not indicate in what amounts or to how many recipients the money will be allotted, he said that payments would commence later this month. “We know we cannot save everyone, but our hope is to help businesses survive the immediate and in turn be positioned for future survival,” he said.

Ford noted that as the economy begins to open up, companies will have to adapt to a landscape in which once-standard practices no longer work. “Brands need to make adjustments to their retail stores to create safe environments for employees and customers,” he said.

At the same time countless questions remain, including what to do with excess inventory and how to handle markdowns. “Will there be reasonable open-to-buys given the significant carry-over merchandise from the previous season?” Ford queried. “And then of course, will people even be running out to stores and spending money? What kind of products are they going to want when this is all over?”

Despite the magnitude of such questions and the devastation wrought on so many businesses, Ford celebrated his designing colleagues for having risen to the occasion. “[The crisis] has also made me feel incredibly proud to be a member of the American fashion industry,” he said, noting its fund-raising efforts as well as broad-based initiatives to help those on the pandemic’s frontlines. “The CFDA has diligently been working to ensure that designers have the information and resources to source, donate, and provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and many of our members focused on making masks as well as isolation gowns,” Ford wrote.

Noting that “there are no quick fixes” and that uncertainty will continue, Ford offered that the CFDA is mobilized to “help support and guide the American fashion community.” He said the organization is exploring digital retail destinations to help sell existing collections, and that it is in regular communication with the the fashion bodies in Paris, Milan and London “to share updates as we collectively determine how fashion weeks will look this fall.”

Ford concluded with a definitive statement: “The industry will change; but change also presents an opportunity to reset, restart, and create a strong foundation for the future of American fashion.  The one thing I can promise, is that there will be a future for us all.”

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