The Business of Fashion Podcast
Robin Givhan on the US Capitol Siege and Vogue’s Kamala Harris Cover

Robin Givhan on the US Capitol Siege and Vogue’s Kamala Harris Cover

January 14, 2021

Speaking with Imran Amed, the Washington Post’s senior critic-at-large shares her thoughts on the controversially ‘familiar’ image of the vice president-elect, and explains where it sits within the wider political climate of the United States as it is due to enter a new chapter.

When the cover of American Vogue’s February issue leaked on Saturday, January 9, a flurry of controversy ensued. Many took to social media to deride the image of vice president-elect Kamala Harris, lensed by Tyler Mitchell, for its casual styling, unflattering lighting and lack of gravitas. The criticism focused on the argument that the portrait lacked the stately deference they believed such a political figure — not least the first Black, South Asian female vice-president — should command.Among those to share their thoughts was Robin Givhan, The Washington Post’s senior critic-at-large who penned a column on January 11 in which she said “the cover did not give Kamala D. Harris due respect… It was a cover image that, in effect, called Harris by her first name without invitation.” Givhan, who became the first fashion writer to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism in 2006, sat down with Imran Amed in the latest episode of The BoF Podcast, to further discuss the cover’s significance and the wider tumultuous landscape of US politics. 
  • Debating Harris’ portrait is about more than just a critique of the technicalities and production value of a fashion glossy. Its release comes at a time of political division and fraught race relations, just days after a violent right-wing mob stormed Washington D.C.’s Capitol building, an event incited by President Trump, who now faces a second impeachment for his involvement in the incident. “The last few years have been an exhausting, emotionally draining time,” said Givhan. “I was very surprised that [the cover] became such an issue. I was really stunned that people were so exercised about it. When you think about it, it’s [like] pain from a thousand papercuts, and this was the 1001st papercut.”
  • The informality of the image chosen for the print cover carries greater historical significance and weight. Vogue and Anna Wintour defended it as an extension of the Biden-Harris campaign’s platform of accessibility, which Givhan described as a “legitimate” point of view. But, she said, “I think that the upset is rooted not so much in the current moment but its history. Throughout history, Black women in particular were not given the kind of respect that white women were. People had this familiarity with Black women that was not about friendship and equality but was condescending. Understanding the complicated nature of that would give one pause in presenting the first female vice president — a Black woman — in that way.”
  • While the alternative digital cover image, which depicts Harris in a more presidential light and formal style, offers some reprieve, this print issue has significance as a cultural souvenir (“you can’t give a screengrab to your grandchildren,” said Givhan), and there is no real opportunity for a do-over. “There’s no way to make people happy,” said Givhan, adding that it’s important to instead listen to criticism and “recognise where things went astray” in allowing this misstep to happen. “You just have to do better the next time, and the time after that and the time after that.”

External clips courtesy of Good Morning America and ABC7 News

 

Related Articles:
Anna Wintour Speaks on VP Cover Controversy, Amazon and Diversity Efforts
The Risks and Rewards of Dressing American Politicians 

 
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Big Tech’s Threat to Fashion

Big Tech’s Threat to Fashion

January 12, 2021
It’s hard to imagine running a successful brand in 2021 without advertising on Instagram, buying search ads on Google or selling on Amazon. At BoF VOICES, H&M’s Christopher Wylie and venture capitalist Roger McNamee talked about why that’s probably not a good thing — and how the industry can reduce its reliance on tech giants.
 
Before the pandemic, social media and e-commerce giants like Facebook and Amazon were ascendant. The physical isolation caused by the ongoing global health crisis has only consolidated their power. Nevertheless, fashion brands can’t rely on a handful of Silicon Valley firms to run their businesses, venture capitalist Roger McNamee said at BoF’s VOICES.
 
In an interview with Christopher Wylie, who blew the whistle on Cambridge Analytica’s improper use of Facebook user data during the 2016 election, McNamee outlined how big tech has touched off a “cascading series of catastrophes going from the online world into the real world.”
In fashion, Facebook, Amazon and Google have inserted themselves between brands and their customers. Though they offer unparalleled marketing and commerce capabilities, McNamee noted their clients pay a steep price in the long run by ceding control of such crucial elements of their businesses. But all is not lost.
 
“The fashion industry has a superpower,” he said. “You’re actually connected to culture, so people care what you have to say. You have to recognise as an industry that these guys are changing the rules and you have to fight back.”
 
 
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Who Will Win De-Globalisation?

Who Will Win De-Globalisation?

January 7, 2021

At BoF VOICES, Axios journalist Felix Salmon, economist Dr Dambisa Moyo and Sinovation Ventures chief executive Kai-Fu Lee discussed how fashion can navigate challenging economic times.

The current global outlook of mounting debt levels, contracting global trade and rising nationalism bear more than a passing resemblance to conditions in 1929, at the onset of the Great Depression. But that alarming trajectory is not set in stone, panelists at BoF VOICES, BoF’s annual gathering for big thinkers, said. Dr Dambisa Moyo, an economist and author who drew the comparison, said she was “optimistic in many respects,” and sees technological innovation as one way out of the global economy’s current troubles. That’s not to downplay the challenges. Journalist Felix Salmon described an economic “balkanisation” that was making it more difficult for cross-border business, while noting that China’s rapid rebound from Covid-19 could power global markets.

Related Articles:


Hans Ulrich Obrist: The Antidote to Globalisation
VOICES 2020: Finding Opportunity in a Global Crisis

 

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How Does the World Feel About Covid-19?

How Does the World Feel About Covid-19?

January 5, 2021

Leading health experts Sarah Jones and Noel Brewer discuss how successfully controlling the pandemic is a question of culture as well as science at BoF VOICES 2020.

 

The development of working Covid-19 vaccines in a matter of months is a remarkable feat of the pandemic. The biggest challenge in successfully bringing them to market may be cultural rather than scientific.Whether populations trust public health officials and accept widespread vaccination programmes will determine how the world emerges from the pandemic, said Noel Brewer, professor of health behaviour at the University of North Carolina in conversation at BoF VOICES.Already substantial differences in cultural norms have had a significant influence on how successfully countries have responded to the health crisis, as Sarah Jones, creator of the corporate mental health programme Mental Health Intelligence, explained. Jones has contributed to the largest open-access study that has been conducted on behaviour related to Covid-19 health.Among its findings: There is no global consensus about the value of social distancing measures. Nordic countries like Denmark and Finland have few people who report always wearing a mask, while other countries report a high percentage of people who say they always wear masks. In Asia, social norms around mask-wearing mean that citizens are more likely to voluntarily wear them, while in Europe, people are less likely to wear a mask unless they are legally obligated to do so. The diverging mask-wearing behaviour has led to lopsided progress in tackling the Covid-19 crisis, and extends to how people feel about taking the vaccine. Brewer said that this is where public health officials and government leaders have a responsibility to encourage their citizens to practice social distancing and receive a vaccination. The goal: To emerge from the crisis together.

 

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How Meditation Can Improve Your Life

How Meditation Can Improve Your Life

December 21, 2020

Is mindfulness powerful enough to help stave off illness? Wellness guru Deepak Chopra and entrepreneur Carmen Busquets discuss the benefits the practice can bring to mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing at BoF VOICES.

The world is currently battling three simultaneous crises: the COVID-19 pandemic, the attendant economic downturn, and stress, world-renowned wellness guru Deepak Chopra, during a discussion with investor Carmen Busquets and BoF founder and CEO Imran Amed at BoF VOICES. Meditation is a tonic for all of them, Chopra said, in that it can help promote epigenetic responses, awareness and personal and social enrichment.Those who have never meditated need not be intimidated. “Give 60 seconds to yourself,” Busquets said. “Create that awareness of having that 60 seconds of silence, anybody can do it.”

 

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Rashad Robinson on Addressing Racial Inequality in Fashion

Rashad Robinson on Addressing Racial Inequality in Fashion

December 17, 2020

This summer’s protests forced fashion to examine its longstanding issues with racial discrimination at every level. At BoF VOICES, Color Of Change president Rashad Robinson laid out how to turn the industry’s new awareness into meaningful action.

In 2020, the fashion industry reckoned with its history — and present — of racial discrimination. Companies promised to address the lack of Black voices on their creative teams and in the C-suite, as well as toxic internal cultures.But visibility is only the first step. Now is the time to “translate caring into action,” Color Of Change president Rashad Robinson said at BoF’s VOICES.The most important change the industry can make, he said, is to stop talking about race in a passive voice. It’s not that Black people are less likely to get hired in the fashion industry — rather, the fashion industry excludes Black people.Inclusivity measures such as mentorship and creating career pipelines for Black employees are inadequate, he went on to say. Too much effort is focused on “fixing” individuals, without addressing the system that created barriers to advancement in the first place.“When we talk about vulnerable communities, we spend our time trying to fix those people,” Robinson said. “When we talk about systems and structures, we spend our time trying to fix those systems and those structures.”

 

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A Covid Survivor’s Story

A Covid Survivor’s Story

December 15, 2020

When Sophia Neophitou-Apostolou, editor-in-chief of 10, returned home after a whirlwind month zipping between shows in fashion’s capitals last March, she thought she’d come down with a case of the “fashion month flu.” What came next changed her perspective on both the industry and her life. 

 

Beating Covid-19 was a battle as draining mentally as it was physically, 10 magazine editor Sophia Neophitou-Apostolou told BoF editor-at-large Tim Blanks during BoF VOICES 2020. “It’s not just a physical assault on your body, it’s a mental assault as well,” she said. Neophitou-Apostolou contracted the disease and was admitted to hospital just after fashion month in March. She’s still recovering. The experience had made her  reconsider both how she lives her own life (being “COVID-safe,” she said, is her top priority) and the way the fashion industry operates. “It was a big wake-up call… we have to all of us contribute to things to change them.”

 

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‘Change Isn’t Good Enough if It’s Just Change for Me’

‘Change Isn’t Good Enough if It’s Just Change for Me’

December 10, 2020

Can fashion avoid tokenism and make sincere inclusivity a reality? At BoF VOICES, Sinéad Burke and Samira Nasr talk about how to be an inclusive leader in 2020.

 

After a year when awareness of the need for greater racial, physical and socioeconomic inclusion surged, can the fashion industry learn to avoid tokenism and turn that momentum into enduring change?In a conversation with activist, educator and writer Sinéad Burke at BoF VOICES, Harper’s Bazaar editor-in-chief Samira Nasr spoke about how and why she is working to build an inclusive team in her new role.“The best dinner parties are the ones with more difference. You don’t want to be sitting there with someone with the same ideas,” said Nasr, who was appointed to lead the magazine’s US edition in June.In many parts of the fashion industry, the status quo is only just beginning to shift.
“I’m thinking about how to measure and put a process in place so that there’s systemic change,” Burke said. “Change isn’t good enough if it’s just change for me.”

 

Related Articles:
VOICES 2020: Fixing the Fashion System

 

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The Future of Moncler’s ‘Genius’

The Future of Moncler’s ‘Genius’

December 8, 2020

At BoF VOICES, Remo Ruffini speaks to Imran Amed about adapting his brand’s programme of designer collaborations to a post-pandemic reality where Chinese customers and online activations are paramount.

 

After global fashion sales fell by 27 percent to 30 percent this year, according to estimates in BoF and McKinsey’s State of Fashion 2021 report (released Wednesday), the industry is bracing for a difficult and (likely incomplete) recovery next year. The important thing is to adapt.
“This crisis could be an opportunity,” Moncler chief executive Remo Ruffini said at VOICES last week, predicting the fashion market is unlikely to return to pre-pandemic norms before 2023. “You cannot stay sitting in your chair for two or three years. We need to find new projects and new ways to work.”

With an eye on the rising importance of both digital and China, he’s planning to stage the launch for his next round of “Genius” collaborations in the country this September, with an event mixing physical and online elements. Since 2018, the Italian outerwear label’s “Genius” programme — a series of ultra-hyped, one-off collections from guest designers — has helped the brand reach untapped consumer niches, been a focal point for parties and store activations, and, perhaps most importantly, fuelled visibility on social media.

“The collection will be more customer-centric,” Ruffini said. “We’ll still have people there, but with a different approach.”

Elsewhere, the executive is planning bolder moves. Our conversation took place shortly before Moncler announced it would acquire Stone Island in a transformational move — opening the door to becoming a multi-brand group after nearly two decades of rapid expansion under the banner of a single brand.

 

Related Articles:
Moncler Buys Stone Island in Transformative Move
VOICES 2020: Fixing the Fashion System
Moncler to Stage Genius Show in China in Pandemic Pivot

 

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How to Master Sleep During the Pandemic

How to Master Sleep During the Pandemic

December 3, 2020
Good sleeping habits have been linked to higher productivity and better health. At BoF VOICES, Imran Amed discusses the secrets to a good night’s rest with neuroscience Professor Matthew Walker and Oura Founder Harpreet Singh Rai.
 
Thanks to the pandemic, people are spending more time in their pyjamas, but their sleep patterns are worse than ever. Job loss or worry about job loss and general anxiety surrounding staying healthy are among the chief causes for why sleep, on the whole, has become worse both in quality and quantity for so many.With “sleep hygiene” more important than ever, BoF’s CEO and founder Imran Amed spoke with Dr. Matthew Walker, professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California Berkeley, and Harpreet Singh Rai, CEO of wearable technology company Oura, as part of BoF’s 2020 VOICES conference.Deep sleep is when you refresh your “immune weaponry in your health arsenal,” Walker said. And better sleep has also been linked to making individuals more receptive to vaccines.
  • Singh Rai — whose wearable product, the Oura Ring, helps track sleep and other health information — explained that international stay-at-home orders during the pandemic have made many people less active. That’s bad for sleep quality, especially when coupled with an increase in screen time. “All of us are sleeping less on average and we’re more distracted than ever before,” said Singh Rai. Sleep progress should really be tracked like diet or a workout regimen because “whatever gets measured gets mastered,” he said.
  • A cavalier attitude to sleep can be costly because it is intimately linked to health and productivity. For example, Walker cited a study that found insufficient sleep costs most nations about two percent of their gross domestic product, amounting to $411 billion in the US. “If we could solve the sleep loss crisis within most first-world nations, [we] could almost double the budget for health care or for education,” Walker said. He added: People should consider sleep to be an “investment in tomorrow” rather than a cost on one’s time.
  • Among Walker and Singh Rai’s top sleep hacks: saunas and warm baths are highly effective at helping the body expel heat once you exit those environments, and help set ideal conditions for sleep; setting sleep alarms (those reminders that nudge you to bed at roughly the same time every evening) is just as important as an alarm to help you wake up in the morning; avoiding naps during the day, caffeine in the afternoon and alcohol in the evening allow people to grow tired enough for sleep at night; and finally, abide by the 25-minute rule: if you’re lying in bed for longer than that trying to sleep, then go and do something else (that does not include screen time or food) until your body is tired. “You would never sit at a dinner table waiting to get hungry. Why would you lie in bed waiting to get sleepy?” Walker said. “The answer is, you shouldn’t.”
 
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