On February 14th, Vogue Japan has decided to prevent all editors from participating in the fashion week which would start on the same day in London, followed by the Milan and Paris fashion shows; one of our editors had already been to New York Fashion Week. The number of coronavirus cases in Japan was on the rise (including cases of passengers of the Diamond Princess, the cruise ship anchored in the port of Yokohama). Many of the major European brands had also begun to cancel the attendance at the fashion shows of their offices in Asia. There was a meeting with the president of Condé Nast Japan, Jun Kitada, and it was decided that we would not attend the catwalk presentations. Of all the Japanese media that deal with the fashion month, we were the first to give up. At that time there were not many cases of coronavirus in Europe and someone believed that we were using excessive caution.
However, a few days later, when cases unrelated to Diamond Princess passengers started to increase, Condé Nast Japan has decided on a strategy that included two weeks of smart working starting from February 22nd. The only other occasion on which an entire company had resorted to similar preventive measures was in March 2011, at the time of the Tōhoku earthquake. In the meantime, it became known that Giorgio Armani had walked behind closed doors at Milan Fashion Week and that the situation in Italy was changing rapidly, worsening faster than could have been imagined.
Stop the spread of fake news
The employees and staff of our company had started working remotely a few days ago when a group of government experts announced that the next two weeks would have been crucial to prevent the further spread of the virus and asked everyone who could do it to work from home and not to go out unless it was absolutely necessary. At the same time, the supply of masks in hospitals began to run out and doctors feared a “collapse of the health system” if the situation continued.
Rush hour in the morning at Shinagawa station, Tokyo, February 2020
© Photography Getty Images
The government promised others 100 million masks within a week, but to date it is a miracle to find one. Some have begun to resell masks at very high prices on e-commerce sites and the government has had to take steps to ban these speculations. Many Japanese still use masks, regardless of coronavirus, especially when commuting from home to work in the winter. They are considered necessary, which is why nobody would have imagined that they could be in short supply with the outbreak of the epidemic, and nobody seemed to realize that most of the masks on sale in Japan were actually made in China.
After the crescendo of agitation for the masks, panic broke out from lack of toilet paper. Started a fake news, then quickly spread on social media: “Imports from China have stopped, so the next item to run out will be toilet paper.” While the shelves were emptying in supermarkets and home improvement stores, the government said that the scarcity of toilet paper was a fake but the situation has not improved. In Japan, sufficient toilet paper is produced but the shortage in stores has put the distribution network in crisis, slowing down the return to normal. I ordered toilet paper on a large website that I use often and, although there was no shortage, the price had multiplied and they told me it would take more than a week for delivery. When a production chain breaks, it is not easy to restore it.
At the moment there are several fake news on how to get rid of the virus, like eating curry or drinking water at 26-27 ° C. This information is disseminated on social media without scientific evidence and government agencies are forced to refute it. Many insist that eating curry works because the number of cases in India is relatively low. Being able to distinguish between truth and hoaxes and looking for correct information is of utmost importance.
Hold on for the Olympics
Spring in Japan includes many outdoor events. However, in accordance with government directives, concerts, graduation ceremonies and sporting events have been canceled. For the first time, a major sumo tournament and professional baseball league games were held behind closed doors. Due to climate change, cherry trees always bloom earlier and this year in Tokyo they are expected to bloom next week or so. However, all public parks have asked to refrain from “blossom watching”, With groups of people picnicking under the blooming cherry trees. People have been asked to “look and move on”.
Spring Grand Sumo tournament at the Edion Arena in Osaka, on March 8, 2020, went on stage without spectators
© Photography Alamy
Obviously, the fashion industry is also experiencing difficulties. Holidays and events canceled or postponed. Tokyo Fashion Week, which usually follows Paris, has been canceled. Department store sales fell 15% in February from last year.
It has also been said that visitors from South Korea and China will be subjected to a two-week quarantine and many onsen ryokan (traditional Japanese inns with a thermal bath), much loved by foreign tourists, are closing. It is not difficult to imagine the economic damage they will suffer if the normal flow of tourists fails. Japan is preparing to host the Olympics this summer; we want to get rid of the coronavirus as soon as possible, so that we can make this historic event a reality.
The Olympici circles at Tokyo’s Odaiba Seaside Park
© Photography Getty Images
A different way of working
During our smart working period, Vogue Japan closed the May issue. This issue always includes special services on the latest collections from New York, London and Milan, but, since our editors were unable to attend the presentation of the collections, we reduced the number of pages and changed the structure of the magazine. We watched the fashion shows that it was possible to watch live streaming and checked the Instagram pages and websites to collect information on the collections. A few years ago, when digital technology wasn’t as extensive, I think we should have given up on fashion services altogether.
The creative director of Vogue Japan Anna Dello Russo, who lives in Milan, attended the Paris Fashion Week. Since there had already been an increase in coronavirus infections in Milan, he avoided taking the plane and she went to Paris by car. It took almost nine hours. To prepare the cover and photo shoots of Vogue Japan for the next season, has chosen to evade the risks that it could have encountered at the airport by carrying the samples.
The departure area of Haneda airport in Tokyo, in March 2020
© Photography Getty Images
TO Vogue Japan, remote work has been extended for another two weeks and this has made us realize that with the development of technology the way we work will change. Many employees of the editorial team are happy with the extra time they can spend with their families and the condition of the working women has become a key topic that will hopefully kick off social change. The jobs that can be done from home are few and with closed schools many families are having problems reconciling work with looking after children. As is the case in most countries, women usually have to bear the extra weight. In this situation, the gender gap in our societies has become evident.
Currently the light at the end of the tunnel is still not seen and the expression “corona depression” circulates on the net. We are facing a crisis and people are accumulating basic necessities. But we must look ahead and ask ourselves: what will they want when they have insured the newspaper? They will want to see beautiful, exciting things that bring hope. I believe that fashion and our work will play a role in this.