I write this letter from my home in Rome, where I have been working since the end of March to be close to my family. It is a strange period of great fear for my country but it has possibly made me even more proud of being Italian. During the coronavirus emergency, I was moved to see the dedication and sacrifice of our doctors and nurses whom I wish to thank from the bottom of my heart. Our identity and Italian spirit have helped us to feel close despite the distance. And they will help us get through this frightening period.
Working together, remotely
As for Dior, a lot of our work happens in Italy. I live in rome. My family is in Rome. We have several plants in Italy, including one in Tuscany. Normally we spend some time here before a parade to view the final prototypes and silhouettes. This season, however, we didn’t have time to reflect on what was going on. When the situation started to get worse, my priority was to say to my team: “Please, now we have to protect ourselves. And find a different way of working. ” We immediately got computers to work remotely. I love to share ideas with my team – we talk and confront each other continuously. To do social distancingespecially considering what my background is, it’s very strange.
We have been working in isolation for a few weeks already. We share things via FaceTime and Whatsapp. But, if I’m honest, it’s not easy at all. It’s one thing to have an idea and make a sketch of it, but ours is a practical job. And it is always a collective, participatory and concrete process.
Recently, one of our Baby Dior ateliers in Redon, Brittany, has reopened to produce masks. I am very proud of the whole fashion system. Many sectors are using their knowledge, skills and resources to invent and produce what the medical and hospital community may need. I am really happy that the fashion world has reacted to this situation by immediately starting the production of masks. Not only the big fashion houses like Dior, Armani and Prada but also the smaller companies. It is something wonderful.
How do I manage isolation in the private sector?
I read a lot in this period, especially at night. I only watch TV for the news. I find it stressful to follow the news continuously. I recently read The Sense of Fashion by Roland Barthes, Speculum. The other woman by Luce Irigaray, A life like many others by Hanya Yanagihara, Rome. The end of ancient art by Ranuccio Bianchi Bandinelli e Fashion by Georg Simmel. I have also seen several films, including Portrait of the Young Girl in Flames by Céline Sciamma e All about my mother directed by Pedro Almodóvar.
Staying at home means having all my personal things at hand. Because of my job, I spend my life traveling around the world. So, if it weren’t for this terrible moment, being at home would be a real pleasure in itself. I have my books, all my dearest things. I can cook. I have this huge box in which I keep my letters and photos, and recently I have tidied up all my memories. But obviously, I would prefer to be here because I chose it and not as a consequence of this unheard of situation.
Learn from the past and look to the future
At Dior, I spend time looking at both the past and the future simultaneously. It is important to know everything, to pay homage to the history and rich tradition of the maison and then use them to establish a new future. Monsieur Dior founded the company after the Second World War to offer people joy and beauty. As a rule, after a war, people want to escape, they want to forget what happened, but this pandemic is something very new. An unexpected challenge, which we have never experienced before.
We Italians are very expansive people. When you meet someone you know, you greet him with a kiss on the cheek and a handshake. I don’t know if people will want to be so physically close in the future.
The important thing for me is to keep a positive outlook and focus on the importance of teamwork and solidarity. I am proud that in fashion this represents a strong value. It’s a small part but together we can make a big difference.
Text collected by Rosalind Jana