In a few short weeks, Covid-19 has wreaked havoc across the fashion and beauty industries. The dust has not yet even begun to settle and already, designers are fighting for survival, with already-beleaguered retailers canceling orders in the tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Store closures and social isolation guidelines without any rent relief have left companies on the hook for astronomical rent bills while simultaneously grinding to a halt any ability to make money, or, in the case of designers, even work on product which might be profitable once this ends.
If you work in fashion, none of this is news to you. Perhaps you're a designer who is struggling to figure out how to keep the lights on in your studio. Maybe you're a retail worker who has been furloughed in the face of indefinite store closures, or a PR director trying to navigate slashed budgets from your clients. No one in fashion or beauty is immune to these changes, and media is no exception.
When companies are experiencing severe financial strain, advertising — which was already lagging this year — is one of the first things to go, a cut which is going to impact the bottom line of many, many publishers. Many retailers have yanked their offerings off of affiliate services, which has become a secondary source of income for many fashion publications. And no one is hiring, which means publications like ours which have long offered career listings are challenged on that financial front, too (to say nothing of the people who have come to rely on those listings to find jobs). When it comes to revenue, the proverbial bottom has fallen out.
Early on, it became clear that this crisis was going to significantly cut into our expected earnings. The math was suddenly wrong. It is gut-wrenching to look at disappearing numbers and scramble to find savings wherever you can, knowing that it's no longer a money-saving fire drill but the real-deal, five-alarm fire that can make the difference between your company surviving the year or putting entire teams out of work and without health insurance in the middle of a global health crisis.
Like so many companies, we are trying to make the numbers make sense again; our entire staff has been asked to take on a not-insignificant salary- and hours-reduction for the foreseeable future, and we have frozen all freelance commissions and expenses, which impacts the many writers who have also helped make Fashionista what it is today. And I know we're not alone: Already, coronavirus has pushed W magazine into hiatus, and BuzzFeed has asked its staff to take on salary cuts, a tactic making its way through other media outlets.
Even before I ever entered the workforce, I was told never to cry in the workplace, an obviously sexist piece of advice that has stuck with me. I mean, I treated Kelly Cutrone's "If You Have to Cry, Go Outside," a book released not long after I graduated college, like a bible for how to behave in fashion. But when I called my team to explain the personal sacrifices being asked of them to keep us all going, I started crying — not at the hard numbers part, but at the part where I thanked them for working so tirelessly and caring so much about Fashionista.
I care about the people who make this website happen every day like they are my family. It's almost impossible not to when you have a team as small and tight as we are. It breaks my heart to read about what is happening in our industry because I know there are so many small businesses right now struggling to make the numbers make sense again against the very real, very human component of people who make work feel like fun, people who have trusted you with their talents to make a collective dream happen. We are all human and we are being asked to bear so much in addition to trying to manage our emotions in the face of a global crisis.
I don't write any of this because I expect anyone to feel sorry for us or because we're somehow special; we are far from the only outlet making the hard cuts in the middle of this crisis and we are very fortunate to be able to navigate this new landscape while working from home. But we at Fashionista have always valued our open and transparent bond not just with our readers, but with our peers, and right now, every single one of us in the fashion industry — from design studios to editorial teams to PR firms to freelance workers — is in a fight not just for our jobs and our businesses, but for our livelihoods.
I'm writing this precisely because I know what we are experiencing has become the new norm for our industry. This is how this works now.