Humans tend to have disappointingly short memories.
While history repeats itself on a shorter cycle these days, the COVID-19 pandemic marks the first time in generations that Government-mandated quarantine has been imposed around the world, providing ample time to plant the seeds of food for thought.
Being locked behind closed doors for hours on end sets the scene for reflection - probably more than we’re comfortable with - but it means there’s no excuse to forget what we will have learned when our new normal comes to an end. In particular, how we spend our money and with whom.
Some brands stepped up to the plate early on. For example, within one week of the virus spreading in France, LVMH, the luxury umbrella company of Louis Vuitton, Moët & Chandon et al., began using their facilities to develop hand sanitiser to distribute free of charge for citizens. Kylie Jenner and COTY are working to donate one million dollars’ worth of hand sanitiser to donate to first responders and frontline workers.
Ralph Lauren announced last week that it was making a $10 million donating to relief efforts and MAC Cosmetics’ Viva Glam fund donated the same amount for the same purpose.
Dolly Parton made a personal donation of one million dollars to Vanderbilt University after learning of their cutting-edge research in developing a coronavirus vaccine. Revolve, the influencer-led brand, gave 10,000 masks, while designers like Balenciaga and Cristian Siriano are also using their resources to make face masks for hospital workers in the US. GAP and Canada Goose are making medical scrubs. Gucci has given more than one million surgical masks and supplied 55,000 medical overalls.
H&M was an early adopter of using its facilities and supply chain access to make much-needed scrubs to be supplied globally.
In Ireland, Mink, a Dublin-based nail salon donated 1,500 face masks to Holles Street after owner Kate Verling, who was pregnant with her first child, felt morally obligated to contribute. Thérapie Clinic donated its entire stock of personal protective equipment (PPE) - worth €50,000 - to nursing homes and hospitals most in need.
Max Benjamin is donating all of its profits to ALONE for the month of April.
And in the hospitality sector, Irish hotel group Choice Hotels gave €250,000 worth of stays to frontline workers. ‘Feed the Heroes’, a GoFundMe to supply doctors, nurses and first responders with meals, has become a runaway success.
What has become glaringly obvious amid the stream of press releases about companies doing their part is the deafening silence from others. Independent brands, already under insurmountable pressure, should not be expected to go deep into the red to contribute; but those that do should be rightfully celebrated all the more for making such significant financial sacrifices.
The relentless retail war between independent stores and conglomerates continues, the former of which are struggling to keep the lights on while the world is on lockdown. 'Supporting locally' is a phrase beaten into us as globalisation tightens its grip, but it suddenly has a more meaningful impact.
As the influencer backlash has already taken effect less than one month into lockdown, how and where we spend our money now and in the future has more ethical ramifications than ever.
It’s unclear when the world will return to normal - and what that normal will look like. Unemployment is at a new high with 500,000 people out of work as a result of the crisis, so the redistribution of jobs will also take time and thus, so will spending of disposable income.
But when that time comes, let’s remember who contributed when humanity needed them most; and try to extend our memory's lifespan this time around.