The ramifications of COVID-19 have rendered the freelance community into a state of limbo, riddled with anxiety and uncertainty.
The Pandemic has engulfed normalcy as it was once known, with viral outbreaks and infrastructural damage varied in pace worldwide. The premature aftershocks have advanced in an unprecedented manner. Workforces far and wide have simultaneously experienced and, continue to feel the impact amongst industry practice, as jobs and wages have been cut, in order to safeguard the necessary recovery for international economies.
Reverberations of the COVID-19 crisis have filtered down to the arts, a notorious industry known for inconsistent pay. Majoritively, individuals who work within this discipline are self-employed, rendering a proportionally large amount of visual artists and designers as vulnerable.
Cancellations of commissions, projects, and large scale events have furthered critical loss for many freelancers. Major fashion houses Gucci, Dior, Chanel, and Prada have either canceled or postponed upcoming SS’21 showcases. Creating a domino effect of loss of work amongst fashion industry counterparts.
However, in the wake of hardship births camaraderie, with French multinational conglomerate LVMH using its factories to mass-produce hand sanitizer. Hanes, a multi-brand label, has vowed to adapt it’s textile infrastructure to allow rapid production of 1.5 million face masks per week. In addition, Ralph Lauren has pledged $10 million to Coronavirus relief efforts, this grant will directly feed into the WHO’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund and The Emergency Assistance Foundation. Furthered by the heartening efforts from neighbouring brands, highlighting the coming together of the Fashion Industry, and its dedication in producing essential healthcare equipment, whilst normal factory productivity has been halted for the time being.
Illustrating the depth of impact COVID-19 is currently having on freelancers ranging in varied disciplines. Eesome delves into the personal accounts from independent practitioners amongst the fashion and arts community.
Turin based Designer, Angelia Ami Corno, speaks on her practice and how the potential to establish her brand has been taken out of her control.
“The COVID-19 emergency has caught me off guard. Ready to momentarily suspend my brand (Angelia Ami). My hopes to immerse myself within a position of medium-sized labels such as Ottolinger and Sakspotts e.t.c, have been put on pause for the time being…”
Angelia remarks on the uncertainty of finding new work, “The crisis has certainly raised many questions regarding the future and, I also wonder in this moment of time, if labels are really looking for new figures to insert within their roster of employees? Everything at this moment in time is very uncertain…” Travel is also another element in question, Angelia cogitates on the prospect of traveling between Europe and international countries, and if and when this will be possible to resume.
Amongst the freelance community, the shared fear is the loss of work and in more pressing cases, the crippling anxiety of not being able to find work at all. Though easy in its practice to fear the unknown, it is important to look after our own individual wellbeing during this period of limbo. Designer Angelia Ami instills the importance of this, “Personally, I’ve found myself prioritizing my mental-wellbeing, tranquility and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.” Also, reminding each of us that it is okay to have days that are unproductive, or without routine, “Still, after four weeks, I’ve found myself not having any real routine, facing cloudy days and, unfortunately, some useless days.”
Image courtesy of Angelia Ami shot by Janneke van der Hagen
Zurich based Photographer, Noemi Ottilia Szabo speaks on the cancellation of upcoming projects and her fears of the COVID-19 aftermath:
“I had four jobs cancelled, one was very last minute in cancelling, just before I was en-route to the airport!” Noemi conveys her initial concerns pertaining to the industry, and how it will cope after the crisis, “My biggest concern is that a lot of people in this industry will lose money, and this means less advertising, and less money for the entire business. We hope of course, whilst waiting in the balance, that most projects are just being postponed, with a chance to resume soon.”
On a personal note, the closure of borders has separated loved ones, and it’s important to remember that this collective experience can be extremely isolating, Noemi details further on this topic, “Initially, I was very upset and stressed, especially due to the loss of all four jobs I had coming up. Then the borders began to close and I became separated from my family. I’m still very emotional when I read the news about the current state of affairs in other countries.” Noemi also reflects on her personal wellbeing, “It gives me anxiety for sure and being at home all the time is not easy! However, I try to make the best out of it, it helps me take a step back and realise how lucky and grateful I am for what I have. There was also a time when I hated phone calls, now I’m happy to hear a voice at the other end of the line”.
Image courtesy of Noemi Ottilia Szabo
Zurich & Milan based Fashion Stylist, Arianna Pianca speaks on how her practice has been stifled due to the implications of the pandemic:
“I’ve had two jobs canceled, and another 3-4 have been postponed. Working mostly onset and in-contact with people, there are many difficulties to manoeuvre, especially the aspect of social distancing.”
Arianna also expresses the difficulties in sourcing elements for shoots, providing that it’s near impossible to move forward with certain projects, especially those that require contact and travel, “In addition, shops, press offices, and production houses are closed, and clothes are unobtainable for the most part! Even if you’re able to find garments, the models cannot fly out and obviously, there can’t be any physical contact, basically making work unachievable!”
There have also been instances of evolving alongside the new changes, Arianna outlines the potential framework of an upcoming project, that has taken into consideration precautionary measures, “I currently have one last shoot for the cover of a Swiss Magazine. The production cut the team significantly, leaving three people onset. No hair and make-up is allowed because, by law, it simply cannot be permitted. Additionally, onset we will all be wearing gloves and masks, keeping our distance from one another. It will certainly be a new experience! Admittedly, finding clothes was very difficult, despite this, I had reached out to small independent brands that warmed to the idea of loaning out clothes for the shoot. All in all, we hope that this project can help them too! Small brands need to keep strong, so we can maintain the ability to strive when normalcy resumes”
“I personally believe that this is a moment of reflection, where we must look to the positives. Spending more time with our loved ones, enjoying the little things and maybe finding passions and interests that were previously neglected.”
Image courtesy of Arianna Pianca shot by Teresa Ciocia
Berlin based Photographer, Dan Beleiu talks through his lockdown regime and how fashion shoots are acclimatising to new changes via means of the internet:
“Almost all jobs have been canceled, and I believe in part, that my career might be affected by this crisis. However, on the bright side, being confined to home allows the opportunity to get things done, things that you might not have necessarily had the time for pre-lockdown. Additionally, this period allows us to reflect on how to do things differently. Personally, I’m reading, doing lots of exercises and listening to music non-stop, in order to keep morale up. I’ve also noticed as a creative solution in place of canceled projects, some clients have even proposed to conduct shoots via Skype!”*
Image courtesy of Dan Beleiu
Milan based Acrimònia Magazine Co-Founder, Giulietta Riva explains the effects on agency based practices and the prospect of event cancellations:
“The emergency has caused my agency to cancel numerous confirmed events, and to put other projects that were at stake on standby, which will be reviewed as soon as the situation returns to partial normalcy. I think all of this is hard to come to terms with, especially concerning my sector. The work will not stop completely, however, we’ll have to make sure to recover what has been left behind, and above all not to get overwhelmed by loss.” Giulietta also has implemented a daily routine, to help ease through this difficult and uncertain period., “I’m trying to make most of my time as productive as possible, setting myself a daily routine to be respected, which does not include baking cakes…! I work most of the day, writing articles, whilst researching and also improvising physical activities.”
Image courtesy of Giulietta Riva
Paris based photographer, Fee-Gloria Groenemeyer touches on ideas of how the creative community can restructure around the new changes, and the inevitable tole the pandemic will have on the industry, generally and personally speaking.
“I had several projects on hold before we all went into lockdown. Of course, they’ve all either been postponed or cancelled. I think this situation will continue for a while and in the meantime, I feel the fashion industry will definitely have to rethink and re-strategize. I’m sure that we’ll see a variety of interesting projects come out of this period, mainly as we can still work from our homes and with that allows the opportunity to keep creating beautiful work, possibly focusing less on fashion and more on storytelling. My career will definitely be affected in some way, positive or negative. I think all photographers and creatives are currently rethinking their typical ways of working. Personally, I’m creating editorial stories without fashion right now, using what I have to hand within my home, or what I can find within nature. I believe it is essential to share knowledge during this time, and work with one another through the power of conversation and collaboration.”
Fee also remarks on using the time in lockdown to reflect on how we work, emphasizing the importance of cultivating new knowledge, “Having said the above, I think using this time to reflect on your work is essential. We’re all learning new things about ourselves and the environment around us, and it would be a shame if we didn’t use this knowledge to create meaningful work.”
Finding solace within her community, even amidst the strict rules and regulations France are adhering to, in order to combat the spread of the virus, “I’m currently in the east of France, where 10% of the population has been infected with COVID-19. We need to fill out forms to leave the house and go grocery shopping, or to take a walk. But everyone here is very respectful and keeps their distance. People are helping one another, young people go shopping for the elderly and the sense of community is very high. I think it is important to also see the positives in this dire situation. Right now we need each other more than ever. Luckily, there hasn’t been a COVID-19 case within my close friend and family circle, but I make sure to talk to everyone on a daily basis, just to make sure they’re okay.”
Image courtesy of Fee-Gloria Groenemeyer
Berlin based MUA, Sabina Pinsone, outlines the implications her practice has experienced in the wake of COVID-19:
“I’ve had three-four previously confirmed projects cancelled, and a couple of ongoing editorial projects postponed until further notice. My work simply cannot move forward without physical closeness, and until this situation is resolved or at least contained, I don’t see how I could start working again. On the other hand, I see many colleagues taking advantage of this time in wonderful ways, experimenting with make-up on themselves and recording video tutorials.”
Sabrina also adds to her account with how she has processed the turn of events on an emotional level, a personal aspect that has been lost against the backdrop of statistics and economic downturn, “I’m personally still in the process of mourning. I read a lot, I think a lot, I worry and I get very angry! I hope to shake off this numbness as soon as possible and return to having fun with make-up again! Currently, I remain in a suspended state, in a forced rest, that leaves little time to adapt my way of being and thinking. I’m worried about my family in Italy, not so much for myself. What I think about the most is how things will be at the end of this period, how will we behave? What will remain? and what will have to change? It is all quite frankly terrifying and at the same time, it’s the only thing that can give us hope.”
Image courtesy of Sabina Pinsone shot by Olimpia Rende
Undeniably, the considerable strain of COVID-19 will naturally have significant repercussions on the creative industry. Hitting independently-run brands, labels, media publications, and self-employed artists that fall within the fashion and arts sector.
Evident amongst the firsthand accounts of creative practitioners, there is an indisputable sense of unity echoed through social media and beyond. Oddly enough, with shared anxieties at play, community spirit continues to strengthen whilst in the throes of economic adversity.
In conclusion, though this critical time is currently riddled with legitimate fear and woe, hope is assuredly found within the power to evolve with change. Remarkable ingenuity is emerging by way of ‘setbacks’, and practitioners hailing from a variety of disciplines, are exploring alternative pathways to delve into, maneuvering through the complexities that have inevitably arisen.
words by Tagen Donovan