Letter to the future | Sissi Johnson

Inspirational words from a scholar

To keep spirits high and creativity strong, Polimoda has asked its community of fashion industry experts to write about the future.

Covid-19 has stopped the world. We have quit spinning the wheel to reassess our lives and roles, as individuals, corporations and as a society. 

Hitherto, our existence has been defined by the relentless grind of corporate and political interests, out of sync with our personal and collective aspirations. This dynamic has dominated the way we demand and consume goods and services, instilling a global habit of overconsumption and misconsumption . We produce too many clothes but not enough medical apparel. We have a shortage of masks but are figuratively and literally conditioned to wear one everyday. 

In our expedient isolation, we have become closer to self. Many of us now prioritize our health, physically, spiritually and mentally, increasingly realizing how much the latter is influenced by the alignment between our inner universes and the outside world. As quarantine is taking away the peer-induced need of dressing to impress, we place comfort over style. We are now showing up hardly made up and casually clothed for virtual meetings. 

The impact of our commitment to social distancing has shown us the power of our individual actions. We are gaining a deeper appreciation of how global interconnectedness impacts our lives. We have evidence of how much our actions jeopardize our planet, from the clearer skies in China[1], to the blossoming of fauna in the canals of Venice. Moving forward, will we address and mitigate climate change with the same sense of urgency? 

According to science, it takes us 66 days to form new habits[2]. With the current global public health crisis projected to persist, we can expect to come out of this experience transformed, with a heightened collective consciousness. 

Corporations in the beauty and fashion industries must prepare for this novel conscious and critical consumer. Post-pandemic, our discretionary consumption will naturally evolve towards more ethical habits. New decision nodes will be added to the consumer purchase journey. After the #WhoMadeMyClothes global campaign sparked by the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, will come “How did your brand treat their global workforce during the Coronavirus outbreak? After the last bottle of hand sanitizer is sealed at luxury perfume factories, will the commitment to public wellbeing remain or evaporate?” 

Albeit coincidental, the latin root words co and vid, translate respectively to “together” and “see”. Let us envision a new world together. Meet Homo Covidus, for whom ethics, basics and essentials are the new opulence, and community and humanity is the strongest currency. Subsequently, this novel consumer will continue social distancing from brands and individuals who do not share these values.

[1] A Earth Observatory (March 2, 2020)  Airborne Nitrogen Dioxide Plummets Over China https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/146362/airborne-nitrogen-dioxide-plummets-over-china

[2] Lally, P., van Jaarsveld, C.H.M., Potts, H.W.W. and Wardle, J. (2010), How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. Eur. J. Soc. Psychol., 40: 998-1009. doi: 10.1002/ejsp.674

Sissi Johnson

Scholar, strategist and speaker

Sissi Johnson is a Scholar, Strategist and Speaker focused on Fashion, Innovation, and Culture acknowledged by Condé Nast as a "global game-changer" for her work in academia and creative industries. Among other world-leading institutions, she has lectured at Oxford University, NYU, and FIT. Her portfolio includes successful collaborations with LVMH, Luisaviaroma, Kering, the United Nations, IMAN, and more. Founded in April 2020 to support her former students during the COVID-19 pandemic, her non-profit organization, The Hopenclass is a cultural and creative space to (un)learn. Sissi graduated from Polimoda in 2011 and later pursued Yale Executive Education in Management. She is a certified Climate Change & Health Practitioner by the Yale School of Public Health. Follow @asksissi