The year 2020 has definitely been a challenging one on many fronts for a lot of people across the world. From police brutality which led to mass protest, to the deadly virus that has killed thousands, 2020 was beyond crazy. Since COVID-19 hit earlier this year; creative outlets like music, art, and fashion have helped carry us through the whirlwind of a year this has been.
The streetwear and fashion industry has absolutely been a huge source of this creativity for a lot of people. Many in the streetwear community are among those who even while struggling themselves, have used their profession and creativity to put a smile on people’s faces while trying to stay in business at the same time. To close out the year, we had the pleasure of reaching out to 5 fashion brand owners, and we simply asked them the same question; “How has COVID-19 affected your productivity when it comes to operating a small clothing brand?” Here are their responses.
To be honest, I think it’s made me even more productive in a sense. I would normally spend a lot of time at print shops before COVID hit, whether I was making samples or just designing on my laptop. Now that we’re basically the safest being cooped up in our homes, I feel like I have to be sharper when it comes to most (if not all) aspects of my brand — especially production. Post-COVID, I learned to be extremely precise when I’m sending ideas to the print shops that I use to produce my clothes since I’ll only go there to drop off and pick up the items I’m working on. I’ve begun to take strategizing even more seriously now, too. I realized that being intent with the rollout of a drop can be super beneficial on release day in terms of sales. Even when it comes down to marketing, I’ve had to think of different ways to communicate my products that don’t require as many photoshoots. All in all, I feel like COVID has forced me to find my blind spots when it comes to operating a small clothing brand and get rid of them in the best ways that I can.
Rico Acoff (Suave)
COVID affected my creative productivity this year tremendously. I’ve never been so distant with my MacBook prior to this and it was strange as fuck! But in a strange twist, HOOLIGAN had a highlight year with a big collaboration with Footlocker and selling out 3 collections in minutes, and being a tool to provide meals to kids post riots. In turn, this forced me to be productive business-wise with the brand. Still providing clean products of quality while still trying to make it all makes sense creatively. It was a challenge and even more so a test of seriousness for me and I aced that shit! I love my brand and I love what it took to keep it alive in 2020.
Early on this year when the pandemic first started overseas, factories tied to my production started shutting down, and basically, everything was put to a stop on my first season. I tried outsourcing to new manufactures to try and get stuff made quick before the virus got worse. But at that point, there was nothing you really could do. It was just something that affected everybody in this industry, no matter who you were. Unfortunately, since I started from scratch and rebranded this year, I had no inventory I was sitting on that I was able to release in the meantime. But I’m sure these more established brands had throw-away or loosie pieces laying around that they were able to put out. A few manufacturers I was just messaging before lockdown happened never got back to me once they reopened. But the other companies who I was doing work with at the time, had about a 2-month delay for several reasons once they reopened. So production time was a bit more of a waiting game. I don’t know if it was like that for everybody but that was the main issue I had with my manufacturers. But now in the present time (December 2020), I’ve learned that sometimes shit happens and no matter how prepared you are for it, you aren’t going to have any control over it and you just got to charge it to the game.
When 2020 started I had a whole game plan for the year written out from start to finish. Season 3 of Berry was pretty much planned out and ready, a pop-up exhibition was scheduled for May, and $15 tees were releasing every month. After COVID picked up in March, I had to move out of my Austin, TX apartment for 3 months and I was staying with my partner up in Denton, TX. During that time, I honestly fell back on design and started working on my album. This was around the same time that the riots around the country started, so we released a restock of past items so we could garner some money and donate to bail funds, go fund me’s, and other relevant causes. Most of my previous design work under Berry pulled from my immediate surroundings to paint a picture, and I honestly felt like the last two capsules released were still relevant well into the summer. The world around us at the time was deadass burning and I wasn’t feeling the same level of inspiration I originally had at the beginning of the year. I spent a good chunk of time idle; uninspired and pretty depressed. What I had previously planned for S3 was scrapped, except for the bandana that was released. After a while, we closed the store and I started reformulating how I wanted to carry the brand moving forward. Being that Berry is a multi-platform studio, we wanted to highlight our abilities within other mediums. In July, we directed the release of sicckou’s EP “Proud.” I would say that my productivity levels and what I started to deem as productive shifted in light of COVID and the state of the world. After July, I stopped releasing work because the timing felt off. These last 6 months of 2020 have just been spent formulating new approaches that excite me and give me more room to explore within the mediums of sound and design. 2021 will be the manifestation of all lessons learned this year, and I’m really excited to showcase what I’ve been working on once it’s ready.
COVID has taken a toll on everyone, this has probably been one of the craziest events of my life. Essentially, we [Novel-Acme] shut down once it hit; we were one of the few who really took things seriously. On top of mass unemployment caused by the health crisis this summer, we also witnessed several instances of police brutality and the wrongful death of several individuals. I say this to pose the question — during a time like this, who gives a fuck about a t-shirt? And perhaps we were blessed to be a small business during all of this chaos. We didn’t need to operate to pay staff or maintain facilities, but many of our plans for Novel-Acme were put on hold and are still on hold until we truly feel that we can keep those in our community safe. On a brighter note, this time has given us the opportunity to learn new things, experiment with products, and support others through collaboration. With that being said, COVID has for sure slowed the train down but it hasn’t brought us to a halt.