As I write this, I have received the third message of the day on a similar theme: “… for fashion houses, this is a time to make brownie points”. Time here refers to the “trend”, as the message calls it, of fashion brands offering donations through sales for covid-19-related relief work.
It doesn’t matter if the person who texted is a troll, a senior person in the industry or someone who spends more time on Reels than real life. What surprises me is the cynical thought, which is apparently more popular than I would like to believe, that such gestures of solidarity don't count.
Why shouldn’t more brands “copy” each other and extend help in these catastrophic times? Whether it’s another brand building strategy, jumping on a hashtag trend or, simply, an offer to help, India right now needs this ‘herd mentality’ of giving.
In the past 15 months, covid-19 strains have taken over 200,000 lives in India, many of them mothers, fathers, aunts, friends—adults who have left gaping holes in families. Many more will die in weeks to come. By 11 June, a team at the Bengaluru’s Indian Institute of Science has predicted using a mathematical model, about 404,000 deaths will occur if things continue the way they are. University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has estimated 1,018,879 deaths for India by the end of July.
Clearly, our system is collapsing. Our resources are diminishing. Our timelines are flooded with cries for help. We are scared to pick up calls, thinking another piece of bad news awaits us. Oxygen cylinders and medicines are being sold in the black market. We can’t win this battle without coming together as a nation.
Over the past few weeks, a number of fashion brands have joined hands for a national cause. For an industry that usually stays silent on matters close to reality, the show of solidarity has been heartening. They have gone from amplifying people’s requests for resources like oxygen, ICU beds, plasma and medicine on their social media handles to donating up to 100% of their sales to non-profits, hospitals and volunteer-led organisations. From slow fashion brands like Yam to top designers like J.J. Valaya, everyone is trying to do their bit. There are some that are working beyond donations as well. Saundh, for instance, has, in association with an NGO, set up a 175-bed covid-19 treatment facility near their factory in Surat, and distributes 10 dozen bananas and 1,000 packets of buttermilk to five government hospitals in the city, informs, informs founder Sarabjeet Saluja.
We need more brands to step up. Even a 5% of sales from a fashion brand can help a daughter pay for her father’s hospital bed, a mother to buy plasma for her son, a husband to arrange for an ambulance for his wife, a friend to buy wood for his best friend’s body. It will be even more welcoming to see labels open up a separate channel where people can just donate, without having to purchase a garment. We need more copycats who think beyond profits.