There has also been relentless FaceTiming, which is funny because we have all gotten into this place in the last couple of years where communication has become less and less active. First you texted people, then it became emojis, and then it just became double clicking and hearting or thumbs-upping messages. For me, communication has completely pivoted to FaceTime. It was disarming at first and then it became really fun. There are these filters where you can make yourself look like a sketched animation like in Waking Life, the Richard Linklater movie. That’s the key, because then I can look like shit but feel free to connect.
Regarding my business, I can only speak for myself, but I think there was this shift in really understanding what self-isolation and social distancing were actually about. I think for a while the understanding was that it was about protecting yourself. After the message was passed down through several media sources, it became really clear that this is something we all have to do for each other. Mid-week last week, I started telling employees who I thought were vulnerable to stay home, and then by Friday morning it was like, “This is our last day here, let’s wrap this up.” We’re playing it as it goes.
We have quite a different type of business: It’s not a collection business, it’s a direct-to-consumer business, so in a way, the stakes are even higher. We own all of our own inventory. We’re completely reliant on ourselves to get it all done. There’s really one big job per person at the company: customer service, marketing, content. I’m the only designer at this point. It’s scary, obviously, because this is make-or-break for us, but in another way, because we’re so small, it’s very fluid, and we’re such a tight team. We all just got on a Google Hangout today, made a protocol plan, and are staying in touch.
The reality is that this completely shifts what all of our jobs are and really puts it all into focus. Typically if you’re doing anything at the company, whether it’s design, production, marketing, or content creation, you’re looking not only at what this week or next week looks like, but you’re looking three to six to eight months out—especially if you’re designing. At this point, because the future is such a black hole, we’re all laser-focused on right now and how to adjust everything we’re doing, from boring business stuff like budgets and expenses to outward-facing things like how we talk to everybody, how we can get people shopping, and what the right language is to speak to that.
On Instagram, I just wrote a letter really quickly and posted it. It was clear what we had to do: We pragmatically needed to do a promotion. We can’t have our sales slump right now. We’re a small, tiny business, and that would be a killer. How could we do that in a way that’s not opportunistic, that’s not marketing? I thought it was just a matter of taking a quick selfie of me and my dog and just writing a note, not forcing it and not editing it. The immediacy of it seemed really important, and we’ve been selling some sweatsuits, which is good. Fashion serves a purpose both in terms of how we present ourselves to the world, identity, and all of that, but it also can make us feel warm and cozy, and that’s real and meaningful too.