Famous for its grumbling rivalries and cut-throat competitive edge, the luxury industry is not one always associated with grand acts of compassion. And yet, in the heat of the coronavirus pandemic, the sector has mobilised with astonishing alacrity in order to lend help. Recent weeks have seen an overwhelming effort, ranging from the huge gestures seen at LVMH, which, among other things, has switched manufacture at its cosmetic factories to make medical supplies, or Ralph Lauren’s pledge of $10m to Covid-19 relief, to the much smaller local initiatives adopted by independent designers such as Phoebe English who have turned their attention towards making protective masks.
At a time of need, many within the luxury sector have stepped up. Claire Wrathall’s report in this week’s issue offers some analysis on what the acts might mean. Many may scoff. Or see this as a way for them to wangle positive PR. But the brands have generated millions in aid. “I remain convinced that the generosity is ultimately born of altruism,” says Claire. “Of course, companies stand to gain reputationally from their efforts. On the face of it, there is nothing more virtue-signalling than issuing a press release. But that is not to diminish these companies’ acts of stupendous generosity. Telling the world what you’re doing sets an example and plays an important role in inspiring or pressuring your peers to do likewise.” It’s a sentiment echoed by Ralph Lauren in his statement, “It is in the spirit of togetherness that we will rise.”
Togetherness has been the leitmotif of this whole crisis – despite our being physically the opposite of close. Never have I been more grateful for Google and the communication that our online life allows. Rather than chastise my teenage daughter for the hours she spends online, I’m delighted it keeps her occupied, connected and engaged. It’s also been a wellspring of information, entertainment and advice.
And yet, while we’re all plugged in, our interests have once again become endearingly traditional. A study in The Economist earlier this month unveiled that among the search terms that had soared in recent weeks, “make bread”, “home workouts” and “jigsaw” had scored best. I know from bitter experience how hard it is to lay one’s hands on a 1,000-piece puzzle right now – there is a global jigsaw famine that keeps them maddeningly out of reach – but the home workout we can definitely help with. One of the issues when searching for trustworthy information is the amount of online bilge you inevitably find. So we asked health writer Bella Blissett to compile the ultimate digital wellness guide. In response to our need for virtual consultation, Bella has tried and tested the best online sleep therapists, anxiety managers and core-strengthening classes. Plus, she’s searched out beauticians and people to manage your aches and pains as well.
Lastly, food and drink, subjects that remain at the fore of our minds. Rather too far fore, if truth be told. If any good might come of this crisis, a greater appreciation for our local food producers and a willingness to expand their supply chains will be welcome. This period of quarantine has been a rare opportunity to engage directly with farmers who would ordinarily be furnishing the country’s restaurants with food: I’m eagerly awaiting a delivery from the taste crusaders and sustainable growers Natoora as I write. If I was even more ambitious, I would try to grow some food myself. Alas, I’m far too lazy. But one day I aspire to wander around a kitchen garden such as the one cultivated by Tom Coward and chef George Blogg at Gravetye Manor, as featured in this week’s inspirationally delicious Double Act.
On a lighter note, in “What We Drink in a Crisis”, Alice Lascelles has taken a global survey. Americans are hitting the tequila, the French and Italians are glugging their wine cellars, and the UK is knocking back the gin. Tough measures, it seems, are never big enough. Pour me a double…