Students in Service and Leadership at Harvard

Danielle Green

Like retail in the modern age, IDENTITIES is experiencing a reconstruction. Today in the age of COVID-19, the world of fashion and retail is taking a big hit financially. However, the digitization of the world has the capacity to keep us more connected than ever before. Necessity often breeds creativity and innovation, and this isn’t limited to specific industries. The desire to create and sustain discourse in the fashion industry has encouraged the virtualization of events. The conversation has simply migrated from the boardroom to videoconferencing and social media.

IDENTITIES was also characterized and defined by a physical event held at massive scale, but the goal of generating discourse around fashion and retail didn’t have to be disseminated via such means. The organization itself was product-oriented and goal-oriented, but we had to acknowledge there existed an entire realm of creativity beyond the production on its own. The production was costly hence its status as “on pause,” and we had to get creative with the organizational vision and execution.

With my reflection on the current state of affairs --- as well as my observation of the general success of virtualized events --- I am toying with the idea of establishing a virtual event series titled Harvard Fashion Week. When exploring my reconstruction of the organization, I had organized a series of intimate speaking engagements with industry executives and model scouts.

These were cancelled amid the closure of campus back in March. With my ethnographic insights of the success of these virtual events in the industry, however, I am inspired to continue with my goal of creating and sustaining discourse around fashion and retail via more exploratory digital means.

Zoom and Instagram Live are powering the discourse in the fashion industry with their ability to engage audiences at vast scale. Why can’t we take a proven concept and develop some programming of our very own? Each virtual salon of sorts would consist of a speaking engagement with an industry executive open to the public. With the power of connectivity in today’s age, these events could be held instantaneously and free of charge. While speaking engagements at Harvard were often limited in attendance to people within the community itself, the internet is vast and global. IDENTITIES now has the capacity to generate discourse with students and enthusiasts worldwide. And that’s empowering to realize.

While COVID-19 is stifling in the physical sense, it’s extremely liberating in the digital and virtual sense as validated by my observations in the fashion and retail space. While the medium has migrated from the physical to the digital, the unique creative rubric is nurturing and encouraging of innovation. We’ll continue to iterate, experiment, and prototype. IDENTITIES is just like retail in the modern age: adaptive, resilient, and evolving to change.

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