The fashion industry may often rely on fantasy, but even its most singularly style-focused denizens were not immune to the particular reality of the past ten months. With global COVID-19 quarantines in place, regular fashion seasons and shows largely replaced by digital presentations delivered via e-mail, and non-essential workers relegated to staying inside their homes and away from each other as much as possible, most turned to social media for a way to interact with the industry, if they interacted at all. It was into this muddle that London-based fashion designer Huishan Zhang dove with his latest project, Lessons We Learned In Lockdown, for which he asked a series of tastemakers from London and cities across the U.S. to sit for portraits in or around their homes, inviting them to talk about how they’ve navigated the challenges of the past year, as well as their hopes for the year ahead.
The project is in support of Zhang’s partnership with Women for Women International’s Sponsor a Sister program, a charity that since 1993 has offered education, job training, and community to over half a million women survivors of war in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Kosovo, Nigeria, Rwanda, and South Sudan, many of whose situations have only been compounded by the devastation of COVID-19.
“We wanted to collaborate with our global community of strong women to hear from them about their journeys this year and what has proven to be important to them,” says Zhang. The aim was to inspire, as well as to provide hope and positivity as well as a sense of interconnection during a year in which pandemic and protests and political upheaval all drove people further and further apart. Participants in the series span the fashion industry, from stylists and models, to writers, editors, designers, and entrepreneurs, and include Djuna Bel, Natalia Bonifacci, Natalie Joos, Ramya Giangola, Chloe Gosselin, Taylor Tomasi Hill, Linda Rodin, Frances Aaternir, Luisana Gonzalez, Departures’ Alessandra Codinha, Gala Gordon, Anna Vitiello and Alessia Pasin.
The insights recorded for the series run the gamut, but Olivia Lopez perhaps put the spirit of the project most aptly in her answer: “I love this quote by Margaret Mead, and I reflect on it often thinking about all the changes and efforts towards progress that has happened this year: ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.’ Every action, even small ones, has a ripple effect. Commitment and community has the potential to save the world.”
For more of the portraits and details about the project, go to HuishanZhang.com.