by Conor Williamson

As you already know, few industries have been hit harder by the Coronavirus – now afflicting America and the world for nearly six months. Many stores closed or even went out of business. Fashion shows and tradeshows came to a complete halt. Many people, having lost their primary income, stopped purchasing new apparel. No one would have blamed the fashion world if it simply rolled over and played dead.

But that didn’t prove to be the case. Fashion folk once again proved their determination, their wisdom, and their strength by finding new strategies for balancing life and work and, in most cases, becoming more productive than ever! Here, MR surveyed a cross-section of industry professionals – executives, designers, retailers, and more – to find out their strategies for survival during this unprecedented pandemic.


I spent the first three months of quarantine in upstate New York, which was a true luxury to ease into (except our two city dogs escaped daily to terrorize cows and deer.) But in the end, access to the outdoors created balance. I would start my day at 7am and before I knew it the sun was going down. The distraction of the city was gone and it created an extreme focus on work. I also think the entire company got into a really productive flow using virtual tools to work together in real-time. I believe we became more efficient with communication and creativity. Maybe we were over-communicating, and I am curious to see how this experience affects our workflow after COVID-19. Ultimately, though, the most important thing is that we didn’t let any of these obstacles slow us down. It was quite the opposite. And I will definitely try and have a better city/nature balance from now on. I realized how crucial it is to have a bit of daily simple silence.


Fitness has always been a huge part of my life as a professional football player. But I’ve been studying a secret form of martial artist fitness for about four years that aims to improve athleticism through bodyweight mastery techniques. Then, when football stopped back in March, my wife, my son, and I flew back up to New Jersey from Houston and I started practicing Daeqido again! It’s based on the martial artist’s philosophy of overcoming the body with the mind by way of fitness. I completed my certification for personal training, and I took on several clients that I work with a few times a week. Training, for many people, is a natural and effective way to maintain optimum physical, mental, and spiritual physique. When it comes to practicing Daeqido, I find that statement is even more true. What I learned by doing it regularly and by becoming a trainer was it allowed me to overcome my mind in order to advance in the practice, and that my business mind also became stronger at multi-tasking and working through obstacles.


The self-care part of quarantine has been really important to managing life. From decorating my new home in the mountains of Marrakech to the simple preparation of a meal in the kitchen, I found that staying busy with the parts of life you can control has been refreshing. I’ve also recently taken up tennis and swimming, not on a professional level by any means, but just to relax my mind and body. In fact, I haven’t been doing anything over the top or too zealous that would bring more stress into my life. I believe this new routine has grounded me and helped me focus more on all the tasks on hand while remaining adaptable and even more agile. Most of all, it has also taught me to have fun with fashion and mess up the industry a bit.


I have been taking every opportunity to get outside. Working in a historic building in downtown Los Angeles, I typically wouldn’t see a lot of daylight during the workweek as our office had dark tinted windows and most of my day was spent in a conference room. But during quarantine, I start every day with a run and have been hiking on the weekends. I’ve also been taking calls from my small patio. I’ve found that being able to keep an active routine has helped me manage the stress of not knowing when this pandemic will end and that finding any reason to get dressed, get outside, breathe fresh air and soak up a bit of sunshine has made me much more productive throughout the day. I’m truly more focused and energetic than ever before!


My partner Buck and I always had difficulties with work/life balance. The beginning of our local stay at home mandate was definitely a time for us to take a breather. We continued to work in the store, running our social media and offering delivery and curbside pickup along with regular shipping for our online store, but we had shortened work hours and took Sundays off completely. So we’ve taken up bicycling on Sunday mornings. We’ll go all over the city, stop at coffee shops and lunch spots, and ride around parks. Exploring our city on bikes gave us a totally different perspective and we’ve found spots that we had never previously explored. Although the store is now open, we have continued with Sundays off, having hired a part-time person to cover the entire day. Not only has it allowed us to let go of the worry, but having that time off from thinking about the store helps us come back on Mondays refreshed and ready to tackle the week. We also work out on Tuesdays and Thursdays before work, and we’re looking into taking a Yoga class on Friday evenings as an “end of the week” stress reliever.


I got into gardening in a big way. My wife Sarah and I turned every inch of soil around our house and brought in two dump truck loads of compost. We turned a room in our house into a make-shift greenhouse and Sarah has been studying all the different species and Latin names. We mostly focused on flowers, but we did plant some lemongrass, tomatoes, cucumbers, and a ton of herbs. Every morning we walk around the house and say hello to every plant in the “Wobbly Garden” as a 4-year-old neighborhood boy named it as he walked by one day. But I’ve also been able to spend a lot more time alone in the workshop in the evenings and weekends. While there, I’ve really been focused on making hand-painted protest flags for the Black Lives Matter protesters downtown, but also have had a few moments of garment exploration too. Ultimately, it seems funny to say it, but I am really grateful for the time to reset priorities and goals, even though it is and was against my nature to slow down.


Like everyone, adjusting to quarantine had its challenges especially trying to make work and personal life all happen at home. It took a few weeks, but over time I started to get into a comfortable rhythm taking breaks throughout the workday to spend time with family. I also started renting Citi bikes and riding around, at first to do grocery shopping and errands, and then to just get outside, explore and clear my mind while doing physical activity. I also got inspired to join a couple of online courses. I’m currently taking one called “Strategy Camp”, which is focused on critical thinking and creativity that I’ve been applying to my job. Now, I’m thinking of joining Masterclass and Skillshare to take a couple of courses to try new things and improve on hobbies I’m passionate about.


I’ve discovered great workout videos on YouTube and I’ve been meditating every day with an app that recreates a variety of sounds. For example, I meditate to the sound of an air conditioner every morning. I didn’t know it could be so relaxing. I also started learning Portuguese on a fun app called Drops and I write three pages in a journal every day. Not to mention I watched Schitt’s Creek compulsively. We all need a good laugh. Plus, I made sure to do some physical activity. Without all this, my quarantine would have been pretty nerve-racking. This helped me focus and feel good.


I have been surfing a lot. In part, it’s because I draw a lot of inspiration from the surf and the ocean. But also having the ability to be in the water on a regular basis has kept the creative process flowing. Being in the water has also forced me to reprioritize my day-to-day tasks. Now, big-picture thinking and design have taken more of a priority over the daily “rat wheel” type tasks. I discovered, as many others did as well, that the pandemic had driven us all back to nature and to the value of being outside. Moreover, I’ve come to the realization that being outdoors is healing for me as well as for my customers. And what better way to experience that than in Montauk, where I can be out on the water every day.


I think like most people, combining weeks of indoor living with a lack of travel for work, left me restless. Getting outdoors to hike, bike, or run with my family has been my go-to outlet for reflection and mental relaxation, while also satisfying that side of me that enjoys being on the go. We even took a trip to Yellowstone National Park that was wonderful. But perhaps the most interesting thing is that pre-COVID, my place to mentally work through Hari Mari issues was always my car. It’s where I used to do my best thinking – which always proves to be a thrill ride for whoever’s in the passenger seat as I tend to zone out a bit! But with less time now spent in the car, my new outdoor regimen has served as a great (and safer) replacement. I am not sure if I’ll ever go back to the car. Personally, I’ve always wanted to ride motorcycles and learn to kitesurf. But my family (and Hari Mari’s investors) have asked that I not do the former, so kite surfing it is!


I know the benefit of exercise and need vitamin C and hence re-committed to at least 30 minutes of outdoor activity daily whether it be a walk with my fur baby or a run. My running partner(s) and I ran new trails and different paths and were able to vent and share and commiserate while finding the joy in the outdoors. In addition, I was able to give far more attention to my garden knowing it wouldn’t die as it typically does in the summer when I am not home to care for it due to trade show travel. I even added a few more bushes to my butterfly/bee garden and updated a few more beds than usual. What was a chore in early spring became a passion and distraction during tough days. We also purchased a few new feeders for our yard. We find the antics of the squirrels, the joy of the chipmunks, and the bird hierarchy much more fun to watch than the nightly news. I am not sure if I was more productive than before, but I know that I was far more optimistic than some of my peers and workmates because I insisted on going outside. It helped me find the courage to come to work every day and the confidence that change would bring about good new things.