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The pandemic raised a lot of questions for the fashion, travel and wellness industries. Maryam Siddiqi speaks to members of each about how their businesses have adapted and what happens next

Tanya Taylor


Founder, Tanya Taylor

In early spring, fashion designer Tanya Taylor had a packed schedule: travel to Dallas and New Orleans for philanthropic events, to Toronto for the Canadian Arts & Fashion Awards gala, and more events in her base of New York. But then the pandemic hit and pivoting was priority. In early April, Taylor wrote an op-ed on calling for industry collaboration.

“Spring is our bestselling collection. We really tackled how to keep as much of the revenue we were planning intact. And, with the concerted effort we put in, we still will be down 40 per cent revenue for 2020. We were kind of pushed into a position to be more experimental and creative. So it’s expedited what we should have always been doing.

We were supposed to go to L.A. and host a breakfast for Neiman Marcus in the middle of March for about 40 of their stores. Because we’re a small brand, being able to share our story and for people to see the clothing on a model, it really helps us sell in those stores. Instead, we did a FaceTime session and pretended that we were welcoming them into our studio. It almost felt like we should always be doing that, for a L.A. based store to feel like they have access to the New York creative centre of a brand. We could walk them around the office and show them where we painted our prints and how we were in the middle of a fitting and what my office looked like. It felt like a sustainable model for us to not have to travel as much in the future.

After COVID-19, we’ll never take vacations, watch movies or root for sports teams in the same way

We are really looking at e-commerce and saying to ourselves, ‘It doesn’t feel like the time that someone needs to buy a $500 floral dress,’ and nor do we need to be messaging that, because that doesn’t feel at all what any of us on the team even want to buy. So how do we have different price points, and offer a way to turn fans into customers over the next six months? We’re thinking about what’s one thing we could offer on e-commerce every month that engages a consumer in a way that we haven’t before.

I think [the Fashionista op-ed] has been the best part of the last few weeks. I was blown away by how people responded with, step by step, what they were doing with their businesses. And also at the end said, ’Should we jump on a call on Monday and brainstorm?’ It was such a different reaction than I've had before in fashion.”

Don Cleary

Cade Martin/Handout

President, Marriott Hotels Canada

Going into 2020, Marriott had plans to open 13 new properties in Canada. The company is still proceeding with 11 of them as planned (two have been pushed into next year because of supply chain interruptions). But what’s happening inside the hotels is changing. The company has launched its Global Cleanliness Council to create new protocols and standards for cleaning in each property, and is looking at ways to streamline other guest-staff interactions.

"Hotels are a hospitality business and the personal connection with customers is really the hallmark of what we do every day, and that’s not going to end. How we do that in the COVID environment will probably change a little bit. We’re looking at putting plexiglass in some of our spaces, maybe at the front desk and other areas, so that while there’s still interaction with customers there’s a little bit of a separation. And there will be a shift to more mobile interaction. Mobile chat technology enables us to be more responsive to our customers, and I suspect that that will take on a more significant part of our service.

We were on that path well before the virus outbreak. A mobile key was something we rolled out the last couple of years. We were in the process of trying to implement that in all of our hotels globally, and I think this virus is just going to expedite that, where people can bypass the front desk, come into a hotel and go straight to their rooms.

With COVID-19, we feel a need to up our game and roll out a multipronged approach to taking cleanliness and hygiene and, frankly, hospitality standards and behaviours to a whole new level to give people confidence – not just our guests, but importantly, our employees as well. The Global Cleanliness Council will continue to analyze and roll out more advancements as we all learn more about this virus and the best way to prevent it and combat it. One example is the electrostatic spray technology, which uses an incredibly high classification of disinfectant that quickly can clean public spaces, whether it’s guest rooms, gyms, public lobbies.

We think there is pent-up demand for people to get out of their homes and get on the road to do things. We see the opportunity that Canada presents as a great destination for travel and we’re focused on leveraging the resources we have to come out of this strong."

Jason Wersland

Founder, Therabody

Mike Windle/Handout

The fitness and wellness industry has undergone rapid change because of the pandemic, with smaller studios quickly turning to online offerings and bigger gyms trying to manage a safe method for reopening. Therabody, maker of the massage tool Theragun, had originally planned to launch its new line of products in mid-March. The pandemic delayed them, but only for a few weeks, because founder Jason Wersland saw that people were continuing their physical activity but didn’t have access to the same therapies. Part of the launch: an app that guides users through specific treatments with the massager and monitors, in real time, to monitor and ensure that they’re using the correct pressure.

“Everyone’s locked up at home and they’re trying to stay active, and our bodies are taking a beating unlike they had before. The further we got into this [self-isolation], we realized, you know what, this [launch] is something we need to announce. These [tools] don’t really mean anything if you don’t know how to use them. And if the only people using them on the planet were physical therapists, chiropractors, that really leaves a lot of people out. I realized early on the power of being able to teach someone to take care of themselves for themselves. It’s an empowering gift.

Quite frankly, any physiotherapist on the planet wants to be able to teach their client what to do. The day-to-day therapy and the day-to-day routines, we should all know that as humans. Coronavirus forced a lot of people to start using telemed, and to [learn] treatments they can do at home. I agree with it, because we need to empower individuals to take care of themselves, be accountable to yourself.

We’ve actually applied for distance learning with nationally governing bodies in different countries to be able to provide education for massage therapists, personal trainers. That will materialize into something more, where we start having movement classes online, webinars teaching people how to move after a cycling class, for example. You know, these stationary bikes are really popular right now around the world. So those will be things that we graduate into for sure.”

These interviews have been condensed and edited.

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