JANNI VEPSALAINEN is a knitwear designer based in London, working for JW Anderson. Here, she shares her tips for working from home under lockdown, the work challenges she’s faced so far, and the ways in which the industry might change for the better in the long term….
Hi Janni, thanks so much for taking the time to speak to us. It’s a massively challenging and uncertain time, so we appreciate the time you’re taking out of your busy schedule to answer these questions, focusing on what working life is like right now in London..
Are you on full lockdown at the moment? If so, how long has it been, and how long have you been working from home?
“Yes, our whole team is working from home at the moment. For me, this is the second week and it seems like it will be like this for a while.”
What was the last day in the studio like? What did you need to prepare personally, and how did the rest of the team prepare for the prospect of working at home?
“The last week in the office was quiet. We had split the team in two the week before, half of us still coming to office and half of our design team working from home. We had time to prepare for the idea of working from home, but it was still strange to start packing up and mentally prepare for the idea of leaving the workshop we all come to each day to work and interact with each other. I tried to take into account all the elements of my work and the requirements my creative process has. I packed some yarn, pattern paper, knitting needles, some fabric, a couple of yarn cards (unfortunately I couldn´t take them all. Shade cards are a very important resource for my daily job and not having access to them will definitely be one of the biggest challenges for me), my iMac computer, light box, stationary, some paper for sketching and printing, my seasonal research and tech pack folder and some vintage pieces for design inspiration. The rest of the team had similar packing lists, appreciating they probably didn´t have so many textile development tools to take with them.’
How disruptive has the crisis been for the brand?
“I think this corona crisis has been very disruptive for all businesses in the industry. Luxury fashion in very much dependant on Italy and Spain and their ability to produce goods and raw materials. Our partners and workshops have been amazing trying to cater to our needs as long as it humanely was possible. We have workshops in China that are picking up to pretty much normal pace as we speak. I think we all have to stay positive and try and find new ways of working and being creative with the resources we have in hand. With that mindset I believe we can keep the creative processes going even during this lockdown phase.”
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
‘It took some time to get used to the idea of working from home.
We all needed to adapt to new ways of communicating, with team chat applications and video calls. It was strange at first, but I am getting used to it. I am more of an introvert in a professional environment but I have learned to understand how much I miss face-to-face meetings with my team. We have a very energised and collaborative team environment where we constantly exchange ideas and that is something I believe we all miss at some level.”
How are you and your team / Jonathan keeping in touch – how do you continue a collection without being in the same space together?
“We use video calls and group chats to discuss ideas and development schedules etc. We share sketches and designs via we-transfer. We can also access our company wide server remotely which has been a fantastic help. We do have meetings in different groups on Microsoft team and WhatsApp.”
Are there any positives coming out of this situation as yet?
“This is a very interesting time, not only for the fashion industry but societies altogether. The situations evolve and change constantly, and I am curious to see how we come out of this once the most acute part of this crisis is over. Perhaps the way we see and consume fashion will change. How, that I am not sure yet. Some things will probably go back to `the old normal’ and some things will never be the same.
I believe people will still want to touch clothes and buy them in shops where they can feel and sense brand identities. Fashion will probably slow down a little which is a positive. We, meaning everyone in this industry, need to rethink the way we produce and consume fashion.
I believe after this crisis people will be more conscious of the planet, its resources and the problems fast fashion has from an environmental and humanitarian point of view.”
Are you enjoying working from home / what are your top tips for working from home as a designer?
“I am, in a way. I have always worked well on my own and then going to my team to discuss ideas. Sometimes an open office set up is challenging when you need a bit of peace and quiet in your creative mindset. Having said that, I miss having the instant connection with my team mates on a personal and professional level. My work consists of creating a category which sits inside and alongside the collection so it is really important for me to keep a 360 view of what is happening in the collection as a whole, to make sure the pieces I am designing sit with the ready to wear pieces. Sometimes it´s just about checking the fabric board to align colours or adding hard wear that is used in accessories. All that interaction is important, and I believe also achievable from afar. The good team spirit is going to benefit the whole team as everyone is so open about what they are working on. This allows all of us to dip into elements and ideas and keep the collection coherent.”
How are you staying motivated?
“It has been imperative from day one that I keep my daily rhythm. I get up at 6:30am, then go for a run or do a home exercise session and get ready for work as I would normally do. I dress up so that I don´t just potter around in pyjamas. I keep normal meal breaks and use rest of the day as effectively as I can. This has hugely helped me to stay energised.”
What is the situation like for friends of yours in London/Milan/Paris/NY who are also working in design?
What issues and challenge are they facing?
‘I am sadly hearing a lot of stories of lay-offs in other fashion companies. This is an unprecedented situation for many companies and I hope all of my peers struggling at the moment will get their jobs back once this situation gets better.’