Despite the once-in-a-lifetime economic uncertainty—and dismal retail forecast—brought on by the coronavirus, John Elliott is feeling hopeful. Excited, even. Perhaps it’s that the designer is quarantining in sunny Los Angeles with his wife and newborn daughter, or that Elliott is known, in part, for his cozy sweats, the one product category that’s boomed as folks hunker down to work from home. But beyond that, Elliott has a sneaking suspicion that this disruptive moment may actually be the crossroads the fashion world didn’t know it needed—an occasion to jolt itself out from a much-ballyhooed rut. The designer and business owner believes that this moment could ultimately be a positive one for the fashion industry, a time for consumers to reassess what they want from their clothing purchases and for brands to reconsider what they stand for.
“I think people are gonna emerge from this having a deeper knowledge of what their interests really are,” the L.A.-based designer said last week. “When you have that, you’re gonna have less sheep, you’re gonna have less people who are glued to pop and celebrity culture. It pushes brands to focus more on creating a product that matters, and that’s been something we’ve always tried to do.”
We spoke to Elliott about what his life looks like in this topsy-turvy moment (equal parts running and researching Miuccia Prada), how it’s made him rethink the way he operates, and what changes he thinks we can expect from his brand and the fashion industry as a whole.
First of all: What’s your quarantine life like?
I’m at home in Los Angeles, and I’m lucky to be spending time with my five-month-old daughter, Reece, and my wife, Rochelle. I’m also spending time, honestly, running our business, which is still as busy as it was pre-quarantine. When I have downtime, I’ve been into researching and investigating the life of Miuccia Prada—her art collection, who she is as a person, her personality quirks and taste level. She’s one of the foremost legends in our industry. Really, a fascinating person.
I’m also trying to take day trips. This past Saturday we took a hike outside of Oxnard that was a nice respite from quarantine. I still run every day, although not as far as I’d like. I’d love to tell GQ I’m running five miles a day, but in reality it’s probably three and a half. There’s a little loop I do. At this point it’s been eight weeks of this, and I’ve got a routine.
How are you feeling these days?
I feel like the opportunity now is bigger than ever, especially for a brand like ours, and I’m very optimistic about the future. I think this is actually going to instill values in our society that are similar to the values my grandmother held, who lived through the Great Depression. Seeking out quality. Really buying into something that represents your personality. I think right now is a time where people will have a heightened sense of self-discovery.
How has this affected your work? Are you still designing? How are you and your team meeting and communicating?
I would love to tell you I’ve knocked out two collections while in quarantine. I’ve had moments where things just come to me, and they’re good. There’s been some breakthroughs. But I’m not designing in the same way I typically do. I also have a five-month-old daughter who’s like my roommate now. So I don’t have the ability to eject to a higher level, to look down from 30,000 feet, assess things, and start designing.