Pyer Moss converting their New York showroom into a donation center, former Helmut Lang Menswear Design Director and more recently Nomenklatura designer, Alexandre Plokhov pleading for donation via the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America)/Vogue Fashion Fund for COVID-19 Relief and conceptual designer, artist, and friend Preston Douglas announcing a curtain call of sorts, to the fashion industry while he pursues the art world; this is our new reality. The new normal for the American fashion industry. The devastating reality for the thousands of small creative businesses in New York City, the epicenter of the Coronavirus.

Chinese-born designers Haoran Li and Siying Qu are among those in such a predicament, navigating the uncharted waters of creative entrepreneurship while living and working in the eye of a pandemic for the history books. Their gender-fluid menswear label Private Policy has garnered them a CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund nod, (although they did not win), an impressive young Hollywood body count, including Joe and Nick Jonas, Zayn Malik, Pete Davidson, the Hadid sisters, and Kendall Jenner. The New York label has also spent several seasons under the sponsorship of GQ China at London Fashion Week: Men’s. In short, to say these Parsons grads five-year rise is meteoric is an understatement.

And then the world stopped. The outbreak began. According to The World Health Organization, it first appeared in Wuhan, China in December 2019, then spread to Milan during Fashion Week, led to a lockdown in France and has left us where we are today. A world reeling. Our surreal reality has also been made worse by a rise in racist xenophobic rhetoric towards the Chinese. Despite this, life and business continue for Li and Qu. But what does business-as-usual, look like in a pandemic?

Siying Qu

Where are you spending lockdown/quarantine?

We’ve been staying at home in New York City.


How are you handling the Coronavirus pandemic?

We are trying the best to stay calm and take this time working at home to dive into something that we didn’t have time for before. Our activities include cooking, reading, cardio workouts, figuring out live stream direct-to-consumer sales, and having deep conversations with family and friends. 


How has the pandemic affected you personally?

It has been mentally challenging. Every day we watch the numbers of patients rise, which leads to us worrying about our loved ones and colleagues.


How has the pandemic affected your business?

As a small brand, there is much uncertainty in the air. Sometimes we feel like ants during this huge storm. We have to change our marketing strategies to include more of a direct-to-consumer business much more than before, which will ensure a stable business revenue. 

Haoran Li

Being Chinese, how are you affected by the xenophobia attached to the virus? 

It has been heartbreaking to see the rise of xenophobia during the pandemic. The Asian community is being attacked verbally through certain members of the press and some politicians. As a result, there have been cases of violence being carried out against Asians around the world. We speak up loudly and firmly for our community, not only for Asians but more importantly for truth and justice. At the same time, we try to spread positivity and love, because the ones bullying others are most likely scared of the pandemic. They are unable to think logically and have lost their compassion out of fear. At the end of the day, we have to realize that the virus is temporary, but global relationships will take much longer to repair if people recklessly ruin it now.


How are you staying sane and active during the lockdown?

We have been focusing on family, friends and our passion for design and business. We have been working around the clock for the business we have in the U.S., Europe, and Asia, which is saving our brand at this difficult time of recession. 


What are you currently working on (if anything)?

We are preparing for the Fall/Winter 2020 Shanghai Fashion Week online runway show and the live stream direct-to-consumer sales event, designing the Spring/Summer 2021 collection, and coordinating Fall/Winter 2020 production.  


What’s one thing you miss most, that you may have taken for granted, pre-pandemic?

We miss the active traveling lifestyle we had, which allowed us to be connected to the world in person. We can only do that through the screens now. 


What are your best tips for staying safe and healthy during this time?

Think of protecting yourselves but also others, try to stay at home as much as you can, wear a mask and gloves when outside. Keep up your immunity, exercise and eat well. It is a good opportunity to examine what we have been neglecting within our bodies and minds.

Let’s hope it’s all over soon.

If you would like to make a donation to the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund for COVID-19 Relief text THREAD to 44-321 or click here.