December 23rd marks yet another day, one of those days of 2020. Sweatpants, or gym outfit? I walk to my home office and start the day — Zoom Call one of six today. Is the lighting right, shall I blur my background and will my dog jump on the desk?

Days fade into weeks, weeks into months and here we are, a year later not really knowing what the hell happened in 2020. But one thing keeps me going: the thought of this pandemic representing a great reset for our world, perhaps a reset we all needed — or even deserved?

I have said this at many other talks and conferences before: there is something rotten in our world, especially in our court of fashion and luxury, and we had to stem the disease.

I am not alone in feeling this level of unease with what was happening in the years that led up to 2020. The age of hyper-globalisation it was called, a beast that most certainly required systematic change and a drastic global event to stop it from continuing to destroy our planet, our mental health, our morality and ethics. 

The pandemic this year has taken an incredible toll, human loss and suffering that we have all become way too accustomed to. However, with this year’s Editor’s Letter I will try to make a case for an unprecedented opportunity for growth — and it would be a horrible mistake for us all to miss it. 

American author and political activist, Helen Keller, once said: “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”

In 2021 there will be two kinds of people emerging from this global event. First, those who found safety and security in the “American Dream”: a corporate job, a life characterized by endless consumption, a way of living that passively fed a society that values personal and corporate profits over the environment. Those who are now so blatantly exposed, realizing that their life was only defined by vacations, restaurant reservations and how they consumed. 

The others- and I dare to include all my fellow creatives, radicals and Black Sheep of this world, are those who have for very long understood that one must be agile, dynamic, and flexible in how you live your life. Those who can be nomads today, and home-owners tomorrow; those who run a business from their kitchen-table today, and are able to scale it up (and down) as the market changes; those who find value in synergies, use technology as a source of inspiration and networking beyond national borders. 

The fashion industry provides the perfect example: global mega-brands, which rely on supply chains in cheap labor countries around the world, came to a halt. Their antiquated and selfish system did not allow them to be dynamic and adapt to a new world created by COVID-19. Like oil tankers, they were desperately trying to change course. 

On the contrary, we at Not Just A Label saw how our emerging designers were less affected by the pandemic. They were already nimble and agile businesses, producing locally, embedded in a regional environment and making the most with what they had. A quick survey sent out by NJAL in the Spring revealed that we had a huge opportunity at hand: cut out the middlemen, profit from the cancellation of fashion shows, trade shows and showroom events and provide our designers with a direct to consumer platform. 

By partnering with an equally exciting tech company, we launched our marketplace platform in less than eight weeks. 500 brands initially were part of the #NJALRetailRevolution that started with over 8,000 design items sold through NJAL. While a B2C sales channel is nothing new to other industries, our designers helped to redefine how the antiquated system of fashion works:

40% of our designers’ sales are now based on made-to-order, which means items are no longer pre-produced en masse, sitting in warehouses and potentially destined for outlets or landfills. Our designers’ garments are made to measure, connecting the shopper with the creator and providing an elevated customer experience. With an overall return rate of less than 2%, we have demonstrated that people value fashion when it is hand-made, unique and sustainably produced. What a contrast to so many other online retailers that see over 60-70% of the goods they sell being returned and disposed. 

Beyond the online marketplace in 2020, we partnered with equally radical businesses such as JOOR to redefine how wholesale works, SwatchOn to provide access to sustainable fabrics, and color giant PANTONE to let our community share their color research and define a palette for 2021. 

We are truly excited for 2021. NJAL was founded during the last recession of 2008, and we have first-hand experience that radical ideas come from such global events. 

So please, do us all a favor and stop crying about missing out on dinner parties and skiing vacations, because we will need all hands on deck to ensure the world does not fall back to what it was in 2019. 

This is an unprecedented Holiday, but also an unprecedented opportunity to shape our future. 

Happy Holidays and here’s to a Brand New World, established 2021. 

Stefan Siegel, and the NJAL Team