The health crisis gave Amazon an opening. Last month, Amazon introduced an online storefront with Vogue and the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Known as Common Threads, the initiative has been framed as an economic lifeline for small, independent designers without the resources or infrastructure to get their own collections to market during the coronavirus shutdown. For 20 brands, Amazon is providing much-needed fulfillment services, digital storefronts and other services, all of it fee free.
In return, Amazon gets a cut of sales, as well as the allegiance of the designer fashion world.
Amazon is clearly hoping that by demonstrating it can sell expensive designer products such as the $2,244 ruched-bodice silk spaghetti-strap dress in a Watteau-esque floral print by Brock Collection or the $1,595 top-handle lizard skin handbag by Hunting Season, both offered on the Common Threads store, it can change the minds of reluctant brands.
“The first two weeks we were seeing multiple sales a day,” said Jonathan Cohen, one of the designers in the Common Threads store. While sales have slowed, “it’s been helpful,” he said. “We were left with so much inventory from Covid, and in general from stores that were not paying from before.”
After the studio closed in March, Amazon ended contracts with the freelancers and long-term contractors who worked there, Ms. Jacobson told employees in the calls. As inventory mounted, Amazon scrambled to get images safely produced at other studios, without models.
Ms. Jacobson explained to employees that a team of executives, safety experts and lawyers were involved in the decision to reopen the Brooklyn studio, and that the company had made many adjustments to enable social distancing, including deciding to have models do their own hair and makeup. She said the studio had also gotten special internal approval to give employees Uber rides, an option not available to the thousands of workers at Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse who cram into city buses.
Employees kept asking on the calls how their work taking fashion photography was allowed, given that they heard officials on the news say New Yorkers should stay home for all but the most essential work, to limit community transmission of the virus.
“I know this question keeps coming up,” Ms. Jacobson told her team before the reopening. “I am not going to ask you all to agree that we are an essential business.”