Founder’s Letter: Hard Decisions in a Challenging Time

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This pandemic has forced everyone to make hard and unpleasant choices. Last week I had two difficult decisions to make, one professional and the other personal. 

First the professional. We needed to decide whether to hold our Kingpins Amsterdam Show in October. The Netherlands is allowing events — albeit with restrictions. We have a venue with plenty of space. And we have experienced and creative partners to help with the show’s logistics. 

But COVID-19 is not a local problem to resolve. It’s global. And it’s not going away, at least not yet, regardless of the laws.

We could hold a show in Amsterdam and hope to draw a mix of exhibitors and attendees from much of Europe, but should we ask everyone to come? Do people really want to fly? Do they really want to stay in hotels and enter public places?

A friend of mine flew recently to Los Angeles and after coming home he felt that he might have compromised his family. He has two young children and a parent. On his return, he said he went to sleep every night worrying that his trip could have infected him and his family. 

And that is where we all are. We all wonder whether we will catch the virus or will carry it to our families, friends and colleagues. Even those with antibodies — like me — constantly worry how long immunity will last and if the next exposure will be lethal.

That is why our answer to the Amsterdam show in October is, sadly, no. It’s not that we don’t want to return to Amsterdam. We love the city and the show is one of our most successful events. And, we would love to see you all industry friends again in person. But all “desire” is trumped by a lack of confidence in health control and we would never risk the health of our friends and colleagues in the denim community — we are, after all, one big connected denim-loving family. 

I did not make this decision alone. Seven of us voted whether to have Kingpins Amsterdam in October and seven voted not to. The entire Kingpins team reluctantly agreed. It’s awful to drop your best product. 

As you know, we are keeping busy creating ways we can all keep working and keep in touch during the time of COVID. We held two Kingpins24 virtual events. We are working with Material Exchange to find other online solutions to keep the denim business moving forward. We have our website and our newsletter to keep you updated on the latest news. Until we can get together in person again, we will keep working on ideas to help your businesses and keep us connected. 

The other decision was personal and it was about New York City and how things are going here. I’d been in Houston from March 17 to July 3, when I returned to Manhattan, where I was quarantined for two weeks (my third round of quarantine this year). But New York felt weird, different, nothing like the city I moved to 20 years ago. Things have changed. 

Last Saturday, I went for a walk in SoHo. There were few people on the streets. Taxis — once omnipresent — were few and far between. Stores were boarded up the way they were in bomb-blasted Belfast in the 1970s. Yes, big brands like American Eagle and Adidas were open. But it felt like 60 percent of the little shops are gone and of course, all the restaurants (of the ones left) are only offering curbside pick-up or sidewalk tables for dining.

So, I reluctantly decided to leave NYC and go back to Houston. In these circumstances, our office remains unattended and virtually unnecessary.

In the early days of the pandemic, everyone talked about using the time to reboot, realign and reset our business priorities. But as the disease has dragged on — while we wait for a vaccine that is still a long way off on the horizon — many of us are just trying to hold steady while we wait to see the extent of the economic impact from the shutdown. 

I know the temptation is to recede, to shrink and to hide. But this is the time when we need to collaborate, to share ideas more than ever before. Our community is our advantage. As always, I’m keen to hear everyone’s opinions and insight. What do we do differently in these pandemic times? What can we do together? How can we leverage this great international community to get us through this storm? We need to think hard on that. We could all be in this state until 2022. What’s the plan?

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