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It’s hard to say with confidence that business is moving forward as usual. ‘Vibe Check’ host Jian DeLeon calls up Brendon Babenzien and his partner, Noah cofounder, and designer Estelle Bailey-Babenzien to hear how independent labels are faring during these trying times. Recently, the couple posted on Instagram about why consumers should be spending their money now more than ever, and how they should do so while supporting small businesses.
As a global brand, Noah has its supply chain dispersed across the world. But with the coronavirus taking on an equally global scale, international suppliers and factories have reduced their deliveries and businesses have taken the hit. Brendon speaks on the plans that need to be put into place after everything is taken into consideration: seasons in the fashion cycle will be pushed back, inventory will be static, and consumers will lack incomes (5:26). To make matters worse, tourism is a big source of customers in large cities like New York and Tokyo. While Noah’s new store is scheduled to open in Osaka in May, nothing is set in stone at this time as Brendon and Estelle voice their worries for a situation that could unfold either way (7:53).
The below interview is a transcribed version of ‘Vibe Check.’ It has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Brendon Babenzien: Not a single foreign customer went in the Clubhouse today. That was the first time. I hope people who listen to this understand that this is the most significant event that will happen in our lifetimes unless we have a third World War with nuclear weapons. This would be one of the most, if not the most, significant thing that happened to all of us in our lifetimes.
Jian DeLeon: That brings us to the Instagram post where you guys pretty much summarized what makes our economy run, right? Which is essentially somebody spending money means that that’s someone else’s paycheck. That’s a small business overhead.
BB: The structure of our economy and the distribution of wealth and our reliance on overseas production. All of these things have now all come to kind of, unfortunately, be as problematic as we thought they could be. I mean, we hope that the governments create infrastructures in advance of the next tragedy and they don’t wait to figure it out. We hope that healthcare has changed permanently. We are going to have a window where it gets worse before it gets better. When this is over, if the American public doesn’t respond in a way that says, from now on, you need to take preparation seriously and not just play political games on television, then we’re lost. If we don’t learn a lesson from this, we’ll never learn.
JD: Right. So in addition to voting, what are some of the other steps people can take to be more engaged in the political system and let them know that this kind of stuff is not okay?
Estelle Bailey-Babenzien: Well, yeah, you do vote with your dollar, right? You need to vote. But it’s how you spend your money, where you spend your money, being super conscious about every decision and every purchase that you make where you can.
BB: I mean, look. We’ve always believed that one of the most important things all people can do, all citizens can do, is spend their money in a better, more responsible way. It’s a really strange thing that goes on because people are just ill-informed about what they’re buying and what that means. So we’ve always said spend your money with companies and organizations that you know have your best interest at heart. If you bleed the enemy dry financially, they can no longer fund the politicians. But if the money’s not there, they can’t do it anymore. Then they have to go back to listening to what the public wants, if they want to stay in office.
EBB: We get comments sometimes where people say, oh you’re in fashion. Stay out of politics. None of your business. But business is politics. It’s the same thing. So we can’t stay out of it. That’s not an option.
In support of independent businesses, Brendon and Estelle share two of their favorite eco-friendly brands that are giving back to communities in need (15:40). It happens to be that they’re suppliers of toilet paper and hand soap, two of the most in-demand products right now. But along with immediate necessities, cultural preservation is a must now more than ever.
BB: Normally, I wouldn’t apply the word culture to the things we do because in normal times it all seems so trivial, right? But in these times where things are this urgent and businesses can literally disappear from the face of the earth. We do have to recognize that some of these businesses, these people, whether they be designers or store owners or restaurateurs or musicians or writers, artists, they are driving culture. They are symbolic of where we are as a society. They show what’s important to us at a particular time. We need to find a way to support them as consumers and in the places where consumers can’t support, the government needs to step in and make sure that our culture isn’t lost.
Tune in to new episodes of ‘Vibe Check’ released every Tuesday and Thursday.