I wrote my first editorial for InTents magazine just over ten years ago. The cover of that issue featured a structure installed at the Vancouver Winter Olympics by Karl’s Event Rental (now Arena Americas). Also in that issue, the tent industry was responding to the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti with temporary structures and labor. And while the country was pulling out of the Great Recession, the tent and event industry had yet to realize a recovery.
Today, I’m writing my first editorial for Specialty Fabrics Review. I’d say that the more things change, the more they stay the same, but … there will be no Olympics this year. The entire specialty fabrics industry is responding to the COVID-19 crisis. And after years of growth, the market outlook for tents and events—and many other corners of the economy—appears worse than ever. It’s devastating.
I’ve been measuring this crisis in weeks: The week that live events started to be cancelled. The week that my coworkers and I started working from home. The week that layoffs and furloughs piled up across economic sectors. The week that I wanted to pull my kids out of school because distance “learning” was bringing me to my knees. The week that pivot became the industry buzzword. The week that stories about new textile innovations and products to fight the coronavirus flew into IFAI email inboxes and through our social media news feeds faster than we could keep up. (Several of these stories are featured in the “Swatches” section of this issue—and if we missed one, let us know! We want to share your story too.)
In that editorial I wrote 10 years ago, I shared that I’m a glass-half-full kind of person. I still am! I don’t know what’s going to happen in the weeks between the time we send this issue to the printer and when it lands in your mailbox—or in the weeks after that. But I do know that this industry will continue to react with resilience, persistence, innovation and cooperation. Marine fabricators will make face shields. Linen suppliers will make hospital gowns. And the tent industry just might save the day again, by creating temporary spaces that help us get back to our lives and into our workplaces while keeping us six feet from one another.
Stay safe and healthy!