Comfort Is Key
By KELIN DILLON
The global coronavirus pandemic has vastly changed the landscape of fashion as we know it, from the comfort of our very own homes.
Zoom meetings have removed the necessity of dressing to impress, as participants can only see each other from the waist up. Gone is the need to wear towering high heels, tightly cinched dresses and closely tailored suits to be workplace appropriate, as video chats save employees from being caught by higher-ups in cozy sweatpants and house slippers.
With home-office reigning supreme on the working world, business casual has been taken to a whole new level, and the market is responding.
In an interview with Vogue Runway, the buying heads of several online fashion retailers revealed the hits and misses of the year for their respective sites, based on sales during the pandemic.
“With day-to-day life shifting immensely this year and physical events ceasing to exist, we saw a more relaxed approach to dressing,” said Libby Page, senior fashion market editor at Net-a-Porter. “As our customers spent more time at home, comfortability was key,”
Brigitte Chartrand, vice president of womenswear buying at Ssense, said the largest increase in sales on the site was in flat sandals, with a large dip for high heels, showing the shift in priorities in the global psyche.
Loungewear also had massive growth in all sites interviewed, as people have begun valuing their own comfort much more, due to being stuck at home for months on end.
Fine jewelry and homewares also had large sales increases, according to Natalie Kingham, buying director for MatchesFashion.com.
“It’s not really surprising. We all realized we didn’t have enough things at home to make us feel nice,” said Kingham. “We’ve been spoiled by the tabletops and cutlery at nice restaurants when we were going out to eat.”
With so much economic uncertainty, people are trending towards buying luxury items they can later flip for a profit, making sure they make the most of their purchases.
“Our biggest takeaway about the year was the shift to what we call investment pieces, selling at above $1,000,” said Sasha Skoda of The RealReal. Handbags and fine jewelry from blue-chip luxury brands like Yves Saint Laurent and Chanel can accrue value over the years, returning a nice investment for their owner. “Resale prices have increased by hundreds of dollars. For Birkins and Kellys, the increase has been tremendous” said Skoda.
When asked of what’s to come for trends in 2021, Kingham said we should expect to see “dressed-up things with a bit more ease,” she said. “I miss tailoring, I miss blazers, but they’re going to come in softer fabrics — we don’t all want to wear a sloppy cardigan. Things will be more of a hybrid. If we enjoy fashion, these things will resonate quite well.”
As reported in last week’s Runway Rundown, the latest release of pre-fall collections sets a tone of what’s to come in style in six months. Large, oversized blazers dominated the scene, and muted neutrals created a relaxing tone among the garments. Camp counselor chic came back in a big way with cut-off jeans and oversized jersey T-shirts, paired with high socks and the divisive chunky sneakers of modern day. Old-school reigned supreme, bringing a level of comfort to buyers, not only in the cut and cloth of the clothes, but also rooted deeply in nostalgia.
Still, regardless of what new innovations designers dream up each season, the consumer dictates their direction with their purchasing power. Every dollar spent means more to both buyers and brands as unemployment has taken hold of the globe due to the coronavirus pandemic.
While old school luxury brands can rely on consumers continuing to invest in their high-end handbags due to their status as investment pieces, smaller brands will have to bend to the times and current day consumer demands as they plan upcoming releases.
Bottom line: Designers who ignore what people are putting their dollars toward run the risk of losing out on sales, and potentially won’t make it out to the other side of the covid-19 crisis.
To succeed in coronavirus times, brands only need to remember one simple thing: Comfort is key.
…Dec. 22, 2020