HOW TO SPEND IT?
Now that we are looking more positively on life after Covid, the big questions in the textile industry are, firstly, whether consumers will ever prioritise fashion in the way they did before coronavirus, and, secondly, what kind of clothes they are going to buy – if and when they do?
The pandemic not only wreaked havoc on the economy, but also created more inequality. For many, it has been a period of intense financial hardship, with furloughs and increased childcare responsibilities. For those people focused on purchasing essential items, new clothes have been a distant dream and fashion an afterthought, or not considered at all.
On the other hand, many in salaried positions and in professions such as law, banking, health and counselling were not only able to maintain their status quo but also actually build on savings. During the lockdown, it has been clear that the main groups still happy to buy (mostly online) were professionals such as these, Gen Y (with generous parents) and, of course, the eternally rich.
The general arguments that support a brisk upturn in clothes shopping – though probably not the massive revenge splurge that some dream of – are that the virus is in retreat, vaccination programmes are pushing ahead, many have money in their pockets, consumers are sick of sameness, the weather is turning, and people want to go out, feel good, be seen and socialise. But that still doesn’t tell us what they are going to wear!
According to the CNBC article So Long Sweatpants, published on 5 March 2021, Urban Outfitters reported that women are starting to gravitate back to shopping for dresses. The retailer’s Anthropologie brand stated that in the final week of February, seven of its top 10 items were dresses, while before that, it was unusual to see just one or two dresses make the list.
Some companies, however, still believe the momentum lies with loungewear, athleisure and sporty performance, and we agree! Comfort, always an apparel issue in recent years, became paramount during the pandemic. Once you are used to the ease of soft, stretchy, easy constructions, it’s very hard to give that up. Besides, who said everyone is going back to the office? Most think that companies will start to see the office as a hub and combine that with working from home, encouraging what Nordstrom calls Work-from-Anywhere Style. And, almost certainly, companies will relax dress codes as the workforce returns. One need look no further than the triumph of sneakers over high heels.
Meanwhile, many newspapers have been asking their readers about pandemic dress habits and post-pandemic intentions. At The New York Times, Vanessa Friedman concluded, “I was struck by the fact that instead of buying lots of small things, or fast fashion, most of you [readers] went all-in on just a few things, or just one very special thing”. In the Guardian, Jess Cartner-Morley six key trends for 2021 were: floaty blouses; the grown-up flat shoe; the smart cardigan; the 18-hour dress; the toffee-coloured handbag; and, of course, sweatpants!
What do we think at View? Well, there is no single answer to how everyone is going to dress once lockdown is over. But that’s how it should be since, as we have always argued, there can no longer be a ‘one solution fits all’ in post-pandemic marketing and designing, but only fragmented approaches depending on age, work conditions and lifestyle preferences. One thing is certain, however: the future will be hybrid and blended, and, whether seriously smart, sexy, fun, responsible or regenerated, it will also be comfortable!