Winter was a little different this time as the pandemic continues to ravage the entire world. In most places, ski trips and winter parties are canceled. Everyone celebrated Christmas and New Year’s via FaceTime.
Although many people continue to shop, most of them only buy those that are necessary. The lack of in-person gatherings, as well as the mass unemployment that resulted from lockdowns, made fashion a little less of a priority for the population.
Because of COVID-19, retail sales declined by 16.4%. The impact of the public health and economic crisis were felt across the board, but the clothing industry was one of the hardest hit. The low demand was felt throughout the year as the nation struggled to suppress the spread of the virus that was first discovered in Wuhan, China.
What People are Buying
But, not all businesses saw sales slow down in the past year. Some continued to see demand, or even saw an increase in sales, during the pandemic. Brands that are selling loungewear have been the most prosperous as adults trade their suits for joggers and sweatpants.
The same was observed this winter. With no end of the lockdowns in sight, even the fashionistas are choosing comfort over style.
This winter, the hot ticket item is not a trendy party dress. People are more likely to buy a warm and comfortable Arc’teryx ski jacket rather than a tulle Valentino dress or sharp Chanel suit. The trend in 2020 and 2021 will veer toward necessity.
A Force for Good
Early into the lockdowns last year, many clothing brands shifted their workforce from making fashion items to personal protective equipment for medical professionals. At the height of the pandemic in New York City, Christian Siriano, a fashion designer, and 10 of his seamstresses pledged to create masks to respond to the shortage. Dov Charney, the founder of Los Angeles Apparel, started creating surgical masks and gowns in the company’s factory.
Over in Europe, brands turned to creating alcohol-based hand sanitizers. As products meant to protect the public from the spreading virus disappeared from grocery shelves, fashion houses switched to making essential goods. LVMH, the company behind Louis Vuitton and Bulgari, made hundreds of thousands of hand-sanitizing gels that were distributed in hospitals across Italy.
Adapt or Sink
The disappearance of high-profile events all over the world is forcing brands to adjust their offerings to what the people demand in the present. Right now, they do not need skin-tight dresses or sky-high heels. They want clothes that give them comfort during a stressful period.
Pretty much every brand has launched their own line of loungewear in 2020, including those that are not actually known for home-bound style. Zara, a Spanish fast-fashion brand, launched its first-ever lingerie collection last year, and it featured soft fabrics and barely-there underwear that are perfect for those who hit the snooze buttons on their alarm clocks every morning. Madewell, a brand better known for denim, also now has a loungewear collection made from recycled but incredibly soft materials ideal for those who have nothing else to do but doomscroll on social media all day.
Not everyone is lounging. Many people still have jobs that they are now doing from home. Although they still have to look presentable during meetings, it does not really make sense to dress up when the only place you have to go is in your living room.
Designers seem to be creating pieces specifically for those video calls. In both Milan and London Fashion Weeks, a “waist-up style” was observed.
Prada moved its logo on necklines near collars for those online meetings. The goal is to show your boss that, yes, you still dressed up even when you are working from home at the moment.
Miuccia Prada, the head designer of the luxury brand, confirmed that technology did play a part in the creation of the collection. She told BBC that, during the lockdown, she realized how important technology is to everyone’s lives. Technology, she said, is an extension of ourselves.
Masks: the New Fashion Accessory
Masks are now mandatory. Studies have proven that wearing face masks can prevent infection by catching/filtering the air that people breathe. While the (elusive) N95 is ideal, cotton face masks also offered protection against COVID-19.
And, people are not just wearing bland fabrics around their faces. A lot of people are using it as an opportunity to accessorize. Many brands have launched their own line of face masks, many of which offer protection as well as promise to elevate the wearer’s style. You would see bright colors and prints, sequins and laces, logos on the outside of the face mask.
The fashion industry experienced a difficult year and, unfortunately, experts predict that recovery will be slow. The good news is, many brands have pivoted and adapted to remain afloat.