Post-pandemic Fashion – New priorities inspire new trends

The month of March was, for many fashion businesses, close to a write-off. And with the Coronavirus still expected to affect every aspect of our lives throughout April it can sometimes seem as if we will never see the other side of this crisis. And yet China – the first hit by the devastating effects of Covid19 - is already re-opening stores and life is slowly getting back to normal for businesses and consumers alike. But with a world-changing event like this, we can't expect for things to simply go back to the way they were before. The socio-economic impact is already creating never-before seen lifestyle changes for many, changes which will affect fashion trends and the industry itself. It's vital for fashion businesses to plan ahead to have stock ready for when doors open again, but with trends changing, what will prove popular with a post-pandemic audience?

The first change in trends is already making itself known – while most sectors of the industry are reporting disappointing figures and losses to revenue, the leisurewear industry has experienced an unexpected boost over the last month. Bolstered by an environment in which the majority of workers are now forced to work from home, comfort is the order of the day. While headlines, like those reporting that video-conferencing home-workers are boosting shirt but not trouser sales, do little except lighten the mood; the increase in demand for a more comfort-oriented approach to fashion is unlikely to go away any time soon. Athleisure wear and loungewear are the fashion buzzwords of the lockdown.

But what about #whenthisisallover? Luxury brands and goods are likely to struggle most as we recover from the pandemic. The reasons touted by experts tend to be two-fold – a reduction in international travel, and an increase in unemployment and financial uncertainty. At first it may seem strange that the travel industry should have a major impact on any part of the fashion sector, but luxury brands report that 20-30% of their average revenue is fuelled by Fashion tourism – increasingly popular, particularly among Asian consumers looking for status symbols and a feel of exoticism. But with travel restrictions still in place for many countries, consumers will be forced to look locally for their fashion fix. When combined with a huge increase in unemployment caused by the current crisis, and a feeling of financial uncertainty across the board, retail consumers are less likely to splurge on luxury items until confidence returns.

Going through such a major crisis together makes us realise the importance of supporting one another - the current feeling of solidarity within our communities which brings families out to applaud the health service on their balconies, or volunteers to take shopping to elderly neighbours – this communal spirit will continue to shape our lives, and our fashion choices. Plus, the images of a world healing itself as factories are closed down and roads are emptied are likely to resonate with many concerned by impending climate change. Finally, charities have reported huge increases in clothing donations as people take the time to sort through their closet and realise that, perhaps they don't need as much as they thought they did. These factors all work together to indicate a switch in consumer mentality – if sustainable and ethical fashion was on the rise before, it is likely now to take over the market. Fashion retailers and brands would do well to keep this in mind as we prepare for the future.

So, the consensus is that the fashion trends that will triumph through this time of adversity are comfort, frugality and sustainability. But let's not forget that fashion trends also reflect our innermost desires. With the current enforced lock-down & the cancelling of vacations, parties and special events, surely once this is all over consumers will choose fashion as a means to celebrate life once more. Just as 1920's fashion, coming after the global devastation of the First World War, combined utility with joie de vivre; so perhaps once life slowly returns to normal, the 2020's will mark a period of flamboyance in fashion once more.

Written by: Amber Domenech Patey

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