How one year of the COVID-19 pandemic has permanently changed the fashion landscape
2020 will be remembered for many things ahead of fashion. After all, it will forever be the year in which a global pandemic changed the course of life as we know it.
However, the pandemic year, with retail shuttered for months at a time and many of us living our lives largely at home, has impacted how we dress and how we want to shop. Here are some of the behavioural changes to look out for as we emerge from lockdown in the UK in the run-up to summer 2021.
Go big – even if you’re still at home
(Credit Greg Williams Photography)
In the midst of awards season, anyone taking their cues from celebrities would see that after a year of living in sweats and PJs, the rest of 2021 is about making heads turn. Maximalist clothing and jewellery and brightly coloured accessories are ways we can celebrate with fashion post-lockdown.
You’ll notice most celebrities are dressing to the nines – even for virtual red carpets – dripping in diamonds and rocking “look-at-me” frocks (for example, see Gillian Anderson at the 27th Annual Screen Actor’s Guild Awards, photographed by Greg Williams Photography, in over 44 carats of Chopard diamonds with her Dolce & Gabbana frock).
We can understand the sentiment: whether we have a postponed wedding we can finally attend in person or are heading back to an office that isn’t in our kitchen, dressing up has a renewed sense of excitement. The question is: will we still be able to walk in heels?
Social shopping apps are here to stay
During lockdown, there has been an enormous online selling boom, with secondhand marketplaces like Depop and Vinted going from strength to strength (in fact, Depop traffic is up 200% year on year). These apps have myriad benefits for users: connecting with like-minded folk, the chance to snag a coveted clothing item without contributing to landfill waste since each purchase is secondhand, and the opportunity to declutter. There’s even the incentive to make some quick cash and generate a passive income.
The need for connection, especially after months of being kept apart from friends and loved ones, is continuing to inform our sartorial choices. Just look at the rise of luxury fashion in gaming, which not only appeals to an entirely new demographic but also provides users with a sense of community and connection, no matter where they happen to be.
In fact, we’ve noticed a number of recently launched apps that combine sustainability with socialising. There are new secondhand kids’ clothing marketplaces like Kids O’Clock and new social sharing, styling and selling apps, like Little Black Door. LBD lets you upload your wardrobe – think Cher in the first scene of Clueless – while offering a sustainable way to keep up with the latest trends, as well as sharing and selling your items.
“Unsurprisingly, lockdown has created demand for more high-purpose lifestyle wear with multi-wear appeal, but has also seen their user base show purchase power for brands that have strong sustainable intentions,” says Marina Pengilly, founder and CMO at LBD app. “In the last months, Pangaia’s recycled sweats and Prada’s Re-Nylon range have jumped into LBD wardrobe collections.”
The rise of rental
Did you know that resale and vintage is growing at a 25% faster rate than retail is? If you’ve opened up a magazine the past couple of months, chances are you’ve seen fashion spreads featuring rented clothes from platforms like Rotaro, Hurr Collective and By Rotation.
My Wardrobe HQ is a popular destination for anyone looking to rent designer gear from labels like Gucci and Chanel, or even kids’ designer clothing for a special occasion or ski trip. You can also buy secondhand items, or pieces you’ve rented and fallen for, from the site.
Lockdown has amped up sustainability concerns for shoppers, who have become increasingly aware of just how much they own but don’t wear, as well as how damaging the fast fashion mentality can be. Rental has become the go-to option for film and TV crews, as well as brides-to-be. My Wardrobe has seen a growth of more than 600% in the bridal market in 2020, a trend they anticipate will stay strong.
It is likely that consumer rental will pick up pace once again as we start getting back into socialising, working in offices/shared spaces and dining out. Rental clothes are sanitised and cleaned so thoroughly that they’re more hygienic than anything you’ll pick up on a shop floor. Watch. This. Space.
Secondhand is the (only) way forward
A recent report from thredUP has revealed that resale is set to hit $64 billion in the next five years, with online secondhand projected to grow even as the rest of retail shrinks.
UK vintage retailer Cloak Vintage looked at Google Trends data and found that shoppers are increasingly looking for nostalgic, retro pieces, perhaps inspired by TV shows like It’s A Sin and The Serpent. The term “vintage shirts” went up 94% on Google searches in December, and 50% in March, while “80s sweater” was a super popular term the final week of February. This translates into sales – Cloak Vintage had a 134% increase in revenue and an 80% increase in traffic these past few months. Will you be charity or vintage shopping once lockdown ends?
The back to work wardrobe
It’s been a while since many of us have gone to the office, and the general feeling is one of unbridled excitement – it’s been a year, after all – for the impending return to a more social workspace (or at least one that doesn’t feature an ever-growing pile of laundry next to us). New research from collaborative co-working space The Office Group (TOG), which has just launched its newest outpost, Liberty House, opposite London’s iconic department store, discovered that 54% of people think their perception of workwear has changed for good as a result of the pandemic.
That doesn’t mean they don’t want to shop – 59% of women surveyed said they wanted to refresh their office wardrobes, but the vibe now is much more “smart casual” rather than formal. The study found that people are planning to spend around £200 on new threads ahead of going back to work.
Of course, workplace wardrobe trends reflect our larger workplace needs, and hybrid working is set to become the norm. 62% of those surveyed by TOG said they plan to mix home and office working in the future.