Fashion is a market that thrives on evolution. Every season, we explore a new trend, influenced by ever-changing pop culture, runway design and brand marketing. The fashion industry is equipped to deal with fast paced universal change.

Although, I am not so sure they had anticipated a global pandemic that would overturn the world. 

COVID-19 was completely unprecedented (a word we hear all too much, I know, I know), hijacking the fashion industry in a matter of weeks. Many retailers struggled to sustain their business, resulting in a decline in revenue, staff layoffs and company closures.

We often hear the term ‘we are worlds apart’ being used to describe the differences between cultures and countries. Depending on where you are in the world, fashion is different. This is due to diverse trends, lifestyles and inspirations. It could be argued that this is no longer the case and for the first time ever, the world has never been so comparable.

Thanks to mandatory lockdown which strained to all corners of the world, our new daily routines are surprisingly similar. We are all staying at home, working remotely and finding ways and means to entertain ourselves in our free time (which there is noticeably a lot more of… so long social life). 

Although this situation is far from ideal, I think it is extremely important that we realise how lucky we are to have social media, allowing us to remain together, in a time when it is so important to remain apart. Not only does social media help us to keep in touch with our families and friends, it allows us to connect and share our experience worldwide. The pandemic has evolved consumer behaviour considerably, leading to unique global trends that suit our new ‘at home’ lifestyles.

Have you baked banana bread, learned Tik-Tok dances or completed a Chloe Ting workout?

No? Why lie? Of course you have.

The fashion industry has particularly benefited from this ‘global connection’ and has found itself amongst some of the most popular lockdown trends. In order to maintain sales, it is important that fashion companies place a high focus on monitoring these trends, evolving their brand to suit the demand.

Quick-thinking companies jumped at the opportunity to transform their brand into COVID-19 Chic. With the world now working from home, gone were the days of office dress codes, smart shoes and warm coats. The trend of 2020 quickly became driven by comfort dictated consumer spending, with loungewear coming out on top, with the slight exception of a smart shirt for a zoom meeting.

MODELS AT HOME

An area that was hugely impacted for the fashion industry was modelling opportunities. E-commerce fashion brands rely on models and clothing shoots to advertise their pieces online. Regrettably, like everything else, this could not happen, as these shoots involve a huge entourage of professionals in a studio to get the perfect shot.

Fashion brands have had to once again get creative, asking their models to style their new-in looks at home. This strategy proved very effective for brands, especially ASOS who have launched their ‘Models at Home’ campaign. Seeing clothes being styled at home by models of all different shapes and sizes, allows consumers an insight never seen before.

This ‘Models at Home’ strategy has created a refreshing change, removing the robotic, studio environment, allowing consumers to see how ‘normal’ people style outfits in their own environment.

FACE COVERINGS

Face coverings have quickly become an essential accessory during this crisis and in some cases have been a lifeline for fashion companies. The demand for face coverings was immediately colossal, becoming a wardrobe staple overnight.

Brands have been quick to avail of this demand, creating fashionable masks to allow consumers to replace their disposable, unflattering versions with trendy and exciting creations.

This trend was valuable for fashion brands in several ways. It has created a new design path to go down, generating product sales to make up for those that they will have lost. It has also created a demand for work within companies, saving jobs and creating new trends.

Face coverings have created a new way for fashion brands to increase their sustainability, allowing them to use their material offcuts, reducing waste. This is beneficial for their environmental reputation, something that often has negative connotations for fashion companies.

These companies can create positive media exposure for their brand by utilising the sustainable approach and showcasing this on social media. This will benefit them in several ways, promoting their desire to contribute to the fight against COVID-19 and creating an effective sustainability PR campaign, presenting their drive to increase sustainability within the fashion industry.

Social media influencers have embraced the fashionable face coverings. With lockdown restrictions easing slightly, there is a desire to dress up when we are finally getting out and about again. To keep up with this evolving trend, it is important that fashion brands not only create pretty face coverings but also create co-ordinating versions, to allow consumers to match with their clothing. This links with the sustainable approach, using patterned offcuts as well as generating further sales.

Matching your mask to your dress? That’s so fetch.

LOUNGEWEAR

A ground-breaking trend during lockdown has been loungewear. Wardrobes once overcrowded with uncomfortable jeans and stiff blazers are now significantly softer, showcasing comfortable, yet respectable transitional pieces. Although we were all advised to ‘stick to our work routine’ when at home, I think we can all agree that the work uniform was the first thing to go.

The demand for loungewear had already increased pre-lockdown, with social media influencers showing off their casual outfits of the day (#OOTD) for their workout routines and online meetings. It could be argued that many influencers already lived that ‘Working from Home’ lifestyle due to their workload being predominantly online.

However, this could not have prepared the fashion industry for the immense appeal for matching gym sets and velour tracksuit bottoms. Like all of us, fashion companies were unsure how long this pandemic would last and therefore did not know the longevity of demand for loungewear. It was important for brands to create something that would be comfortable yet functional and versatile, ensuring the pieces could be used both lounging at home but also could be dressed up for a socially distanced lunch date in town. 

Brands such as ASOS, Pretty Little Thing and Topshop utilised the ‘comfortable yet functional’ ideology when creating their loungewear pieces, ensuring they looked stylish, steering clear of the dreaded ‘is that loungewear or pyjamas?’ question.

With most of the world working from home, it can be agreed that the office dress code has been long forgotten. This begs the question, ‘will it ever return?’ After spending months curled up on the sofa with our laptop, in our cosy, yet oh so stylish loungewear, will we be itching to get back into our blazers for a sense of normality, or have our priorities permanently shifted?

The fashion industry has so far excelled throughout the pandemic, adapting to a huge change in trends, assisting in the making of personal protective equipment (PPE), maintaining a presence on social media, without the help of fashion shows/runways and using their imagination in order to fulfil tasks.

At this stage, we cannot be sure when this will all come to an end but one thing, we can be sure of is… WE HAVE CHANGED.

Will we ever return to our office uniform?

Will we ever put ourselves through the torture of high heels in a nightclub again?

Will face coverings ever go away?

Who knows?

But one thing is certain, COVID-19 has changed the fashion industry forever and companies have evolved their brand to suit demand.

Ellen Turbett is a final year BSc Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram and LinkedIn.

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