It's been quite a year thus far. Fashion is not exactly at the fore of everyone's mind right now, or at least not in the way we are used to. This moment in history is wiping the slate clean for an innovative, regenerative and revolutionary redesign of fashion.
STORE CLOSING FRENZY Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, store closures were at an all-time high, with close to 10,000 retail store closures in 2019, most of whom were fashion retailers. The pandemic hit brick-and-mortar, well, like a ton of bricks. Stores closed up shop for months during lockdown and the already-digitally-savvy shoppers became even more comfortable buying online, or holding back on discretionary purchases altogether.
Late-to-the party brands and retailers who had not previously built robust e-commerce channels paid the price. Without the safety net of virtual shopping in place, traditional and slow-to-evolve brands faded away in a blink. Even digitally native brands are facing new challenges, but their ability to continue operating during lockdown underscores the importance of the digital shopping experience.
WFH AS WINNING APPAREL CATEGORY As the global workforce adjusted to no commute, video conferences and blurred work/personal boundaries, the pressures of looking chic and on-trend fizzled away. With consumers in survival mode, amidst a pandemic and racial justice uprising spurred by the murder of George Floyd, fashion sank in importance and priority.
The athleisure category, which was already on the up-and-up, morphed into workleisure, or "work-from-home" fashion. Comfortable, stretchy joggers, tees, easy jackets and cardigans that could be thrown over-- let's face it-- a pajama top... these became the elements of the new work uniform. Will we ever go back to the office full-time? Quite possibly, but these months at home have given us time to perfect a polished-yet-cozy look that is likely here to stay.
FASHION'S NEWEST ACCESSORY: MASKS Nearly every company that could begin making PPE after there was a shortage did so. Now that there is consensus on face coverings for the general public, nearly all brands are mass producing this new necessity. In mid-March, there were a few DIY mask patterns circulating online and people were crafting their own. By June, masks became a ubiquitous fashion staple with every brand and retailer grabbing their share of the pie.
The upside, aside from preventing the spread of COVID-19, is that fabric masks can be worn and washed again and again and are less harmful to the environment than disposable alternatives. Our advise is to make sure any mask you choose has a close fit and is made of 100% organic cotton, for your health and the greater good.
BLM, ANTI-RACISM & ACTIVISM The Black Lives Matter movement picked up steam after several back-to-back events in the beginning of 2020: Breonna Taylor and George Floyd's murders by police and Amy Cooper's dangerous and racist 911 call. The protests have not slowed as Americans take in the truth behind our country's history. Individuals and businesses are being called out for upholding white supremacy. Within fashion companies, employees are speaking up to reveal systemic racism within the industry, not to mention the lack of representation both in marketing and internal leadership roles.
Activism within fashion has been realized by the #pulluporshutup, #15percentpledge, & #payup movements. The result is that the fashion industry is beginning to acknowledge an unacceptable status quo and that we have a lot of listening and unlearning to do. Will the power-hungry Miranda Priestlys of fashion step aside to make space for Black voices? Will the conversation convert to action beyond 2020? Will brands hold themselves accountable for the suffering and inequality they've perpetuated? Time will tell.
RETHINKING GLOBAL TRADE It seemed like a good idea at the time. You know, weaving up long and complicated supply chains around the world, forever finding the fastest supplier at the lowest price. And then COVID knocked the wind out of globalization's sails. Everyone closed up shop. Everyone except those deemed essential and PPE was essential. American factories were back up and running, making and delivering quickly. Meanwhile, imports were halted as factories around the world were shut down and when they reopened, continued to faced closure due to cancelled orders. Store closures and poor sales resulted in excess inventory and warehousing issues. The complexity of how the global fashion trade works became very, very apparent in the domino effect that resulted.
Will a "Made in the US" future emerge from this pandemic? At the very least, focusing on some re-shoring allows brands to be nimble in the face of global hiccups. Prior to COVID, many argued that it would take a major infrastructure overhaul to bring so many unskilled jobs back to America. With nearly half of the population out of work, the time is ripe.
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