Sweatpants, leggings, slippers, Zoom shirts, wellies and padded jackets… 2020’s fashion trends highlighted the way our lives moved from office to living room and from bar to garden. But how will a new year – one more hopeful, with a post-vaccine future on the horizon – affect fashion?
As the world opens up again, fashion experts think that people will buy pieces which straddle a lifestyle under lockdown and the new normal, rather than completely overhauling their wardrobes. Morgane Le Caer, data editor at fashion search platform Lyst, thinks this has already started to happen, with loungewear still popular, alongside velvet, sequined skirts and embellished shoes – the kind of items that should be shown off beyond the laptop screen. “While demand for relaxed, comfortable pieces is not going to change anytime soon,” she says, “choosing to dress up with mood-boosting pieces in tough times is a signal of optimism and positivity.”
Buyers agree that this is a time where adaptability and flexibility are key qualities for consumers. Asos was at the heart of the home workout trend in 2020, selling 188,000 pairs of their 4505 leggings in the spring, and three million pairs of Nike trainers. Elsewhere, puffer jacket sales were up 80% on the site. Vanessa Spence, its design director, says a sports-influenced casual look will remain important to its Gen Z customers. “Loungewear blends into everyday life, offering people an outfit that will take them from sofa to supermarket,” she says. “We think there’s a real opportunity for this category to grow even further.”
For Spence, items that can be dressed up or down will win the start of 2021. “Comfort and versatility are now key requirements,” she says. “It’s easy to dress jogging bottoms up with an oversized blazer, heels and a gold chain to go out… or keep the look cosy with the matching hoodie and a pair of slippers. It’s about finding those key pieces and working them multiple ways.”
At the luxury end of the industry, Natalie Kingham, global fashion officer at matchesfashion.com, reports both “a new relaxed uniform, interspersed with sportswear-inflected pieces” and “a growing sense of optimism” where “everyday pieces from Molly Goddard jeans to Elder Statesman knitwear were uplifted with bright bursts of colour and prints”. Kingham believes this cheerier mood will grow: “We will continue to celebrate how fashion can lift the spirits and spread joy.”
The amalgam of comfort clothing and dressing up to the nines was also seen at the recent spring 2021 collections. A leotard and smart trousers and loose co-ords were seen at Bottega Veneta; dressed-up denim at Alexander McQueen; and cycling shorts and blazers at Saint Laurent. Cycling shorts look to be a hit-in-waiting – they have already been road-tested by Emily in Paris star Lily Collins. Le Caer also namechecks new brands, including Paris Georgia from New Zealand, Bulgarian Chopova Lowena and South African label Thebe Magugu as ones to watch.
Spence says that the effect of a year under lockdown meant that the growth of burgeoning trends was accelerated. “We had predicted this trend pre-Covid with the rise of streetwear,” she says. Le Caer says the acceleration has also been noticeable in how consumers buy, as well as what they buy. “We’ve seen about five years of e-commerce growth in five months,” she says.
While e-tailers like matchesfashion.com have benefited, Kingham says the business has had to look again at how it communicates with customers during a pandemic. “Normally a beautiful shoot on a beach with models interacting with each other can bring a new collection to life, but we knew this would not mirror the world we were living in,” she says. The store introduced #checkingin as a hashtag on their Instagram account, which featured “women and men who are part of our community, getting glimpses into how they were coping, their tips and recommendations”. Kingham says customers responded well.
Le Caer says a brand’s values are now part of what draws consumers: “While shopping habits have understandably shifted, we know shoppers remain attracted to powerful labels and that they are increasingly interested in brands’ sustainability and diversity credentials.”