The seemingly undefeatable fashion industry was dealt a heavy blow given the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. This shock to the industry left many fashion brands scrambling to adjust to the new way of work. Safe to say, it’s been a whirlwind of change in the last 12 months. Here, we take a deep dive into the various changes the industry underwent and showcase its resilience during a precarious period.
Comfort is king
Since Q1 of last year, we found ourselves working, exercising and socialising from our lounges. We were confined to our living spaces for long periods of time, so this challenge informed our dress sense.
Gone are the days of ironing a different blouse every day, or having to change into something more comfortable after the clock strikes five, comfort reigns no matter the time of day - and the fashion industry agrees. Enter: loungewear. Big names like Balenciaga, Burberry and Tom Ford all embraced this new trend and showed us their takes on the trend on the spring/ summer 2020 runway.
READ MORE | Style crush: Ayanda Ncwane
Closer to home, South Africans are loving loungewear too, says Rob Noble, COO of value fashion etailer RunwaySale.
“We saw a 98% jump in sales in activewear items. Popular items in 2020 included tights, yoga pants and hoodies," Noble says. “Although people are slowly returning to ‘normal life’, we think the comfort trend may stick around for a little while longer."
The consciousness movement expands far beyond the price point and now extends to employee wellness and environmental footprints of the companies they purchase from.
Gateways to purchasing freedom
South Africans didn’t exactly take to online shopping with enthusiasm as a duck would to water. Over recent years, it’s been a rather slow burn for the country, with a few giants leading the pack. This of course changed greatly with the onset of 2020, as a significant 40% boost was seen in monthly online purchases, leaving retailers ready to welcome in new customers from behind their screens.
While not everyone has a bulky disposable income to support a weekly clothing haul, local shoppers are now afforded more payment options, making shopping more accessible to all. Companies like PayFlex have made this possible on our shores, as the platform gives customers more freedom to decide how they want to spend their hard earned money.
You can sit with us!
Another great change in fashion has been the long overdue inclusion of more plus size clothing options. In the past, plus size shoppers were not afforded much variety, and had the option of only visiting a few stores from which to make their purchases. This positively changed in the last year, with brands like H&M launching their Curvy Fit denims, and Ackermans broadening their size range to include more shoppers.
With body positivity loudly stating its cause, the industry was forced to sit up and take note of its approach to inclusivity. Thanks to bold influencers such as US singer Lizzo, fashion has become accessible to millions of plus size customers eager to grab their hands on trendy items which fit just right.
We are more than likely in for another year of change in the industry, but, it’s great to see the sector shape-shifting to make room for the consumer prioritising their needs over what works for a rigidly perceived institution.