Kayla Marci

June 17, 2020

5 post-coronavirus fashion trends to have on your radar

As customer needs evolve, we unpack the essential product and lifestyle trends to know for the future plus key learnings from the pandemic.

As the world reopens, customers are shedding their well-worn sweatpants, donning a face mask and emerging from their isolation cocoons to tackle the second (hopefully easier!) half of 2020. As their needs evolve, what trends do retailers need to offer moving forward? 

After months of covering the impact of coronavirus on the retail landscape, our Analyst team pinpoints where demand in fashion currently lies and the direction it will take post-pandemic. 

The decisions retailers make during this time will be crucial to their survival in the new era of retail. Find out how you can use EDITED to back up your strategy with the power of market intelligence.

The need for nostalgia

Nostalgic fashion can be used as a form of escapism as consumers face global issues including the pandemic, recession and civil unrest.

In the 70s, we saw a big shift in politics and culture – drawing parallels with the current climate. Elements such as earth tones, relaxed denim silhouettes and platform shoes evoke nostalgia while being wearable enough for every day. Combined with its prominent influence on the runway, this is one of the most commercial decades to bank on post-lockdown. 

Additionally, the return of sporting events will fuel nostalgia in menswear, reigniting interest in retro items such as tracksuits, polo shirts and color-blocking. Bookmark these looks for fall with the return of the NFL and tailgating season, or draw on the 90s influences seen in Michael Jordan’s The Last Dance docuseries to promote this trend.

PPE goes mainstream

At the start of the pandemic, retailers pivoted their supply chains to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for front line workers. As lockdown measures ease and hygiene remains front of mind, this category has become an area of investment in the post-coronavirus world.  

Already popular in Asia due to the influence of streetwear combined with pollution concerns, coronavirus has transformed the face mask in the Western world as the unexpected accessory of 2020. With some countries requiring face coverings to be worn in public, non-medical masks have become a hot category to invest in now and in the future. Colored and printed masks, particularly for childrenswear, are becoming more commonplace, as well as licensed designs from musicians. Trends will continue to evolve as these become an everyday accessory with a return to school, work and public events (keep in mind for festival season). 

Post-pandemic, there will be a rise in demand for antibacterial fabrics and finishes, particularly for sports and outdoor gear. Look to Uniqlo for best practices, that have been using antibac finishes on its Dry Ex activewear and Heattech lines since 2011. 

While there is room for opportunity in this space, keep this trend’s origins in mind. Be sure to keep any slogans and graphics in good taste and continue to support associated charities.

The ‘homewear’ wardrobe

The question every retailer wants to know, is loungewear over? The short answer is no, but it is evolving as consumers transition out of lockdown. With 25-30% of the US workforce estimated to start working from home several days a week by the end of 2021, comfortable fabrics and casual dressing will be favored as part of the new way of working.

Additionally, the high levels of unemployment post-COVID will see consumers spending less money and more time at home, contributing to the rise of the ‘homewear’ wardrobe. For women this can be curated through roomy throw-on dresses in easy-to-wash fabrics, luxury pajamas, non-wired underwear and house shoes. 

For menswear, look to promote lightweight fabrics such as linen and organic cotton, knitted polos or short-sleeved shirts, as well as short sets as an alternative to sweatpants and hoodies. With the changing seasons and consumers venturing outdoors, loungewear will need to elevate to leisurewear. Promote outfits that can be worn both on the couch and to meet friends (at a distance) in the park.

A return to minimalism

When people fell on hard times after the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, excessive trends such as maximalism and bold logos came to be considered bad taste and fell out of favor. Pre-COVID, minimalism was already poised for a comeback, with Daniel Lee’s appointment at Bottega Veneta and the success of Scandi Style dressing propelling a simpler, cleaner aesthetic back in focus.  

Less reliant on flash-in-the-pan trends, minimalism complements sustainability through the purchasing of timeless investment pieces. As customers may have less disposable income, look to offer classic staples with longevity such as well-cut blazers, slip dresses, quality tees and high-waisted jeans.

The kindness economy 

From #MeToo to the Black Lives Matter movement, retailers have been lending their voices and platforms more to social causes

As retailers rose to support those affected by COVID-19, the concept of the ‘kindness economy’ – where consumers are now more alert to how businesses are treating their workers and the planet – was coined. 

More than a trend, it’s a shift in mindset that will continue to develop post-coronavirus. With retailers waking up to racial injustice, authenticity and transparency to social causes are paramount and brands need to go beyond posting about it to upholding the measures they’ve publicly set to drive real and positive change.

As the kindness economy grows, it will become more of a deciding factor for consumers to where they place their brand loyalty and hard-earned money.

Under Armour Homepage Us 16 Jun 2020
Under Armour Homepage US 16 Jun 2020

Got EDITED access? For the full roundup of post-coronavirus trends check out our reports by area

Key learnings from the pandemic

Looking back on some of the most significant takeaways from the crisis as we enter a new era of retail

Comfort dictated consumer spending 

With customers working from home, office dress codes saw a distinct shift into more casual styling with loungewear hailed as the defining trend of COVID-19. ‘Zoom Dressing’ resulted in tops outperforming the bottom categories YoY globally. On an item level, sell outs moved away from formal styles and into snuggly T-shirts, hoodies and sweatpants. Also, the closure of gyms paired with the influx of virtual workouts boosted demand for activewear.

Further reading:

Retailers used this time to course-correct 

COVID-19 gave the fashion industry time to reflect and kicked off conversations around reimagining traditional industry processes for a more sustainable future. A reset has been called for designers to show collections twice a year, allowing trends to land closer to the season to optimize sell outs and preserve margins. The environment saw some benefits from the pandemic as the industry slowed down, where physical fashion weeks were replaced digitally and the flood of weekly fast fashion arrivals dropped as the virus impacted supply chains. 

Further reading:

Discounting was wider, rather than deeper 

With stores closed, one of the biggest questions online retailers were faced with was whether to deepen reductions to drive sales or hold back to preserve margins. While every brand differs, our data confirmed regions hit hardest by the pandemic early on, such as Spain and Italy, were discounting more aggressively compared to the UK and US, which were more cautious. Strategies shifted throughout the pandemic, yet a key pattern emerged. The majority of regions opted to mark down more items than last year to help move stock when consumer confidence was low while heavy reductions were avoided to help products retain value. This strategy continues to be used in the wake of a global recession.

Further reading:

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