Fashion is redefined for 2021: Wear to Work
The circumstances surrounding 2020 accelerated the comfort movement that was already underway within the U.S. fashion apparel and footwear markets. While total apparel sales declined by 19% in 2020, comfy cozy categories such as sweatpants, sleepwear, and sports bras grew during a challenging period for the industry. Similarly, fashion footwear sales including heels, sandals, and boots told a similar story; while overall sales declined for the year, slippers and clogs were areas of growth.
The year saw a transition away from traditional items such as blazers, dresses, suits, heels, and more towards hybrid alternatives such as loungewear, cardigans, and loose-fitting trousers. Regardless of whether consumers adopt more permanent work-from-home routines or go back to the workplace, demand for fashion with elements of comfort will stick around for the long term. According to a survey, 70% of consumers reported that once they can return to work and other activities, they plan to dress just as or more casually than they did prior to the pandemic. Once consumers do return to pre-pandemic routines and activities, the demand will be even higher for hybrid clothing intertwining dress and comfort. Being at home has become a lifestyle in itself – for many, the center of all that we do both personally and professionally. Brands have an opportunity to capitalize on the more casual, comfort-focused features that consumers have become accustomed to wearing inside of the home and adapt for use outside of the home. With comfy clothes taking center stage for 2021, big brands must adapt to consumers’ needs without tarnishing their brand heritage and identity. Fashion footwear will see improvement once consumers start venturing out again. Pent-up demand will drive a short-term boost, but the industry needs to be prepared for a long-term shift in consumer preferences and innovate accordingly.
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