It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic rocked the fashion industry. From Fashion Weeks across the globe going virtual to nightmarish supply chain backups, the possibility that fashion might never quite reach its former level of majesty was all too real. Now, over a year into the pandemic, the recovery process is ongoing; but the lasting effects may not all be as bad as they seem.
Last month, New York Fashion Week formally reopened with live runway shows for the first time since the start of the pandemic. Despite the noticeably smaller events and toned-down festivities, the excitement in the air was palpable enough to make up for it. Designers displayed their collections in front of limited capacity audiences of vaccinated-only spectators. The Delta variant’s looming presence was visible, for all intents and purposes, it seemed that fashion was back to normal.
The landscape of the fashion industry does bear marks of alteration from the pandemic. E-commerce was transformed for one obvious reason; the extended time spent indoors on personal devices. This caused a strong online presence to rise from being a benefit to the fashion industry to a necessity. After spending so much time relying on these platforms, odds are many consumers will choose to remain loyal to their online shopping habits.
Brick-and-mortar retail has been on a steady incline towards its pre-pandemic state. In-store buying habits are on the rise as the population ventures into society once again. Consumer spending has seen a significant spike in the past few months, particularly in office wear or ‘going-out’ attire. With softened restrictions and long overdue vacation plans, resort wear is also seeing an upsurge. Over a year spent in athleisure has made the longing for new trends, and the prevalence of profound fashion statements, paramount.
Consumers are excited at the prospect of having public arenas for which to dress. Many are holding the clothing they wear to a newly heightened level of importance. Purchase decisions are being made with more significant deliberation. Many are reevaluating the statements they wish to make with the pieces they wear, rather than seeking out disposability and high quantities.
This is visible amongst high fashion designers as well. Last fall, earth tones and neutral colors trickled down from runways to fast fashion shelves. As appreciation for the Earth infiltrated trends; the ‘cottage core’ craze undoubtedly factored into this. Rather than allowing fashion to dip into a realm of passionless-ness and detached nihilism, the industry created a whimsical world. One where we could all surround ourselves with the serene escape of nature.
Fashion Week showcased Spring 2022 collections that are highlighted by the use of bright colors and whimsical patterns. Undoubtedly, this was motivated by the decline of the pandemic. The masses are desirous of promoting their newfound liberation. What better way than to use their clothing as a vessel? These new approaches are the ways in which fashion’s return to ‘normal’ is an introduction into the industry’s ‘new normal.’
The current relationship that many individuals have with fashion is much stronger than prior to the pandemic. The absence of any avenues for expression have called for a higher appreciation. Even when considering the rise of certain trends like cottage core, there is a clear basis and deeper meaning behind what people are choosing to wear. A newfound optimism has permeated the industry.
While the pandemic was in full force, it seemed impossible to predict what would or would not be trendy once the world reverted to normalcy; at times, it was difficult to even predict what the next day would look like. The only option for brands was to appeal to what consumers were hoping for: peace, happiness, security.
Last Fall, Spring 2021 Fashion Weeks were decorated with the presence of cozy knitwear, joyous color palettes, and the sentiment of comfort. Brands like Rodarte and Valentino made use of vibrant prints, while large, cozy silhouettes were present in the works of Fendi and Louis Vuitton. In an industry that often seems shrouded in esotericism, the level of worldwide relatability was astounding.
Fashion has always been a cultural mirror. Taking note of the current zeitgeist and reflecting it back to consumers in abstract, beautiful ways. The general public has taken advantage of this, accepting what is marketed as trendy and ignoring what inspired its creation. The pandemic, however, has changed this. Such demoralizing times have been a reminder that art is something to be admired. Now that we have all seen what a world lacking in beauty and joy looks like, there is a determination to ensure we never have to experience it ever again. Fashion may not be ‘back to normal,’ but surprisingly, it may not bad thing.