March 2020, a month that will not be soon forgotten. After rumblings of a COVID-19 disease overseas, concern is swiftly brought to the United States as the coronavirus is classified a national emergency. The country spiraled into panic, stores depleted in minutes as people rushed to stockpile for a few weeks, or heaven forbid a whole month. As a month of quarantining turned into months, which turned into a season, which turned into the rest of the year, we were finally brought full circle as the one year anniversary rolled by some weeks ago.
Now, in April of 2021, over a year into social distancing and wearing masks, we are on the precipice of positive change, but with vaccines just now becoming widely available, we are far from returning to normal. When leaving your house for a fun shopping trip became unavailable, e-commerce became front and center. Online shopping has steadily increased in popularity as it has become the most convenient option, but with the pandemic setting in, it became the safest as well.
As much as consumers spiraled at the first notions of quarantine, businesses went through a similar panic. Every industry was affected, and every business was rocked. While some industries took a major hit, others were uniquely equipped to not only survive this pandemic, but thrive in it. When looking at the big picture, it was clear that the fashion industry was positioned better than others to weather the storm.
Fashion brands have become keen on pushing the experience of shopping; creating a unique atmosphere to lure shoppers towards brick-and-mortar stores. This was often done to combat shoppers from only looking online, and come interact with the brand in person. However, the lockdowns leaving consumers at home has forced brands to focus on where their customers were already drawn. Perhaps the fashion industry in particular was positioned better than others to handle the lifestyle shifts that COVID has brought, but that doesn’t mean it has been unscathed. Over a year later, it is time to take a look at how the fashion industry has been doing, and what changes the pandemic has caused, both good and bad.
Looking at the trends for 2021, it is easy to tell COVID has had an impact on the fashion of today. Loungewear has become one of the biggest focuses of the last year, since most are now spending the day-to- day and milestones trapped at home. People don’t want to sacrifice style, but they definitely want to be comfortable, which means sweats have been more popular than ever. The industry has leaned in, brands from low-budget to luxury putting out comfy, casual clothes of their own. Fashion has embraced the oversized silhouette and knits, since that is what the customer is craving at the moment. (JET NOIRE itself is also catering towards the loungewear trend with the new CANNES collection that will continue to provide you stylish, cozy pieces in the weeks to come…)
While some brands have adapted to the new demands, many have closed their doors. Heavy hitters from all price points have seen devastation during the pandemic, Neiman Marcus, J. Crew, and JCPenney to name a few that filed for bankruptcy in 2020. Higher end brands that cater towards those with disposable income saw a massive increase in traffic as their primary consumer base was now stuck at home with boredom setting in. What would normally be a blessing quickly turned into a curse as increased traffic pushed many brands beyond their limits. People stuck at home to buy, also meant the people who made the clothes were stuck at home. Lockdowns majorly impacted the supply chain, production coming to a standstill, and leaving brands unable to keep up with the demand.
On the other hand, consumers that were struggling with financial and job security were not sitting at home online shopping their days away, rather the opposite. Brands that cater to a lower price point were losing money as their target audience prioritized essential purchases over apparel. Money being tight means it was spent on groceries and toiletries, the essentials to live instead of updating one’s wardrobe for Spring. Even when new clothes were being bought, money was not being spent at larger corporations. Seeing the devastation caused to smaller retailers, there was a huge surge to #ShopLocal, consumers wanting to spend their limited funds at the places they truly wished to support.
Amidst these hard lessons fashion brands are learning, a much needed change is happening - the push for sustainability. After production stand stills and lack of resources, it has become apparent that apparel cannot continue if this is the future norm. This has forced brands to seriously consider sustainable and ethical practices, to make their clothing last and ensure every step of the production is treated well enough to continue the job. Circular fashion has become the next big thing - eliminating waste, recycling used materials, and providing an experience beyond the purchase with offers to trade, resell, and repair garments with the company. Consumers don’t have the resources themselves to spend money on new clothes every season, so they need garments that will stand the test of time. Furthermore, the national trauma experienced has made consumers on the whole more conscious of where they spend their money. Combined with a tenuous social climate, customers are looking to invest their money in clothing from brands that meet their values.
Something so monumental has disrupted the fashion industry, and brought devastation to many brands. Increased demand combined with a supply chain in shambles is a recipe for disaster, and has sadly taken down many. This huge disruption is an opportunity to reevaluate the status quo though. Maybe this was the tough love fashion needed to advocate for more sustainable and ethical practices. The pandemic may have gotten the best of larger brands, but those that survived are taking a long, hard look at their practices. Consumers being more cognizant of where they spend their money is providing increased opportunity for small businesses and holding corporate brands accountable for their practices. In this new landscape comes the opportunity for independent brands to see a larger portion of the profits, and for the industry at large to make improvements that will let the wonderful world of fashion withstand the test of time.
JET NOIRE is one of the fortunate brands that found an opportunity in last year’s tragedy. The brand launched during the first lockdown and cannot thank all of you enough for allowing us to succeed. A year later JN is still going strong, and has no plans of going anywhere. Thank you for the support during a tumultuous year, and we are excited to form a more sustainable, and stable future together.
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