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How COVID has changed what we wear and how we shop

Ada Slivinski: Pandemic fashion may be a contradiction in terms, but it’s also an emerging trend.

2020 was the worst year on record for the fashion industry. Before that year was over, a report by the Business of Fashion website and the management consultancy firm McKinsey & Company forecasted a 90 per cent decline in profits and a 15.3 per cent fall in sales, compared with 2019.

We’ve spent the better part of two years staring at closets filled with things that seem like they’re made for another life. Dressing for Zoom meetings from home is often some sort of business on the top and sweatpants on the bottom.

In 2021, loungewear and sportswear led most of the recovery as we buckled down and settled in for even more time at home.

Those advising big brands have predicted that in 2022, more dollars would be going to luxury items, workwear, and fancier items for social events. But so far, just a few weeks into 2022, it doesn’t look like that trend has started. With the emergence of the Omicron variant, many brands are considering cancelling or have already cancelled their fashion shows.

So what happens now and how do we dress for what some days feels like the apocalypse? Does it really matter what we wear?

Those who have disposable income are luxury shopping at home. In years past, many of those purchases might have been made during travel abroad. But with more Canadians feeling the pinch of inflation, working from home, and staring at an empty social calendar, the industry’s safe recovery will be much slower than initially expected.

How should brands adapt? Focusing on sustainable products and local manufacturing processes, as well as timeless designs over chasing the latest trends, can help retain customer goodwill while also mitigating the impact of supply chain delays. Fast fashion brands not only have been called out for dangerous warehouse conditions and environmental impact, but their ever-changing designs are out of pace with a world that in many ways pressed the pause button.

Even magazines like Vogue are touting the benefits of going on a “fashion fast,” shopping second hand, and repairing what we already own.

Are we going back to our grandmothers’ days of repairing our own clothes and buying just a handful of new pieces each year? Probably not, but for most of us, mindless fast fashion fixes are probably gone for good. Timeless and well-made pieces are trending, with nostalgic ‘90s styles like flares and Dr. Martens making a big comeback – not coincidentally, harkening back to a time when the world felt a whole lot more normal.

Ada Slivinski is the Founder & Principal of Jam PR, a boutique agency focused on helping small businesses get big exposure. You can reach her at [email protected]