We had a chat with Ali, our Designer and Director, about the impact of COVID on the womenswear fashion market. Over to Ali
The biggest opportunity I see is that it has spotlighted the importance of origin and quality in every aspect of our shopping habits and that’s a positive I am going to focus on.
My comments are fashion based, but in reality are just as relevant for other product types too.
Personally, I’m grateful for the time this pandemic has given me to really evaluate my brand, but as it all enfolded, I admit that finding a rainbow was hard. I’m considering this experience as a great disruption to the status quo, and that change can bring about some positives to our business, and the fashion industry on the whole. I’m actually quite excited to see how the new normal will look.
The season launches of fashion have always been out of kilter with the weather patterns. People don’t buy in advance anymore. “Buy now, wear now” is how they choose to shop.
As a brand, we have been offering trans-seasonal product for a while but would have always preferred to have been able to launch Autumn at Easter, Winter in May, Spring in August and Summer in October.
For the first time our customers, due to the two month lockdown, will be coming to purchase from within a store at the correct weather time. All labels have been needing this shift to happen, but no one brand could do it alone. Worldwide, across all levels, we will see a permanent shift in drops of new styles and that will benefit consumers too - but not those that like to sale shop!
We are stronger together
I’ve felt a wonderful sense of camaraderie within the fashion community as we’ve all tried to navigate our way through this unprecedented crisis. Wherever a brand pitches itself, we have all had similar issues to deal with (dramatic loss of sales, excess stock, the season timeline and a reluctance to jump ahead) and it’s been great to see the support across the board. I hope that continues, as we really are a stronger industry when working together.
Expect some collaborative projects from Philosophy going forward as I’m very keen for this to be part of my brand's identity. We’ve always been a family label, and now I’d like that to extend that further.
Personal interaction is something most have missed during lockdown, and I believe we will crave more connection in everything we do going forward. All brands will amplify their personal identity, and consumers will crave more individuality in their goods and uniqueness in the stores in which they shop.
People support people. Boutiques and brands will be highlighting their point of difference, and have a persona or ambassador that represents them to their tribe. Authenticity is a trait we are all drawn to, and consumers want to feel an attachment to their purchases, and engage with the story of the brand. They won’t favour soulless companies for a cheap product anymore.
Australia has the unique position in being an island that we can keep our borders closed, and become self-reliant. For too long, every country worldwide has looked to China for the availability of raw and finished goods, and have done so at the detriment of their own economies, manufacturing capabilities and the state of our world’s natural resources.
We now have the opportunity as a nation to become self-sufficient again. We have the skills, mills and factories and can generate a production boom if we guide the mindset of buying Australian Made and promoting the benefits of that.
We are more aware then ever of our own suburbs and we are staying closer to home. This means that independent boutiques will feel like a safer shopping experience, than the alternative at the mall. Customers will support their local stores, and want their suburbs to survive. Noone wants unoccupied stores on their high street.
Large shopping centres will suffer as brands will pull away from big overheads and consumers will be wary of their safety in such vast and contained spaces. Big is not better, and this will have a positive impact on smaller bijou shopping areas, and we will see new style hubs evolve. I think we will see more pop ups or marketplace retail outlets too, and that these shops will be a hybrid of product and more lifestyle driven.
Now more than ever a digital footprint is imperative. If a customer can’t interact with you from the safety of her home, she will look elsewhere. Brands need to be visible and available 24/7, offer impeccable service, and, once again, a point of difference.
Stylists and Designers will interact in new ways too, and we will see changes in how products are marketed. We shop from our phones and need quick bite size tidbits to entice us to add to cart. Platforms like Tik Tok and IGTV have already proved successful as a way of presentation.
The concept of the Zoom meeting, which everyone seems to have adapted to with ease, will have an effect on how we dress. Business up top, comfy below is a trick I’ve been using. Ratio wise, it’s a universal point that brands sell five times as many tops to bottoms, so brands might have to change up their product mix to accommodate an even bigger percentage of “nice tops” in their offer.
There will be a mind shift and consumer drive towards quality over quantity. Most families I know have taken this opportunity to revaluate all of their stuff. Marie Kondo is right, keep only the things that spark joy. Over crammed wardrobes and households don’t create a sense of calm and happiness.
Value, not dollar, therefore will be an important factor when choosing to purchase. Quality lasts and the concept of throw away will be deemed socially inappropriate. Sustainable and ethically produced goods will be coveted, as customers will want to feel good about their consumerism. Brands will market and build on their credentials in this area. For us at Philosophy, our couture rather than line manufacture is something we will promote, along with our ethical culture and Australian heritage.
A new generation of designers and creators will emerge, as the focus heads towards quality over quantity, offering more artisan, original and authentic pieces rather than mass produced goods. I think there will be lots of interest in education in these areas too, as sideline crafts can become sources of income and originality becomes valuable again.
The more the merrier in terms of product choice. I never feel another brand is competition and always will champion and assist where I can the upcoming designers.
I love mentoring too, so if there are any budding designers out there, please get in touch if you think I can help.
Employment + style
As every company worldwide went into some form of a remote working practice, and have managed it successfully, I think this will greatly affect how and when we all work forever now. A big proportion of every woman’s wardrobe is about clothing for her every day, and with less working corporately there will be a drop in tailoring and growth in comfort dressing, which we have already seen kick in. Easy wear, easy care, wear anywhere has always been our brand motto, and is one I think more brands will adopt the concept of. Pieces that can be dressed up, dressed down and worn in a multitude of combinations will always be a winner.
With the closures of most entertainment and events still in place, we will not have customers rushing out for a “wedding guest outfit” and as they will be more wary of expense, I think there will be a shift away from dresses towards coordinates as it gives more flexibility and longevity in styling.
Stylists have a real opportunity now to help people maximise the potential of the pieces that they already own; creating your own look will feel more important as we all want to express a better sense of individuality and creativity.
As to face masks, if you are not wearing a medical grade one you might as well just wear a scarf around your face. I do feel though that extended collars, hoods and an awareness of the potential to cover your face will be in consumers’ minds when out and about.
After a considerable period of time in isolation, families are ensuring their homes feel less like a house and more like a home. Just as they consider their wardrobes our customers will focus on their environment too, and once again will do so thinking quality.
Many fashion labels will add a homewares element, or vice versa. Brands will want to be fluid in terms of their product mix and therefore destination lifestyle stores will become popular.
We have seen images of improvement to our climate, that have come about purely from a reduction in mass travel, mass production, and a “slowing” of pace; Mother Nature has shown that she needed this. I know I am thinking more about our company’s environmental footprint than ever, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.
This relates to origin again, as freight prices are already skyrocketing and locally produced pieces will become more tangible as alternatives. Recycled fabrics have been in development for a while, and even in the last month I’ve been presented with more and more options.
Recycle, Repurpose and Recreate will be words to consider when designing.
Ali says she’d love to hear your opinions too, so please drop us a comment and let us know how you think fashion will change!