Now, almost half way through 2020 and week 10 of staying at home for me, it is clear that our world and our normal is changing. Some states are starting to come out of lockdown, but things look different than they did before. At the start of all this, I think we collectively were holding out until things could “go back to normal”.
Now, the consensus seems to be that our “normal” won’t ever be the same as it used to be. Despite the slow of our economy, changes that were starting to take place before COVID-19 are accelerating at full speed in all industries – including fashion. So what does that mean for your independent fashion brand? I think, in many ways, it means good things, though it may involve some growing pains.
Fashion has long been an industry caught up in the hamster wheel of its own systems and calendars. The pressure to put out more and more products on a more rapid schedule has been increasing over the last few decades. Now, for once, the industry has been forced to press pause. Now that it’s had a few weeks to recover from the dizzying spin, the fashion industry is taking a clear look at what things that were or were not working. And it is realizing that perhaps instead of going back to business as usual, we should move forward into something better.
There is talk of amending the traditional fashion week calendar to be closer to season and to allow shows and retail to align for more timely sales. This is great news for independent brands who are already in a good position to react quickly to consumer demand, because with the proposed changes, they will be able to leverage that speed to market within wholesale and show calendars more easily. More consumer-centric timelines will benefit brands across the industry.
Another trend brought to the forefront during this crisis is the increased support for shopping local and shopping small. These initiatives always had loyal supporters, but I think the average consumer is more aware and feels more responsibility for the small businesses in their local community now. The real possibility that they might lose the small business gems that they took for granted has awakened the consumer to the importance and positive impact of small business on the community. I think that independent fashion brands will find consumers overall more interested in buying from them and connecting with their mission, community, and story. This is an opportunity for independent brands to shine doing what they have always done best.
On the flip side of small business, we’ve been reading headlines for a while about malls and department stores closing doors, but for many big players, this pandemic is finally sealing the deal and shuttering their doors. What was a slow shift away from vast shopping centers and toward online and pop-up shopping is now a race in that direction. What will the future of shopping be? I see it being online with a focus on customer service and community and in person only when coupled with a meaningful experience specific to the target customer. This is a space that independent fashion brands are already leading and can continue to be trailblazers in.
With our “normal” lives having changed so much in the past few months, the clothes we need to wear will no doubt need to change with it. This doesn’t mean that people will stop buying clothes though. It just means that priorities and needs have shifted slightly. With people spending so much time at home, I think people have realized how much stuff is owned but not needed. We’ve gone back to the basics and considered what is actually important in our lives and what things we actually need to support that lifestyle.
There is a downturn in the demand for formal clothing, typical office attire, and pants in general. What has everyone been buying instead? Comfortable, functional clothing that can transition from homeschooling, to Zoom meeting, to the occasional trip to fetch groceries. People are also spending on masks and other protective clothing for themselves and their families. As an independent fashion brand, can you shift your offering to meet this shift in what customers value? I think there is a great opportunity for brands to meet these new needs in a way that is stylish and fits into your brand’s aesthetic.
Fashion, as with so many things in the world right now, is changing. The power in economies is shifting, values are changing, expectations are being revised, and consumer needs are adapting to a new normal. With this comes creative opportunity. Opportunity, creativity, and values are what independent brands are built on. So, despite all the turmoil (I know the past few months have been really hard), change in 2020 means growth toward a better future.