With millions of consumers facing a financial squeeze and an entire fashion season effectively shut down, the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the fashion industry, among many others, a real curveball. But with it may have come a retail revelation that investable or seasonless fashions could now become the new black.
Robert Lockyer, CEO and founder of Delta Global, a luxury packaging provider to prominent brands, such as Ted Baker, Coach and Tom Ford, explains in this piece why he believes the shutdown of a season has the potential to shift fashion’s focus onto tackling waste and making lines multi-seasonal, all while addressing consumers’ new needs.
And he argues that, as consumers look to refine their wardrobes with quality, stylish and perhaps more ‘lounge worthy’ lockdown garments, fashion retailers must mould more of their collections to include statement items suitable for almost any situation or season – at work, rest or play.
Building long-term relevancy
Consumer behaviours and priorities have changed under lockdown. The economy is affected badly, uncertainty is all around and people need greater value for money from their clothing.
So, with many of their competitors discounting heavily to move last season’s goods, luxury fashion houses have to respond. Their best option, I believe, is to develop a more multi-seasonal approach and longer-lasting products that meet consumers’ new, corona-adjusted expectations.
Just this month, a group of influential fashion designers and retail executives from the likes of Nordstrom and Harvey Nichols signed a petition seeking a more sensible calendar that would deliver clothing to stores in the season they can be worn. It also aimed to unify brands in a bid to ensure discounting happened at the end of the season rather than in the middle.
The move comes on the back of factories having been shut down by the pandemic and Spring 2020 collections sitting unsold. The Autumn collections are due to come out in September, just weeks before the normal calendar of discounting begins and retailers are naturally concerned about missing out on revenues, with savvy shoppers waiting that short while and not paying the full price.
Fashion should look to solve this not only by taking a collective approach and not discounting heavily mid-season but also by developing ranges that are more inter-seasonal and artisanal, providing the customer with something that not only lasts but is also handcrafted and of high quality.
Create a statement article
Consumers will naturally look to fill their wardrobes with items that are versatile across the seasons. Take Chanel’s Boy Bag, for instance. A defining element of Chanel’s collections, the bag tells the story of Coco Chanel herself using men’s underwear to make dresses and of her boyish attitude.
But, in the context of multi-seasonality, available in several sizes and in classic black means the quilted bag, with its iconic clasp, is also versatile all year round. The neutral colouring offers ‘matchability’ with almost every outfit for any occasion.
On the part of Delta Global, we believe every piece of packaging should follow suit by being sustainable or reusable and interchangeable across the seasons. It can change in its appearance but should be ready for all and any eventuality, whether that’s the weather, its functionality and reusability, communicating the brand’s identity or its suitability for posting on social media. Always consider where and how your brand will be perceived, no matter the time of year.
With MATCHESFASHION, we developed their traditional luxury marble box in various sizes and made it completely recyclable with new magnetic closures that customers could easily remove to repurpose the box in their homes or flatpack them for recycling.
Made with a water-based finish, we ensured the packaging could withstand any weather and remain luxurious in its look and feel, as ever more shoppers order online to their doors. Ribbons on packaging are also often non-recyclable, so paper-based or cotton alternatives that can be detached and recycled, make sustainability part of your statement.
Second-life fashion another saviour
With lockdown endangering some entire industries, we have seen worldwide economic disruption, not to mention job losses and financial struggles for billions. For furloughed and redundant workers, the pressure to stay busy has mounted and many have cleared out their wardrobes to keep themselves occupied.
That, in turn, has encouraged many to re-sell their old garments, with pre-loved fashion giant Vestiaire Collective noting a 44% increase in listings in the last month alone. Staples like timeless handbags and jewellery have been their fastest moving luxury pieces, reinforcing the sense that seasonless items will be in big demand.
The more cross-seasonal and timeless the item, the more likely it is that fashion houses partner with sites like this and resell older collections all year-round, rather than letting overstocked trends go ‘out of fashion’ and in the bin. We all know fashion trends are cyclical.
Consumers on the other hand can have fun changing up their wardrobes more frequently, raising funds for unwanted luxury items and enjoying someone else’s treasures at a reduced price.
The ‘treat yourself’ phenomenon
Finally, while purse strings have tightened, consumers hold the ‘treat yourself’ mentality even tighter as it lifts spirits in difficult times. But, as people may be fearful of embracing physical shopping as we unlock in the weeks ahead, that compulsion may well be most often expressed through online orders.
Fashion should look to feed that digital impulse, showing luxury pieces being used in scenarios like the home, rather than at a social function, to fit better with the COVID context.
Sweaty Betty has done this well in this regard by partnering with Fearne Cotton on her Happy Place project, in which she has honest conversations about people’s mental wellbeing and looks to find the positives.
Having a down-to-earth celebrity who sparks happiness in others describe its leggings as making her feel like ‘some sort of superhero’ will have added real value for the brand, increasing the number of people following Fearne’s example and buying a pair to lift their spirits and help their workouts.
In some respects, ‘treating yourself’ has taken on a new meaning. It’s now less about the items themselves and more to do with the feelings they evoke. Brands must acknowledge the issues faced by consumers and show how you will help them relax or find a sense of comfort. And that starts with a personalised, empathetic and efficient approach to your communications, your product and your service.
Slowly, as all of this unfolds, it is clear to me that, although we’ve lost a season of fashion, it could be a good thing and that fashion’s future might better serve us all.