2020-2021 – The Year when Comfort Became the King in Fashion

2020-2021 – The Year when Comfort Became the King in Fashion

Once upon a time, the glorious world of fashion was all about seasons, trends and glamour. It was de rigueur to skim, scout and shop for the season’s trends and styles from fashion weeks. For long our lives were defined by the trend setters, the designers, the colour forecasters and advertisers who decided what we should wear. The global pandemic changed the way we looked at fashion by 180 degrees. If you go back in time, you will realise that its only when a crisis strikes, the best things are born. For example, Coco Chanel created the most exquisite couture pieces from foraged fabrics during the first World War only to bring in a huge shift in women’s fashion from clamped corsets to comfortable silhouettes, the Spanish influenza pandemic in 1918 made surgical face masks a staple, the influenced by the political upheaval, the escapist fashion during the 1930’s and 40’s made repairing and reusing a form of creative expression.

Similarly, the ongoing crisis has undoubtedly initiated a shift in how fashion is seen and perceived across the globe. Without fashion weeks redefining our wardrobes, fashion enthusiasts are now clenching at the seams of at-home fashion as a mirror to show off their creativity with the boom in the work from home culture. The eternal debate on style and comfort became more pronounced as trends were shoved aside for the comfort.

Speaking of comfort and pandemic fashion, a simple scroll through your Instagram feed can tell you stories that revolve around the high-on-fitness athleisure wear, the soft and quirky night suits with matching face masks, dainty kaftans, colourful slippers and not to forget the experimental at-home make-up tutorials. Fashionistas are dressing up absolutely for the sake of dressing up without even heading outside. With celebrities like Kareena Kapoor Khan, Dia Mirza, Alia Bhatt, Sarah Jessica Parker and Gigi Hadid leading the way in elegant and breezy kaftans, crop tops and jogger sets, breathable cotton and mul lounge co-ord sets with matching masks paired with statement stilettoes, we can assume that the fashion industry might continue to focus on comfortable staples even after the pandemic ends.

Sharing her thoughts with us on how the pandemic changed her wardrobe as she resorted to working from home, Tejaswi Rathore, an Independent Communication Consultant based out of New Delhi mentioned, “The pandemic has changed and redefined our lives including our lifestyle, spending patterns and also what we wear. I have always been a fashion-conscious person throughout who spent a lot of time in figuring my everyday workwear. But with work from home becoming the new way of life, I realized that its difficult to get into your office wear. So I started opting for comfortable yet presentable pyjamas, t-shirts or sometimes even go for formal shirts and pair it with lazy lounge shorts or pjs. As an individual who loves to get dressed, I feel that even post pandemic whenever we switch back to our office lives again, I am going to make comfortable and relaxed clothing staples like palazzos, parallel pants and skirts a priority.”

Understanding the consumer psyche, brands and designers throughout the year placed sustainable, timeless and relaxed staples at the forefront at all the phygital and digital fashion weeks while keeping in place the high-end luxuries for a time when all’s well in paradise. Anna Wintour, Artistic Director – Condé Nast and Global Editorial Director -Vogue while putting down her thoughts on this cultural shift in fashion, shared “I think it is an opportunity for everyone to slow down, produce less, and make the world fall over in love with the creativity and passion of fashion, and maybe have less of an emphasis on things moving so quickly and emphasis always on what’s new, relevant and sustainable.” In addition to this, Trend Analyst Carl Tillessen also highlighted the nuances of pandemic fashion in an interview stating, “It is true to say that the sweatpants have enjoyed a 180-degree turn in popularity with the pandemic fundamentally altering the way we all will dress going forward. 2021 is going to be around the entire spectrum from home wear to true sports gear, and everything in between. That’s to say, pretty much anything that you can wear between the sofa and the yoga mat. Even if fashion designers across the globe choose to bring back the high heel at the same time for instance, consumers would refuse. That’s because they’ve come to appreciate the comfort of trainers, flip-flops, etc, and this is the case in many areas of fashion.”

While very few designers and brands did foresee this shift in fashion, there were designers who either launched their brands during the pandemic by taking into account what the consumers were expecting and how the demand would look like and there were others who extended their collections by foraying into sleepwear and loungewear. Pushing the luck during the draught struck fashion market, Designer Ananya Jain launched her luxury resort wear label, The Boozy Button in New Delhi. Sharing her experience with Ciceroni on how her label was greeted by the fashionistas and B-Town celebrities during the pandemic, she said “We started the boozy button in the peak time of the pandemic in 2020. At that time, the people round the world shifted their dressing needs to a more flowy, relaxed and comfortable silhouette. I captured the market with the boozy button at the right hour, with the launch of easy breezy kaftans that have truly become a celebrity favourite and a most sought-after resort wear. The kaftan market in India is growing by the day with celebrities constantly endorsing it and so is the loungewear. The journey of the brand has witnessed a growing graph, where we keep launching silhouettes and styles in lieu with the pandemic fashion.”

With parties, vacations and travel coming to a standstill, most fashion brands felt it was only fair to bring in lounge wear and sleepwear to keep up with the dwindling fashion market. When Sagrika Grover, Creative Director and Founder of Essgee, a luxury resort wear label based out of New Delhi realized consumers were scouting for functional yet comfortable staples with relaxed silhouettes to add to their work from home and lounge wardrobes, she was able to pivot them. In conversation with Ciceroni on the need for this addition, she said “Essgee was always primarily a resort wear brand with its DNA lying in comfort and luxury. The pandemic helped us getting in touch with our roots even further and hence, the lounge and sleep line was added to our signature collections with an obvious bohemian touch to it. The demand for both were extremely high but the holiday spirit of the customers did not die either. When Essgee was born we never intended to expand into lounge or sleep wear. However, today, it is considered as a staple alongside the holiday collection. We definitely will keep the lounge and sleep line continuing post pandemic because the impact of comfort wear has been a permanent one for the fashion industry.”

Though the world has opened up partially to the everyday hustle, with money tighter, retailers and consumers are loading up on apparels that are mindfully and sustainably made, are comfortable in their silhouettes and are versatile enough for a cross-season wardrobe. Talking about the growing awareness on mindfulness and sustainable fashion among the consumers during the pandemic, the spokesperson from Satva, India’s first sustainable athleisure wear brand (working directly with Indian farmers to promote non-GMO seeds, cotton farmer livelihood, and sponsoring the education of young girls where their organic cotton is cultivated) expressed “Staying at home for more than a year, changed the dimensions of fashion like never before. Consumers have become more mindful in their spending patterns and they are looking out for staples that will last in their wardrobes unlike the one-time apparels. 2020 was a great year for us as a brand, as slowly but steadily people started understanding the importance of sustainability and minimalism in their everyday lives and Satva being an organic cotton brand that specializes in relaxed silhouettes could bridge the gap between work and leisure with quality, functional pieces.”

At this point when everyone seems to be in a fix amidst this adversity, no one knows, not even the most renowned fashion experts on how the post pandemic fashion will look like. While the world of fashion scrambles to make it through, one thing is certain, comfortable and relaxed, yet, functional and stylish silhouettes are here to stay – proven by the consumer spending behaviour and the spring collections of brands and designers across the globe.

Embrace the Comfort.

Aishwarya Menon

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