Fashion serves as a form of self-expression, a way for people to communicate who they are and what they stand for to the world around them.
Realistically speaking, working from home accelerated the acceptance of comfort clothing and laidback athleisurewear. Our limited access to fashion resources and social interactions made it virtually impossible to show off our individual styles, although some folks tried. And although some might think that the pandemic stifled self-expression, from what I’ve seen on the streets of Buenos Aires, Florence, Rome, and New York, it inspired a fashion renaissance.
Special Occasions, Every Day
Last year, there were 2.6 million weddings and who knows how many other special occasions in the U.S., as friends and families gathered to celebrate for the first time in three years. A renewed consumer interest, perhaps inspired by so many reasons to dress up, is driving a demand for occasion wear that creators and buyers predict will carry fashion sales well into 2023.
According to Euromonitor, the sale of formalwear in Europe and in the U.S. is anticipated to increase faster from 2022 to 2026 compared to the preceding decade before the pandemic. Dresses have long dominated women’s wear for both casual and formal attire. Fashion enthusiasts embraced the edgier pantsuit, and designers pivoted toward softer fabrics as customers sought out sophisticated, fashionable, comfortable styles. Vogue’s spring fashion trends have a similar vibe, with a mix and match of fibers and textures for draped dresses and skirts, custom-made button-down shirts and tailored maxi skirts.
High-end menswear brands now offer signature designs in more comfortable fabrics, such as jersey knits. A change that is shifting away from traditional suit styles and towards clothing that can be worn in various situations. “Men’s fashion has evolved toward a more casual approach, but over the last six to nine months, people have begun to dress in a slightly more formal way. In some cases, it will be something much more versatile,” shares Giovanni Bordone, luxury fashion expert and professor at London Metropolitan University. “We’ve grown accustomed to being comfortable, so we’re likely to see materials like elastane that give dress pants an athletic fit with stretch.”
It’s Time for a Wardrobe Change
As demand for occasion wear becomes more prominent, comfort continues to be a priority prompting designers to experiment with different silhouettes. From gender-neutral styles to ultra-feminine fabrics and a new take on menswear that elevates the sports jacket, one thing is clear – anything goes.
“I think people are trying to find new ways to refresh their wardrobes, looking to alternate sources, like social media, for inspiration,” shares Andy Liu, designer, and professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology. “Athleisurewear, streetwear has been around for 15 years and has become a bit passé. So as people wonder about what’s next, they’re mixing different elements to reinvent their personal style.”
Media use, specifically video and live streaming across social media platforms, led the charge in engaging consumers and driving eCommerce growth. Confined to our screens, fashion-forward consumers flocked to TikTok and other social media and streaming platforms for inspiration. Many people find their creative muse when accessing video content and discovering innovative ways to express themselves. From the chic, playful femininity of Emily in Paris, to the elegant, romantic styles of Bridgerton to the return of the power suit trend by Schitt’s Creek, were key players in this rebirth of fashion.
Today, 85% of social media users expect more video content from brands. Luxury brands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton are doing right by their audiences with visual storytelling that engages in unexpected ways. Nike’s approach to social media is equally effective, providing their followers with inspiring stories of successful athletes and visuals of their product reveals.
“Social media is a huge driver for Gen-Z,” shares AK Brown, digital stylist and founder of The Fashion Connector. “Amazon has had impressive results engaging successful influencers with a keen sense of fashion to create limited edition capsule collections to appeal to younger shoppers. Retailers can no longer rely solely on visual merchandising. They have to shift their mindset on how to use their online and off space to create a story that gets people back into the store and keeps them engaged online.”
Brands, mindful of their personal brands and how they impact shopping behavior, leverage social media and streaming content to create a compelling narrative that gives their audience a reason to pause, interact, and express themselves.