Tracksuit, sliders and DIY face mask: the new face of street style during lockdown. As we turn more and more to Internet shopping and DIY, will the fashion industry ever be the same again? Written By Rebecca Gregory
Shopping habits: just another of the many things that the covid-19 pandemic has changed, and maybe forever. Shop closures mixed with lockdown boredom brought about radical changes in consumer habits. But like every sector, not everyone has lost out. Whilst the high street flounders, the Internet prospers. Whilst cocktail dresses grow mould in the wardrobe, tracksuits are sold out. And maybe most radical of all, whilst sales in clothes may be down, sales in sewing kits are booming.
The first big winner is the Internet. Street-style online retailer Boohoo have reported a year-on-year rise in sales during April, with jogging bottoms and loungewear proving firm favourites. Second prize goes to Microsoft Teams-appropriate tops. After all, you can hardly attend that all important meeting in your pjs.
But the most savvy didn’t rely on the Internet. Many turned their hand – and perpetual boredom – to making their own garments. Contemporary sewing brand Tilly and the Buttons confirm this: ‘We have definitely seen increased interest since the lockdown began with people taking up a new hobby and wanting to do something practical with their free time.’ For many, it was having turned an old pair of pyjamas into a DIY face mask that brought out their inner couturier.
Tilly and the Buttons aren’t the only ones benefiting from the increased interest in sewing and upcycling. Sew Over It started hosting live ‘sewalongs’ in March and they’re still going strong, giving a sense of community to those who have found themselves self-isolating or furloughed. Knitting has also seen a clear uptick. At the start of lockdown, online retailer Hobby Craft had practically sold out of wool, whilst Stitch & Story, a smaller retailer with just 11 employees, reported an 800% increase in sales in March.
Beyond DIY – and let’s face it, there are of us those who even with a million more hours of time on our hands would never be the next Karl Lagerfeld – customers are showing greater interest in buying sustainably. Take Lost Stock, the website saving the livelihoods of garment makers in Bangladesh. The Covid-19 outbreak has hit hard in countries like Bangladesh. Whilst dealing with their own outbreak, they are suffering unprecedented financial hardship. Leading brands such as Topshop and Gap have cancelled orders worth £2 billion, leaving the manufacturers of such clothes penniless. Lost Stock was created to tackle just this problem. Their message is simple: ‘Buy a box. Support a worker for a week.’ At a cost of £35, you tell the website your gender, style, age, and size, and in a few weeks, you get a box of clothes worth £70 RRP that would have appeared on this summer’s high street.
All that’s left to ask is whether such changes in shopping habits have left an indelible mark on the industry. Will shopping ever be the same again? Not according to Paul Martin, head of retail in the U.K. at KPMG. Martin thinks that ‘consumers have formed new habits that will see the online channel continue to be more prominent going forward’. Prime Minister Boris
Johnson seems to share a similar concern. Fearful that shoppers won’t return to the high street, Johnson encouraged the public to ‘shop and shop with confidence’.
Maybe this covid-19 way of shopping – Internet, homemade, sustainable – is here to stay. Brands such as Debenhams and Laura Ashley have already announced the closing of shops and Oasis and Warehouse both entered administration. It remains to be seen whether the high street can ever fully recover.