The impact of lockdown on the fashion world

Posted on 24 January 2021
By Heidi Hewlings
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With spring collections looming large on the fashion horizon and Liverpool Fashion Week gearing up for a big return in March, we thought it would be a good time to reflect on what was certainly a distinct year for fashion.

That most notorious of calendar dates, certain to have its own distinct place in the histroy books – 2020 – proved to be a weird and turbulent year for everyone.

From last March onwards the entire world was forced into an unnatural way of living to try and curb a new virus. We had to wave goodbye to any chance of a social life, as the plummeting feeling sunk in that lockdown was the new norm.

For many, staying at home proved the perfect excuse to slumber in their PJ’s all day and bask in the glory of a makeup free face and unbrushed hair. Because let’s face it… who was there to impress?

Like many other aspects of life in 2020, fashion witnessed stark change and experienced a noticeable shift in what people wanted.

If there’s one thing we can say for certain, it’s that 2020 was the year of dressing down. Jeans were swapped out for joggers and fitted tops replaced with sweatshirts, as the desire for leisurewear and comfy alternatives to office fashion and going out gear began to rise.

The revolution of loungewear began sweeping the globe, offering the perfect combination of style and comfort to fashion-conscious fiends.

Online fashion brand Missguided saw loungewear sales skyrocket by 700 per cent in 2020, as the work from home culture dominated the industry.

According to the online fashion giant, loungewear sales began to spike in June and July, following a peak in active jogger sales in May as people jumped on the trend of home workouts as a source of entertainment during lockdown.

Georgia Heathman, a fashion lover, aged 30, from London, was one of many who joined the loungewear revolution, she said: “I did buy quite a few pieces of loungewear over lockdown like big hoodies. I also bought a tracksuit from a blogger that I follow.

“I went into lockdown thinking that I would just dress like I normally do, and after a week of still working from home, going on walks, and just lounging around, there was no need to wear jeans anymore, which is why I started to buy loungewear.

“I think I was definitely a sucker for the marketing email. There was a lot of marketing from different loungewear brands that I signed up to. But also, it was because my whole life had changed and I wasn’t going out anymore.”

With the closure of high street shops on lockdown, the way clothes were viewed and purchased also changed radically.

Along with pretty much everything else in a new Covid reality, sales took place over the internet and online shopping became the only alternative.

For many, browsing their favourite online stores turned into part of a daily ritual. During the pandemic, the growth of E-commerce saw a real boom, and Covid-19 is thought to have contributed £5.3 billion to e-commerce in the UK during 2020.

Georgia added: “I was definitely shopping more in lockdown, certainly in the first one but not so much now. In the first lockdown I was online shopping and buying myself presents as a way to cheer myself up and for something to look forward to, which sounds slightly consumerist now.

“I also bought things that I wouldn’t have normally bought, like more one-off pieces from smaller companies rather than bigger brands. I shopped a lot at stores like weekday, Arket and Other Stories and sometimes I would buy from Asos and direct from the store. I also bought a couple of items from small London designers aswell.”

Online fashion specialist Asos more than quadrupled profits during lockdown, as its audience of mainly shoppers in their 20’s bagged baskets of comfy casual wear.

Fast fashion brands Boohoo and Pretty Little Thing, both known for quickly jumping on popular trends, were part of many online brands widening casual wear selection to keep up with high demand.

In the six months leading up to 31 August 2020, Boohoo saw a 45 per cent year-on-year growth in revenue, while pre-tax profit for the group surged by 51 per cent.

Almost every business has had to adapt to the unprecedented circumstances of lockdown, however, smaller independent businesses in particular have heavily felt the effects of the setback.

Pearl Boutique, an independent Fashion Boutique in Liverpool explained how important an online presence has been during the pandemic.

Owner Katrina Smith said: “Lockdown has been really hard. I have my regular customers who visit me in my store every week and have done for 9 years. We all have a girly catch up, counselling session as we all need at the moment and a shop.

“It’s so important for our mental health to have those interactions and girly times. Without the website my store would have had to close down.

“The website has actually been amazing, and I am so so so grateful for every single order and customer who has continued to support my little business. I wouldn’t still be here without them.”