Looking Back in 2020: Fashion
29 : 12 : 20

In 2020, the fashion sector explored virus-proof materials, digital Fashion Weeks and phygital retail solutions, writes foresight writer Abi Buller.

The Trend: Inter-Covid Fashion

Change by Viktor & Rolf, photography by Casper Kofi
Change by Viktor & Rolf
Change by Viktor & Rolf

This year, the notion of protective clothing took on entirely new meanings, from bacteria-busting materials to jewellery that aids social distancing. With facemasks becoming mandatory in many countries across the world – and more than 90% of people in Spain and Italy always wearing facemasks out of the home – the need for hygiene-first garments really came to the fore. In our Inter-Covid Fashion microtrend, we explore some of the health-focused innovations playing out in the sector.

Among them is Vollebak. This innovative fashion company is betting on copper as a material for future use protective clothing and environments. 'Copper has exceptional anti-microbial properties, which means bacteria and viruses die when they make contact with it,' explains Steve Tidball, Vollebak co-founder.

As we approach 2021, brands and consumers will continue to seek intelligent textiles that prioritise the health and safety of wearers. And while social distancing may not outlast the pandemic, anti-bacterial threads and health status-signalling garments could come into their own as consumers become more aware of their overall wellbeing.

The Big Idea: The digital future of Fashion Weeks

Cloud Fashion Week by Tmall Cloud Fashion Week by Tmall

With the annual fashion circus largely stopped in its tracks during 2020, the front row was forced to take a digital seat as brands embraced tech-first approaches to showcasing collections. Accelerated by Covid-19 and growing climate concerns, in April we examined The Digital Future of Fashion Weeks.

Forced to reflect on the environmental damage caused by travelling for the global fashion calendar, Copenhagen Fashion Week (CFW) turned to digital tools to reinvent its events in the spring of 2020. Alongside launching a sustainability plan, CFW also worked with Vocast to provide digital runway visuals and streams for far-flung buyers and press. As Cecile Thorsmark, CEO at Copenhagen Fashion Week, explains: ‘We can move [Fashion Weeks] from being a source of inspiration and a conversation starter to a facilitator of action.’

Meanwhile, virtual showrooms are set to make headway in the industry by minimising travel and the risk of exposure to Covid-19 for retail buyers, while allowing greater accessibility to brands on a global scale. Fashion technology company Ordre.com is pioneering in this space – elevating the sector beyond digital runways.

The Campaign: Homecoming Festival

Browns has re-shifted its focus to phygital experiences, spotlighting emerging African talent across music, fashion, art and culture by partnering with Homecoming
Browns has re-shifted its focus to phygital experiences, spotlighting emerging African talent across music, fashion, art and culture by partnering with Homecoming
Homecoming and Browns 2020, Nigeria

Opting to retain a bricks-and-mortar campaign element, this year’s annual Homecoming festival of Nigerian creativity took a phygital approach through its collaboration with London-based retailer Browns.

Retaining the festival’s goal of showcasing emerging African talent across the creative sector, this year’s iteration saw a multi-disciplinary celebration of music, fashion, art and culture. Combining an e-zine with an array of digital events and in-store activations, the content provided education and awareness while boosting the presence of an exclusive fashion collection sold at the retailer's Browns East outpost. The zine, titled Ni Agbaye, which means ‘in the world’, spotlights the global influence of Afro culture and explores cultural exchange through a range of mediums and voices from the diaspora.

Discussing the Browns East collaboration, Grace Ladoja, founder of Homecoming, says: ‘We're stocking 15 designers; most are from Nigeria and for some, it’s their first stockist. It was really important for us to get their products in-store so that we could spotlight them globally to a new audience.’

The Interview: Squadded’s social approach to fashion retail

Squadded Squadded

As bricks-and-mortar fashion store grappled to keep the attention and spend of consumers in 2020, new digital platforms like Squadded sought to recreate the social aspects of shopping with a social-first online space.

Speaking to LS:N Global in June this year, co-founder Elysa Kahn discussed how Squadded's ‘Shopping Party’ concept aims to bring some of the excitement back into fashion purchcases.

What happens is that when [you] add an item to a wishlist, it creates a social-media style post that my friends can interact with,' Khan explains. 'The second layer is that I can see all the members of the community that are currently online. So, you can interact and ask for their advice [about fashion], but also you can create content.'

Taking inspiration from the social media habits of Squadded’s target audience, Kahn goes to explain the importance of shopping experiences beyond transactional behaviour. ‘We saw the difference between shopping and buying. To be able to shop online with friends is a need – shopping is a bonding experience.

The Space: H&M’s Looop makes fashion recycling a store service

H&M's transparent Looop store allows outsiders to watch garments being recycled H&M's transparent Looop store allows outsiders to watch garments being recycled

In 2020, fast fashion continued to hold a negative ethical and environmental reputation, in particular with a newly-responsible cohort of shoppers emerging as a result of Covid-19. In response, companies such as H&M are innovating to make sustainability part of the fashion retail journey. In October it unveiled a new garment-to-garment recycling system, Looop, at its Stockholm flagship, encouraging customers to transform unwanted clothing into new items.

The concept involves a shipping container-sized machine that cleans customers' old garments, shredding them into fibres and spinning them into yarn, before knitting them into new pieces of clothing. Also acting as an experiment to challenge traditional retail, Looop's theatrical, service-led space invites consumers to actively engage and immerse themselves in circular fashion.

‘We are constantly exploring new technology and innovations to help transform the fashion industry as we are working to reduce the dependency on virgin resources,’ says Pascal Brun, head of sustainability at H&M. While aimed at consumers, this sustainable alternative to garment waste also reflects some of the deadstock design strategies emerging to utilise 2020’s unsold apparel.

Download the Future Forecast 2021 report

Now that you know what shaped 2020, discover what’s on the horizon. Download our Future Forecast 2021 report comprising 50 new behavioural patterns across 10 key consumer sectors, expert opinion pieces and interviews with global innovators.

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