The year 2020 was one of the toughest years in history for every industry. The fashion industry was also largely affected which was marked by declining sales, changed customer behaviour and inter-rupted supply chains across the globe. This article looks at the various changes that were brought about by the pandemic and which may well continue into the future.

The world faced a huge crisis in the year 2020 in form of the COVID-19 pandemic, with industries facing their worst on record. Almost every industry is still in the midst of uncertainity, with reve-nues and margins under pressure [1]. The distorted economic activities have depressed apparel mar-ket demand [2]. McKinsey Global Fashion Index analysis predicted in 2020 that there will be two cases of recovery - “Earlier Recovery” stating that global fashion sales will reduce by 0-5 per cent in 2021 as compared to 2019 and by the third quarter of 2022, the industry would return to same lev-els of activity as it was in 2019. The second is “Later Recovery” which states sales will decline by 10 to 15 per cent over the coming year compared to 2019 and recovery of fashion sales will be in the fourth quarter of 2023. The pandemic increased demand for digital access to everything, which in effect has enabled innovation, efficiency and new ways for businesses to scale up. It has also em-phasised the need to move to more sustainable and responsible working ways. Digital channels will be the primary driver of growth in the coming years as people will remain reluctant to mass gather-ing. It is expected that industry players will see deep and long-lasting changes to both consumer demand and ways of working. Amongst potential short-term challenges, brands will have to shift their focus towards casualwear and there will be continued pressure on luxury, as well as shorter production cycles and cash constraints that will lead to slowdown in investments.[1]

New normal as work from home, at-home workouts and meditation has increased demand for the already in-demand categories. Furthermore, from past few months, people are more devoted to ac-tive lifestyle which has resulted in high demand for activewear, loungewear etc. [3] According to Heuritech’s Instagram analysis 1 out of every 4 #covid-19 posts is related to a healthy lifestyle. In effect, activewear shows a boom among consumers specifically [4] leggings and cycling shorts are trending because these are the star items in this period of captivity. There is a rise in loungewear such as track pants, sweatshirts as consumers are focusing more on athletic activities, meditation, yoga, or simply lying about and they appear to be the biggest fashion trend at the moment. [3]

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), global GDP will decline by 3 per cent as an effect of COVID-19. Many shop owners trammeled their stock purchases because of low demand and increased inventory. According to the survey report by the International Textile Manufacturers Federation (ITMF), sales of fashion brands decreased by around 70 per cent in India, owing to en-forced lockdown and fear over coronavirus spread, resulting in piled-up apparel inventory [2]. The global apparel market size declined at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of -0.6 per cent since 2015 and reached nearly $527.1 billion in 2020 due to lockdown and social distancing. De-mand in the apparel market will recover slowly with unlocking and numerous apparel manufacturing companies resuming their operations. The industry is exploring new opportunities that have opened up due to the pandemic such as masks and PPE products.[2]

Impacts of Covid:

A.Supply chain disruption: China is one of the important suppliers of fashion goods.

Disruption in China means disruption in global value chain. The COVID-19 outbreak caused lockdown in China followed by rest of the world. As there was no demand in the market, the retailers were cancelling their orders. Each and every country had imposed restrictions on exports and imports to prevent the pandemic. The inventory that could not reach the retailers were stored for short period of time in warehouses. This inventory was not sold due to lockdowns and it was uncer-tain what demand would be there in the next season. The apparel industry’s revenue contracted by 27 to 30 per cent in 2020 over 2019 according to a predictive joint report from Business of Fashion and McKinsey & Company [5].

B.Market shift: With restrictions, the consumer shifted towards e-commerce because

of which retailers also had to shift their business. The one who already had e-commerce traction were ahead and others were increasing that reach through community-building virtual experiences. Nike’s e-commerce sales increased because it offered workout-from-home content on its fitness app. 80 per cent increase in users was observed in the first quarter, which fueled a 30 per cent increase in digital sales. Meanwhile, fashion companies with complementary digital and physical channels benefitted as shoppers picked up online orders from fashion outlets [5].

C.Work from homewear: The pandemic gave rise to the sales of comfortable leisurewear, as peo-ple worked, lived and played from their homes. “Work-from-home” is an apparel category that came into existence only in this pandemic and is going to persist for quite some time [5].

D.Changes to physical stores: The retailers who sent messages, as well as displayed safety pre-cautions such as masked salespeople, hand sanitiser and signs detailing frequent cleanings, social distancing, could observe more footfall when compared to other resellers. Consumers wanted to engage and shop in stores that clearly communicated their health and safety guidelines. As an effect, Apple wrote a letter to all of its consumers about how they are handling reopening, and Gucci distributed gloves and masks to all shoppers [5].

E.Customer relation: Apparel brands connected more deeply with their customer. Those retailers could make and keep relationship with consumers intact who deferred the universal risks and fears, rather than focusing only on pushing sales. Communication was the key to sustain con-sumers with their favourite brands, even though they were cautious with spending. Every manu-facturer was partly making masks to sustain in the market [5].

F.Economic impact: Fashion industry, one of the biggest industry in the world and worth of $2.5 trillion global industry, was forecasted to see 90 per cent sales decline. In US, this industry is the source of livelihood of more than 1.8 million people. Due to COVID-19 pandemic, malls were shut, stores were closed. Smart retailers shifted their focus on digital retail in the start of the pandemic, but it had adversely affected departmental stores and new small players who were not equipped to adapt to e-commerce. This was the start of job losses, store closures and bankruptcy. Some case in points - JC Penney filed for bankruptcy, Zara closed 1,200 stores, the outerwear giant Canada Goose laid off 125 workers, Gucci announced to organise only two fashion shows in 2020 rather than five [1]. The global economy could return to 2019 levels of activity by the last quarter of 2021. In a more unpredictable circumstance, recovery may take longer time and businesses may face continued volatility in supply and demand for multiple years. A full recovery will not come until third quarter of 2022 at the earliest [1,5].

3. Apparels and accessories in demand:

A.Face masks: Face masks had become the primary accessory for all as every country had im-posed rules to wear masks compulsorily when people went outside in public. A large number of mask options were offered not only by local brands but also by luxury and high fashion brands. Sustainable masks were also in trend by up-cycling in-house fabric scraps and leftover materials to create face masks [6]. Various types of face masks include:

?Basic cloth face mask

?Surgical face mask

?N95 respirator

?Filtering face-piece respirator

?P100 respirator/gas mask

?Self-contained breathing apparatus

?Full face respirator

?Full length face shield

?KN95respirator

B.Loungewear: The "Netflix & Chill" concept is making people care less about FOMO (fear of missing out) and more about JOMO (the joy of missing out). In lockdown people had rediscov-ered the joy of staying inside. This period has given rise to a new apparel category: i.e loungewear which can be worn outdoors as well as indoors, becoming a better choice for the en-vironment by producing minimum waste [7]. In 2020, it was one of the most demanding com-modities and is likely to trend going forward. For example: Lou and Grey matching set, a comfy pair of joggers etc. [6,8].

C.Activewear: Home workouts and virtual fitness classes became more popular during COVID-19 as gyms closed down boosting the sales of activewear. There are a lot of amazing brands for exercise lovers, like Athleta, Alo Yoga, and Lululemon [8]. During lockdown, capsule collection of kimonos, kaftans and other easy-to-wear items replaced elaborate gowns and eveningwear. Meanwhile, formalwear brand Reiss from the success of its leisurewear-focused pieces launched a new “luxe leisure” collection [1,6].

D.Sneakers: Though sports events were cancelled, gyms and pools closed down, still there was an increased demand for activewear. Fitness apps and gyms launched home workout sessions, re-tailers, brands and designers were sending messages that encouraged consumers to workout at home. As an effect of which sneakers continue to be the top sold accessory, especially in the UK market. Brands have incorporated loungewear into activewear with relaxed apparels as joggers which is the top performing style. Consumers continue to prefer performance attributes such as grip soles, moisture-wicking and quick-dry fabrics [6].

E.Slippers: As the consumer wants comfort demand for fuss-free and comfortable footwear is increasing rapidly. Furry slippers, sliders and mules are the top demanded styles. In addition, knit styles are also preferred for homewear. As per Edited, overall sales of menswear category sandals have risen to 9 per cent as compared to 4 per cent in 2019, whereas in womenswear, the sale has increased by 3 per cent. Flats and functional footwear have become trendy and experi-ence high demand because people favour outdoor activities as walks, etc. [6]

F.Outdoors: Accessories such as padded backpack and holdalls are available in a multitude of premium quilted nylon. It provides conglomerate detachable pockets, catering to the utility trend. Functional fashion accessories are more in demand such as water bottle holders with leather trims and perforated surfaces to match [6].

G.Smart accessories: Technology is affecting every stage of fashion development and the con-sumer is reaping all the rewards. The pandemic has increased the dependence on technology and surely there will be more exciting innovations in the future. From connected accessories like smartwatches to jackets with USB ports, the adoption and integration of technology has taken deep roots in the fashion industry. For example: The CHBL Jammer Coat which was designed by Austrian architecture company Coop Himmelb (L)au, is manufactured using metal fabrics that can block radio waves and make the wearer untraceable via modern devices [9]. Some more smart accessories which were used during COVID-19 are listed below:

?A smart watch to keep track of Covid vitals: A Hyderabad-based AI start-up has developed ‘SafeZone Raksha Watch’ which is an internet-based wrist band which can help in detecting COVID-19 symptoms. This band collects the physiological parameters as body temperature, oxy-gen levels and pulse rate and can send alert if any abnormal symptom is measured.

?Facemask by MaskFone: Maskfone has developed a face mask which is world’s first face mask with builtin EarPods that can help to answer the calls and listen to music. It is designed with fea-tures as built-in microphones, and earphones. It helps to reduce the need to adjust or remove the face mask to speak on phone in these situations [10].

?The transparent neon-lit facemask: Gamers’ leading lifestyle brand Razer has designed a face mask under “Project Hazel” which consists of N95 medical-grade respirator protection innovated using detachable and rechargeable active ventilators, smart pods that regulate airflow for optimal breathability which can filter at least 95 per cent of airborne particles and highly resist fluid. The transparent device allows to see facial cues such as a smile or laugh and the interior neon light can automatically activate in the dark plus the built-in microphone and amplifier enhances the user’s speech for clear communication [10].

?The fashionable air-purifying collar: Airvida L1 has developed an air purifying collar that ef-fectively shields against airborne particles including PM2.5, formaldehyde, and pollens (smoke, bacteria, and viruses). This collar must be worn around the neck and generates 2 million negative ions per second through its patented double-vents, creating 100 times the concentration of nega-tive ions found in nature. The ions in this swarm rapidly cling to airborne particles, turning them into bigger and heavier chunks, which due to effect of gravity drops down. This process elimi-nates harmful particles from being inhaled [10].

?UV Light Sanitiser Bag: UV Light Sanitiser Bag is used to sterilise phone, masks, clothes, glass-es, bottle, kitchenware, baby products, tools, makeup brushes, jewellery, credit cards, keys or oth-er personal items, which can kill upto 99.9 per cent of germs viruses and bacteria. It’s 12-piece long-lasting LED light beads that last for up to 10000 hours. It is rechargeable with built-in bat-tery. It can be folded to a smaller size which takes less space and is more convenient. Just by pressing the power button, a 5-minute disinfection cycle starts which will automatically turn off thereby resulting in product sterilisation. It also comes with a safety system that can automatically stop the cycle when accidentally opened for more than 45 degrees [11].

Clothing trends of 2021:

A.Head scarfs: This gleaming fashion trend is remigrating ambitiously. Headscarves are used to protect hair and add a finishing touch to the outfit without overdoing it. Silk, cotton, polyester is used with floral motifs or intricate patterns or simply with bold colours and block letters. There are a lot many ways to carry a scarf, either wrapped under the chin in a loose knot, or hanging off the back of the head, wrap it around the neck or let it dangle from the bag [12]. Sometimes it is used as an aesthetic accessory and sometimes as part of culture. For the upcom-ing fall/winter 2021 season, it is going to be a highly used accessory.[6]

B.Oversized jackets: This season a long line silhouette with different shapes, 80s-inspired over-sized boyfriend blazer will be in demand. The shoulder pads help the outerwear to clinch at the waist and elongate legs. This can be paired with straight-leg trousers or leather shorts for an ul-tra-modern style. Colours that compliment this trend are powder blue, charcoal, and neu-trals.[12]

C.Yellow bags: In this spring/summer season yellow bags have taken over the runways and the streets. This trend is easy to replicate and take less time. Choose a small clutch that can invigor-ate an outfit or for common use a mustard tote can be used. Numerous shades are available in the market to choose from as per likes and dislikes of a consumer. These shades look magnifi-cent when paired with other vibrant hues or a monochromatic ensemble.[12]

D.Pops blue accessories: Pop blue accessories are going to be in trend. Add a pop of blue to mon-ochrome outfit to update go-to outfits. The beauty behind this trend is the unlimited number of options to try throughout the season: from a duck egg blue handbag from Dior to a chic Marine Serre bucket hat. To style these items, opt for all black or grey outfits. The bright colour will stand out amongst the deeper shades. You can mix and match the accessories and discover a new fa-vourite way to rock key pieces.[12]

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E.Silver dust: Due to the pandemic, people were confined in their homes where comfort was foremost which led consumers want to express themselves and let themselves be seen, heard, known and create a statement. Shiny metallic silver is the colour of the fall/winter 2021 fashion. It is not only used in dresses and sequined tops but also used in puffy quilted jackets, head-to-toe embellished looks, swanky athleisure pieces and footwear.[13]

F.Head-to-toe knits: Last year can be termed as the year of comfort and what else can be best than cozy knits that can take the form of any body type and help to maintain a suitable body temperature whenever it is freezing outside. Designers and hi-fashion labels like: Jonathan Sim-khai, Zanni, Adam Lippes and Fendi, amongst others, nod towards luxe knitwear prices in wool and cashmere in different flattering silhouettes that pose perfectly as transitional pieces.[13]

Silhouettes in trend 2021 spring/summer:

A.Crop top: Crop top is considered to be one of the best choices for summers because of its short length. This upper garment can be worn in numerous ways, either paired with jeans, skirts, shorts or under a jacket/blazer. It is an absolute alteration apparel that is considered as a wardrobe sta-ple that is capable to upraise outfits and impart the needed glamour. It can be in the form of blouson styles, racer backs, corseted or crocheted tops, hence, is one of the top silhouette trends for the upcoming season.[14]

B.Hoodie: Some people say that hoodie is in demand because of the pandemic, but in fact street-wear and athleisure were already on their way up. No doubt that the pandemic might have given a push to the already inevitable, in a way that fashion has now gone on to adapt this casual sil-houette into more refined segments effectively. The hoodie can act as a casual style, eveningwear and workwear-inspired clothing too.[14]

C.Balloon sleeves: Balloon sleeves silhouette has dominated lately and continues to become even more prominent in 2021. It was in demand since 2018 and is used to give a feminine touch to the garment. Balloon sleeves have been governing superior since the last few seasons and the on-ly thing changing here is the season itself. It can be in the form of tops, shirts, dresses, blazers, coats with various prints or in solid colours..[14]

D.Relaxed trousers: When it comes to comfort, wide relaxed trousers become the right choice. Wide legged, baggy and slouchy is the best way to describe this trend. Few examples of relaxed silhouettes are paper bag waists, boyfriend jeans, wide legs. This trend comes because consumers demand fuss-free clothing from past year.[14]

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E.Padded shoulders: Shoulders have a defining moment in the literal sense of the word. Bold, defined and aggressive shoulders are extraordinary silhouette for 2021. In 1890s women uses to pad their shoulders in order to create a broader silhouette, and then in the 1930s to appear as confident as the men in the workforce. Nevertheless, bold shoulders at present are less about a throwback and more about the women of today. These are developed to look sharper, and ex-tends from being simply broad, into puffed up, more pointed styles.[14]

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Post Covid-19 scenario of fashion industry:

A.E-commerce / Digital: From the past 1.5-year physical retail has been under historic levels of pressure. In US, approximately 25,000 stores were closed during COVID-19 which is double to that of 2019[15]. In effect of COVID-19, retailers are experimenting with fascinating technolo-gies so as to provide customers experience similar to that of physical experience. For that virtual clothing, digital ramp walks, and online showrooms are playing a very important role [16]. As e-commerce continues to grow day by day, physical retailers will have to struggle more due to which some fashion companies may close their stores in the upcoming period. Recently, re-nowned sports brand Nike announced an upgradation in its digital strategy and investment in highest potential areas causing job cuts in physical outlets. Fashion retailer Zara is also planning to close down 1,200 stores in recent future and invest €2.7 billion in digital stores [15]. The world has witnessed 1500 per cent more online shopping account registrations and three times more mobile application downloads due to social distancing in the last few months as found by the US-based data research firm, Mercatus [5]. In the coming years momentum in e-commerce will only accelerate. Latest digital opportunities are leading towards creative solutions for mar-keting, designing and revenue streams across the fashion industry. Ralph Lauren and Snap Inc together will create virtual branded apparel for avatars, and in China a Net-a-Porter has launched Animal Crossing skins showcasing spring/summer collections having QR codes that connect the products with e-tailer stores [1, 16].

B.Sustainability: In recent years, fashion industry has accelerated its commitment towards envi-ronmental sustainability, especially related to the elimination of hazardous chemicals, the reduc-tion of CO2 emissions, and, also in the adoption of circular economy practices. This pandemic reveals the vulnerability of global supply chains as countries restricted international trade, supply chain logistics were disrupted, and orders were cancelled due to sudden diminishing orders. The new business framework compelled the whole industry to review its strategies and plans. Ac-cording to States of Fashion 2021, today’s consumer is more inclined towards sustainable fash-ion products and after COVID the consumer is opting for more sustainable fashion than in the past [17]. According to a research, the principal factor of sustainability in fashion is the customer atop of other competition or environmental activists [18]. Eco-friendly and sustainable fashion is the focus of every fashion designer. No doubt non-sustainable fashion will still be in demand but would become critical for brands to fulfill audience needs. Garments and accessories that can be reused in different number of ways without missing fashion trends will be in demand in the post COVID-19 era [5].

C.Augmented Reality: Augmented reality (AR) is defined as the enlarged version of the real physical world that is achieved by using digital visual elements, sound, or other sensory stimuli delivered with the help of applied science. It is changing every industry completely by its ability to visualise fashion and beauty products in real time. It is possible to leverage AR to give users more engaging and interactive experience. Zara has applied Augmented Reality to launch its new collection, which provides a live runway to demonstrate items. Few examples are virtual try ons, fashion mirrors, colour changing apps etc [19, 20, 21, 22].

D.Artificial intelligence: Where it is not possible to integrate human interaction into the digital experience, artificial intelligence (AI) is likely to play an important role in boosting conversion, giving customers the prospect to assess virtual try-ons powered by AR. In-store beauticians and shopping aides will be superseded by PCs and applications that will assist consumers with as-sembling a look or complete buying. A large number of retailers are using this format. With so-cial distancing becoming important, the growing appetite for AI makes a lot of sense [1, 22].

E.Local and not global: Imports have been hit in the pandemic and perhaps this can be a good thing. Now there is more scope for local designers, brands and tailors. The more people buy lo-cal, the faster will a country’s economy revive. This includes the Indian brands, Indian design-ers, Indian art. With limitations, less mass production of garments and accessories can be seen. Indian fabrics will be utilised more in the coming months and years [22].

F.Special textile finishes: A special infection-proof fabric has been developed by The Indian In-stitute of Technology (IIT) which can be used at hospitals to prevent hospital acquired infec-tions (HAIs). Other than this anti-odour fabric, anti-viral textile finishes are becoming a trend and could soon become a good revenue stream for brands [23].

Conclusion: The fashion industry will certainly exit this crisis in a very different form from the way in which it had entered. Brands which will define clear, long-term objective, while demonstrating enough flexibility, speed and agility at the same time to navigate an uncertain short-term future will definitely lead the race amongst other brands. For this, they have to reshape their operating models so as to get adapted to the faster pace of change and also have to sustain those effective new work-ing practices that have emerged from the disaster. Since adaptability will be key to all of this, brands should identify the threats to their businesses and prepare strategic responses across multiple scenarios to counter uncertainty and facilitate fast decision-making. Building cross-functional teams that are informed by judicious priorities will give brands more smartness to respond quickly and capture market opportunities.

About the author: Achala Jaglan is a Btech student in Fashion and Apparel Engineering from The Technological Institute of Textiles & Sciences, Bhiwani.

References:

1.https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/McKinsey/Industries/Retail/Our%20Insights/State%20of%20fashion/2021/The-State-of-Fashion-2021-vF.pdf

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5.Scenario of Fashion Industry & Fashion Trends: Post Covid-19 by Dr. Kavita Patil, Vice-Prin. & Head, Asso. Professor, Textile Science and Apparel Design Department, SMRK-BK-AK Mahila Mahavidyalaya, Nashik-5

6.https://apparelresources.com/fashion-news/innovation/fashion-accessories-propelling-apparel-industry-forward-covid-19-times/

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11.https://www.nemselindo.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=891365

12.https://www.thetrendspotter.net/fashion-trends-spring-summer-2021/

13.https://apparelresources.com/fashion-news/trends/post-pandemic-fashion-top-trends-watch-fall-winter-2021/

14.https://apparelresources.com/fashion-news/trends/top-silhouette-detail-fashion-trends-spring-summer-2021/

15.https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/retail/our-insights/state-of-fashion

16.https://www.criteo.com/blog/fashion-after-lockdown/

17.https://www.unido.org/stories/will-covid-19-accelerate-transition-sustainable-fashion-industry

18.https://sustainablebrands.com/read/defining-the-next-economy/research-in-a-post-covid-2021-fashion-will-trend-toward-sustainability

19.https://www.investopedia.com/terms/a/augmented-reali-ty.asp#:~:text=Augmented%20reality%20(AR)%20is%20an,and%20business%20applications%20in%20particular.)

20.https://inhaabit.com/augmented-reality-the-latest-trend-in-the-fashion-industry/

21.https://jasoren.com/virtual-makeup-hi-tech-t-shirts-and-magic-mirrors-ar-in-fashion-industry/

22.Effectiveness of Fashion Industry in Post Pandemic World by Rajeev Kumar, Amity School of Fashion Technology, India

23.https://textilevaluechain.in/news-insights/special-finishes-on-textiles-in-the-covid-situation/

24.https://fashionista.com/2020/05/spring-2022-color-trends