• Fashion needs to adapt to cash-strapped consumers now accustomed to working from home due to the Covid-19 pandemic, say top SA designers.
  • The new focus is on affordability, comfort, and relaxation.
  • It's already starting to reflect in new lines being launched now, such as Pick n Pay Clothing's new designer range.
  • For more articles, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za

Some of South Africa’s top designers think fashion needs to adapt to the realities of life after Covid-19 if it wants to survive.

That’s not just because money is tight right now, but because working from home has changed how we dress, and fashion might stay changed when people start returning to their offices.

“Designer brands speak without listening,” says fashion designer Gavin Rajah. “Now they need to listen without speaking.” In other words, it’s time for fashion designers to sit back and take stock of where consumers are right now. Fashion needs to read the room.

“So many businesses in fashion are in trouble because they didn’t understand what the consumer wanted – is the brand accessible, does it reach a wide audience?” he says.

Because so many consumers are working from home right now, fashion’s big trend of the moment if about comfort, according to Rajah.

“It’s about adapting to a new lifestyle. It’s very relaxed. It’s about not being confined.”

It’s already starting to reflect in the burgeoning lounge-wear segment, he says. “It’s about a lifestyle that’s not being forced, where comfort is paramount.”

According to Tiaan Schutte, a stylist at Via TV, “people have grown accustomed to leisurewear and spent so much time in more loose fitting clothes, the focus will definitely shift from appearance to comfort and safety."

“Covid will force us to re-imagine our wardrobe due to practicalities...and also some weight gain in some cases,” says Schutte.

Rajah has just launched a project with Pick n Pay Clothing. The retailer has begun collaborating with local designers to sell affordable designer wear, including designer masks.

The first collaboration is with Cape Town-based designer Julia Buchanan, called Pick n Pay Clothing X JULIA.

Rajah, who is mentoring Buchanan, points to the new collection as evidence. The line is very focused on comfort, including a kimono, shorts and a jumpsuit.

“Fashion right now is much more collaborative. Brands are very much about community,” says Buchanan. “Feedback on social media, for instance, is more important now than ever.”

“Consumers are also making much more informed choices now. They’re looking for clothing with a strong conscience,” Rajah says. Such as clothing that is sourced and manufactured locally.

And, finally, affordability is key. Consumers just don’t have that much to spend right now. Pick n Pay Clothing’s new designer range, for instance, retails in the region of R300 to R400.

“What we’re seeing is the death of overt designer merchandise,” says Rajah.

(Compiled by Edward-John Bottomley)

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