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Annual review: 2020 fashion in five major themes

By Nora Veerman


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Fashion is ever changing in color and style - but at the end of the year there are always a few patterns that can be found. What were they in 2020? FashionUnited summarizes the fashion of an eventful year in five central themes.

Digitization: from online shopping to virtual fashion weeks

The most remarkable trend in fashion was undoubtedly the exponentially growing digitization, which was already well under way prior to 2020. Online shopping has grown in popularity over the past decade, and in 2019 marketing agency Nightingale already presented a fully virtual catwalk presentation, and digital fashion house The Fabricant and designer Iris van Wees developed virtual garments.

With the arrival of the coronavirus in early spring, the digital trend took off. Many customers were more or less forced to enter the digital domain. Online shopping became the only way for many consumers to get new products at home, with the result that fashion companies set their sights on their digital channels . In addition, in a time of little physical contact, the need for online representation grew. On social media or in games like Animal Crossing, fashion started to play an increasingly important role. Some brands, including Balenciaga, even took advantage of games to showcase their new collection. More digital or phygital clothing brands also appeared on the market.

Beeld: Copiist via Garry Dijkema

Because physical fashion shows could hardly take place anywhere in the world, the concept of the digital fashion show also developed without limits in 2020. For example, international couture brands made sophisticated fashion films, Gucci came up with a twelve-hour live stream, and Dior built a glittering 3D cosmos in which an online show took place. Perhaps the most progressive example was Helsinki Fashion Week, which not only chose a digital medium to broadcast a physical show with, but also used virtual backdrops, garments and avatar models. The teams behind the graduation shows of Dutch and Belgian fashion academies created spectacular 3D landscapes in which the work of the students could be shown. Showrooms and fashion fairs, such as Kingpins, Premium and Pitti Uomo, also went digital.

These developments are likely to continue in 2021: who knows in the form of fully digitized supply chains and extensive digitization in stores . Whether the physical fashion show will definitely make way for the digital one remains to be seen . For example, Nuria de Miguel, director of Gran Canaria Swim Week, argued that "the power, energy and emotion that come with a physical fashion show" in digital shows "cannot be present in the same way."

Image: The Frankie Shop, Nap Loungewear

Love for loungewear

Perhaps the biggest style trend in fashion in 2020 was loungewear. It was predicted early in the spring that loungewear would be the absolute winner of 2020, and that forecast came out in the course of the corona year. Comfortable, soft loungewear is not only suitable for evenings on the couch, but also for long hours working from home or baking sandwiches for the children who cannot go to school or childcare.

The desire for loungewear also existed before the start of the corona crisis. Trend analyzes from the fall of 2019 and early winter of 2020 already showed an increasing focus on more comfortable clothing for home and work. “No one buys tailored suits anymore,” said trend watcher David Shah in October 2019. “We live in a very informal society. Athleisure is the new lifestyle."

With the entry of lockdowns in various European countries , the demand for loungewear exploded . Partly for this reason, Nike, top seller of sneakers and sweaters, shot up in April 2020 in the Lyst Index , the list of most popular brands. Research firm Edited published an analysis at the end of March that showed the growing relevance of loungewear. The agency advised retailers to put that category in the spotlight. Also Johannes Altmann , owner and CEO of consulting Shoplupe, advised retailers in April to provide more loungewear. In the spring, various brands already developed 'housewear' edits; with the temperatures dropping in the autumn the new loungewear companies sprang up like mushrooms, including the Belgian LordsxLilies. Existing fashion brands, such as Ganni, Karl Lagerfeld, Zara and Theory, introduced separate loungewear lines.

It looks like loungewear will stick as long as the pandemic lasts. This is also reflected in the shoe trends for women and men for the spring of 2021: sneakers and padded sandals set the tone. Others predict that 2021 will be the year of 'revenge-dressing' : a counterpoint to the wrapped-up sitting at home, characterized by tailoring, high heels and luxurious finishes.

Image: Puma SE

Building resistance: activewear

With the aim of keeping themselves as healthy as possible in 2020 - both physically and mentally - people worldwide rolled out yoga mats in their living rooms and started walking and running in forests and parks. The result: an increasing demand for activewear, an industry that continued to do well throughout the pandemic . The popularity of activewear was characterized by the significant growth of Nike in a year in which most companies' sales fell.

Several brands seized the potential of the market in 2020 and introduced new activewear lines, including Cos, Arket and Wolford. One is also planned for Rihanna's Savage x Fenty.

Sustainability became an important area of attention within sportswear this year. For example, Puma introduced sportswear collections made of recycled plastic and dyed with bacteria . In March FashionUnited put a number of Belgian companies in the spotlight that are actively developing ecological activewear, including Go as Ur, Nunu, Lagatta and Juttu . The biggest style trends in sportswear this year were versatile loungewear-style yoga wear, tie-dye prints and the color tangerine, according to Stylight.

Sportswear influences also found their way into the everyday wardrobe , in the form of coordinated or uncoordinated jersey sets, structured knits and sporty, graphic prints such as wide stripes. Activewear - in the gym and on the street - would even become the subject of a major exhibition in the Fashion Museum in Hasselt in 2020 , but the exhibition had to be postponed. This opens in June 2021.

Picture: Pexels

Durable and original: second-hand clothes

While 2019 was already the year of independent second-hand stores, platforms such as Rebelle and United Wardrobe, and the rise of clothing rental , 2020 was the year in which large companies incorporated the sale of second-hand clothing into their business model.

Zalando launched an extensive web function in October for the purchase and sale of second-hand clothing by customers in the Netherlands and Belgium. That same month, Tommy Hilfiger launched the Tommy for Life initiative: a circular project in which second-hand or damaged Tommy Hilfiger and Tommy Jeans clothing can be repaired or transformed into new limited-edition garments. In November, European e-tailer About You added a 'Second Love' section, featuring second-hand women's clothing and accessories from luxury brands such as Ralph Lauren and Saint Laurent. Even luxury group LVMH announced at the beginning of December that it was looking at opportunities for the sale of second-hand products.

Why the sudden boom for second-hand clothing? The image of second-hand clothing has changed drastically in recent years. In the past, it was sometimes stigmatized: the clothing was said to be 'dirty' or 'old-fashioned'. However, it is gradually becoming more accepted to buy second-hand clothes. The reuse of worn clothes is in line with the increasing focus on sustainability in the fashion industry. The second-hand clothing market also offers consumers the advantage of being able to find unique items within a system that mainly offers mass-produced clothing. This will make second-hand clothing a substantial growth market, which is expected to grow in the coming years.

Image: Stay Safe Amsterdam

Simply everywhere: mouth masks

Perhaps the most worn fashion item of 2020 was the face mask. From the summer onwards they could be seen everywhere at home and abroad. In Belgium, mouth masks became mandatory in busy shopping streets, in public buildings, at markets and in the catering industry as early as July. In the Netherlands, caps were mandatory in public transport from July, and in most public spaces from October. That meant a sudden and explosive growth in the demand for the masks. Some used simple disposable caps, others turned it into a craft project or bought a designer face masks, with or without a colorful print.

The face masks provided an important source of income for designers and brands who saw their turnover decline in lockdown time. In May FashionUnited made an overview of local Amsterdam and international fashion brands that produced their own masks. There were already many at the time; among them were Goat Apparel, G-Star, Wolford and JBC.

In the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, a real face masks fashion week was even organized. A route of 21 billboards with pictures of men, women and children - including the mayor of the Vilnius - was laid out throughout the city in creative masks. Some of them made one themselves, others painted existing caps. Each billboard was provided with the words: 'You cannot mask creativity'. However good it may be, the hope is that mouth masks will no longer be needed in the course of 2021.

This article was originally published on FashionUnited.NL, translated and edited to English by Kelly Press.

Homepage image: The Fabricant x Puma, via The Fabricant

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