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Loungewear won’t stay still; it will become a core category: Francesca Muston, VP, Fashion, WGSN

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In an exclusive interview, IMAGES Business of Fashion talks to Francesca Muston, Vice President, Fashion, WGSN about the evolving loungewear market and its relevance in the near future.

Excerpts from the interview…

Post the pandemic, a renewed demand has been witnessed for apparel that are comfortable to work in, yet presentable enough for virtual meetings, social media appearances. What growth has this industry seen since the lockdown?

The shift to loungewear is a trend that has accelerated in the last ten months but it’s important to understand that it did not come out of nowhere as a reaction, it is rooted in bigger drivers that existed pre- pandemic.

At WGSN we explored those drivers in a forecast we published in March 2019 called Considered Comfort which was all about how fashion would respond to people’s changing relationship with the home, as we tracked homes becoming the hub of a multifunctional system for living.

WGSN’s Barometer, a proprietary fashion social media tracker, saw loungewear mentions in continuous growth for 18 months from August 2018. I’m not saying this to prove WGSN’s forecasting abilities, but to emphasise that loungewear was always going to be commercially relevant with or without COVID-19, and that we were already signaling a market opportunity and structural shift in the making, one to more casual and versatile garments characterised by their ability to work for people who were spending more time in-home.

What that means for the brands that rely on, or had big business in product areas where their share of spend has now been decimated at speed by the pandemic, is they are unlikely to recover the sales volume or sales value space they occupied in the market pre-March.

What are some of the factors fueling this demand both pre and post COVID?

We’ve been tracking the rise of this trend for several years at WGSN – long before the start of the pandemic. The drivers are signifi cant shifts in the way we’re living our lives which include everything from young people being priced out of urban centres and moving to the outskirts of the commuter belt, 5G and streaming services supercharging gaming and entertainment in our homes (and of course enabling those video calls), the rise of anxiety and need for tactility and comfort, the shift to online shopping and delivery services such as Amazon Prime or Deliveroo, etc.

These are the factors we assess when we’re looking at the relevancy of a trend to estimate its growth and longevity and in this case, we see the increased amount of time spent at home as a continued driver for the demand of comfortable apparel.

Do you think this demand will sustain or is it going to pass as soon as normal life resumes?

Loungewear won’t stay still, it is evolving and elements of it will become a core category for many brands. All retailers and brands need to assess the impact of it on their cross-over product categories.

Big risk resides in traditional organisational structures where buying, design and merchandising are currently still organised in product category silos where it’s encroaching. For example, cut and sew jersey, casual separates and knitwear and even athleisure own brands. For big fashion businesses loungewear’s impact needs to be continuously assessed from a 360 viewpoint across the brand’s entire product assortment to maximise the opportunities and minimise product duplication risk.

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