This morning, I mused: I haven’t put on real pants in over a month. The thought of even my comfiest pair of jeans sends shivers down my spine. My makeup drawer is feeling neglected (thank you, Zoom, for the face retouch feature). I take plenty of calls from my couch, fluffy slippers nestled over my feet. I don’t see how I’ll ever get back to “normal.”
Many can undoubtedly relate to these sentiments, after being thrust into uncertain circumstances by an unprecedented global event. For many, it has meant a devastating loss of livelihood, a stressful transition into working from home (while also homeschooling and monitoring children, amongst many other things), and an adaptation to a world that feels ambiguous, tentative, unsettling, and where even the simplest of tasks feel complicated and daunting.
Take grocery shopping, a normal, routine activity that has now become an ordeal: thoughtfully planning your route through the aisles, donning a makeshift face mask, avoiding conversation in the produce aisle, and of course stalking by the paper goods aisle out of curiosity, scoping out the presence of a prized roll.
With our current homeward-bound status, we have all entered into a new normal – bringing with it many awkward shifts, transitions, and trends – many of which are likely to permeate into the collective consumer conscience. Of course, once the mandatory shutdowns are lifted, many will rush back to their usual haunts: grabbing a latte with a friend at their long-lost coffee shop, settling back into their offices, attempting a return to “how things were.”
But the truth is: there is no return to “normal.” No revival of the glory days. No automatic reassimilation. At best, we will continue into a new normal, optimistic about the future but still donning the relics of our shelter(ed)-in-place way of living, undoubtedly impacting the way we interact, consume, and relate.
At last, The Danish lifestyle trend of hygge — originally making its way to the States back as early as 2017 — has found its permanent foothold, made possible through mandatory stay-at-home orders. This concept of intentional comfort and enjoyment of the great indoors felt novel — and frankly foreign — to the “normal” pace of life here in the States, where business and life happen at the speed of light. The comeback of hygge has consumers slowing down and enhancing the comfort and coziness of their homes, making their dwellings into sanctuaries rather than prisons, through sensorial additions of cozy textiles, dim light and candles, and warm, comforting meals and beverages.
In light of current events and their permanent effects on the market, we propose a new normal of CASUALIZATION, a trend marked by new purchasing psychology — an affinity for comfort, communication, and choice — permeating most every industry, disrupting the way that business is done. The most obvious place for casualization to take hold is in the apparel industry.
We’ve seen it all during the pandemic, where fashion has become a non-issue and a statement all in one. The matching loungewear set is the new power suit. The “Video Conference Mullet”: presentable on top, questionable on the bottom. Athleisure attire with more emphasis placed on the “leisure.” And of course, those that refuse to do away with their starched collars and slacks, pandemic or not.
Prioritization of comfort is evident during this time, and for intuitive reasons. We wear, consume, and interact with products that suit our needs of comfort – for both functional and emotional reasons. When it comes to the new “office appropriate” (whether that is still within the confines of one’s home or back in the real world), look for mass retailers and top designers alike designing more toward comfort and versatility.
Enter: the rise of “offleisure” — designers thoughtfully creating clothing with features that meet the formality of the office with the comfort of leisurewear. Billowing yet flattering silhouettes, stretch, soft, buttery fabrics, pillowy footwear. At the foot of the Maslowian pyramid, comfort is the new luxury, ushering out the old luxury of excess and exclusivity into one of joy and self-expression.
BONUS: Companies are piloting digital try-on capabilities so the dreaded dressing room can be avoided once and for all. Win-win.
In times of uncertainty and need, consumers want to surround themselves with products and environments that put them at ease. Is there a way your brand can tap into the ethos of comfort even if you don’t make apparel? A good place to start: think through the emotional impact of your brand on each of the five senses.
Coming up next is part two of the Rise of Casualization Series where we’ll cover casualization’s impact on the way we eat and the way we communicate.
Looking to gather inspiration from other brands positioning themselves for a new reality? Check out our Ignition Trend Report content here.