Retail fashion, how we buy it and what we want has been transformed due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to Australia’s leading designers.
Retail fashion, how we buy it and what we want has been transformed due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to Australia’s leading designers.

COVID-19 has changed retail fashion forever

Fashion retail has transformed due to the coronavirus pandemic and as restrictions are eased around the country, shoppers are slowly adjusting to a new way of purchasing in-store.

From department giants such as Myer and David Jones to smaller chains and local boutiques, retailers are transforming how people shop for clothes, shoes and accessories away from home.

And as many look for safety measures in-store such as hand sanitiser and social distancing, the extra caution could trigger less discretionary spending and spell the end of fast fashion, according to Aussie designer Camilla Franks.

"We will become much more thoughtful about our consumption and start to reflect our values through our purchasing behaviours," Franks said.

The consumption of fashion will change says leading designer Camilla Franks. Picture: Jonathan Ng
The consumption of fashion will change says leading designer Camilla Franks. Picture: Jonathan Ng

"Maybe we don't need so many things.

"It will become more important than ever to shop locally. Australian brands use artists, designers, machinists, marketers, buyers, planners, distributors, delivery networks that are all local and employ local people."

All Myer stores, for example, must adhere to 1.5m social distancing between customers and team members, with clear signage in place.

Customer numbers are being closely monitored and there are protective items such as hand sanitiser stations, face masks and gloves provided to staff as well as contactless payment options.

But some services remain suspended including beauty appointments, intimate apparel fittings, and suit and shoe fittings.

David Jones, Target, Kmart and Big W have all put similar measures in place.

"I believe people will be moving away from fast fashion to investment pieces that can last a lifetime," Franks said.

"I hope that landfill will decrease as fast fashion begins to slow down.

"We need to stick together and rally around each other. I think we are all learning more lessons of accountability, responsibility and community.

"It will become more and more imperative to lead a life that aligns with our values."

Last week, retailer David Jones, which is owned by South African parent company Woolworths Holdings, announced it would close some of its 48 stores after a reported 35 per cent drop in sales.

Designer Camilla Frank at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in 2018. Picture: Getty
Designer Camilla Frank at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in 2018. Picture: Getty

Target also announced the closure of stores as part of a massive restructure. Parent company Wesfarmers is set to shut up to 167 stores, some of which will be converted into Kmart outlets.

It was more bad news for fashion firm PAS Group, which entered voluntary administration last week.

The firm owns prominent brands like Review and JETS Swimwear.

Other brands that have followed suit include clothing retailer Bardot, Tigerlily, Ishka and Jeanswest.

Many retailers are subsequently offering flash sales of up to 50 per cent on clothing items to encourage consumer spending.

Preliminary retail trade figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows turnover on clothing, footwear and personal accessories was down 22.6 per cent in March and 8.9 per cent for department stores.

Celebrity stylist Marvin Osifo.
Celebrity stylist Marvin Osifo.

Celebrity stylist Marvin Osifo said the reopening of stores and easing of restrictions means he can work more efficiently.

"Practically speaking, social distancing has affected my ability to meet with my clients and to attend viewings for current and upcoming collections," he said.

Leila Naja Hibri, CEO of the Australian Fashion Council, said: "The fashion industry needs to rethink the way it operates, and we are seeing many businesses do this already, from pivoting manufacturing capabilities towards protective equipment, tweaking the width and depth of upcoming collections and innovating in online offerings and messaging."

Originally published as How COVID-19 has changed retail fashion forever