After more than a year of getting all dressed down with nowhere to go, our sartorial horizons look set to broaden in the coming months as the Government’s lockdown exit road map continues to roll out.
April 12 sees the opening of non-essential retail, including fashion shops, plus hairdressers and nail salons, and outdoor hospitality venues, zoos, theme parks and drive-in cinemas. Also self-contained accommodation can reopen, which perhaps means that some sort of staycationing could be on the cards. And hospitality venues can serve outdoors, with no curfew. Rules of six, or two households only, will apply, but going out is back on the agenda – with the emphasis on out, so be prepared to dress for all weathers.
But will fashion be back in the same way? The pandemic has massively affected how designers, brands and businesses operate, and changed consumer attitudes regarding what we want to wear and when we want to wear it.
“Post lockdown, people will want to put away the tracksuits and sweat pants and go out to socialise, looking smart and dressing up by wearing clothes that make them feel good as well as look good,” says John Sanderson, of design duo Cunnington & Sanderson, who have lived and worked in a converted jacquard mill in Silsden for 12 years. They use sustainable and ethical practices to create timeless garments as part of the movement towards slow fashion. “We hope people will also embrace individuality and creativity,” says John.
The brand’s latest collection What Once Was (available at www.cunningtonandsanderson.com) portrays a message of hope, it says, created using designs that ensure none of its luxurious organic fabrics are wasted. There are nature-inspired prints, and new pieces are made with deadstock fabrics.
Jane Reik, buying director of Joe Browns, based in Holbeck, Leeds, says the last year has impacted wardrobes and mindsets, although the brand’s online services have operated as normal.
“As for our physical stores in Meadowhall and York Designer Outlet, we have closely followed government guidance and will continue to do so,” she says, adding: “We are certainly going to see more laid-back styles and relaxed shapes.”
Comfort does not have to come at the cost of style, however, and this month sees the launch of Sloe Joes, a collection of loungewear to wear in and out of the home. “All our new season ranges will have versatility and comfort at the heart, enabling customers to dress them up or down. I for one can’t wait to refresh my spring wardrobe, and we have some gorgeous floral prints,” says Jane. “Interestingly, our recent top three bestsellers in footwear have been heels, but all closed toe, which may indicate the long waiting lists for a pedicure.”
Bridie Rimmer, owner of Born to Thread (www.borntothread.co.uk), handmakes to order leather jackets and clothing from her home studio in Ripon. She has just launched a range of handmade silk slip dresses and describes them as “the perfect feel-good outfit for coming out of lockdown”, adding that teaming them with her leather jackets is the ultimate in cool luxe rebellion. She says: “I believe people are craving that little bit of feel-good style post lockdown.”
In Harrogate, Gini Palm, owner of fashion boutique Julie Fitzmaurice, has decided to expand her finest lambswool collection, made in the Scottish Borders. “These sweaters are such versatile pieces which fit into our new way of living as they can be worn with heels, hiking boots or trainers,” she says.
York-based fashion brand Copper & White has used lockdown to develop its online presence by working with NIMA Sales and Marketing.
“Despite the supply issues that Brexit poses, we’ve managed to take delivery of our spring Spanish Collection, and summer is on its way,” says owner Clare Morris. “We’ve booked into shows throughout the UK from Ascot to Newcastle and our pop-up shop at the Shambles Market will open on April 12.
“We expect that a vibrant fashion trend will follow Covid. We have statement prints, with references to nature, strong colours and softer pastels.”
New Yorkshire-based Loop Cashmere specialises in premium cashmere pieces and has found that lockdown has only increased the desire for the softest, cosiest wool.
Co-founder Claire Heathcote says: “I think people’s freedom wardrobe will embody the sense of optimism reflected in bright colours and bold prints, but still hold onto the love of more relaxed dressing and the desire for comfort.
“In a way, I think our dressing will reflect that desire to balance both a renewed sense of freedom and the energy from being out and about and around friends and family again.”
And Helen Marsden of Kit & Kaboodal (kitandkaboodal.co.uk), a fashion brand specialising in Italian design, based near Boroughbridge, agrees that, although many women have been wearing loungewear during lockdown, they now want a slightly more elevated look.
“They will still want to enjoy the relaxed clothes they have come to rely upon, but we’re pretty sure that they won’t want to look like they have emerged from a slumber party when they finally get out into the sunshine. Rather they want to look like butterflies emerging from a chrysalis,” she says. “Our range still uses those same comfortable jerseys, but upgrades them with elegant natural linens and cottons in a rainbow of striking colours that layer to create a more fresh and feminine look,” she says.
“We want our customers to step out of lockdown in style with their heads raised high.”