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Fast Fashion Can Survive Covid If It Makes These Changes

As the end of 2020 nears and fashion prepares for Spring/Summer ’21, experts reflect on lessons learned from one of the most tumultuous years in recent history. And according to retail market intelligence platform Edited, one of the biggest takeaways is understanding the importance of data in retail planning.

“There really is no choice in adopting technology and digital processes,” Kayla Marci, Edited market analyst, said Wednesday in a webinar titled “How to Stay Faster than Fast Fashion with Market Intelligence.” This was the case even before the pandemic, she added, specifically for those in fast fashion whose job is based on reactivity.

Without access to in-person fashion shows and buying trips, teams must look to digital methods and nontraditional channels for market intelligence—and it’s not just fast-fashion brands being pushed to adopt a tech-first approach. This year, luxury brand Burberry became the first fashion label to use live-streaming service Twitch, a platform popular in the gaming community, to show a collection at London Fashion Week.

While Edited’s strategists asserted that the runway is still the birthplace of trends, they also noted that innovative thinking like this is crucial to influencing consumers who are still spending most of their time at home.

Because of this increased time spent indoors, it’s no surprise that seasonless collections and loungewear pieces are some of the most popular styles anticipated for the coming season. According to data provided by Edited, elevated loungewear such as house coats, coordinating loungewear sets and silk pajamas were some of the best-selling items during the height of the global lockdown, and are projected to sustain popularity through 2021.

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Cottagecore, a Gen Z subculture whose aesthetic centers on idealized farm life, quickly became a popular escape from the Covid crisis. Even now, brands such as Apotts showcased a S/S ’21 collection with heavy Cottagecore influences such as puffed sleeves, modest silhouettes and oversized clothing.

The concept of seasonless collections is one that many experts have considered in the wake of the pandemic. Adriano Goldschmied recently discussed his vision for a seasonless fashion industry, calling on designers to slow down production—a puzzling concept for the fast-fashion industry.

But according to Edited, this doesn’t mean fast fashion is over. Instead, brands must be more strategic about which styles they reproduce, while retailers must reposition items that are slow to sell.

Bryony Macdonald, senior retail strategist at Edited, highlighted Bermuda shorts as a case study, explaining that the item was a top trend that retailers invested in for Spring 2020. Once the pandemic hit, sales were down, and companies couldn’t move the product even with steep discounting. The trick, she said, was in repositioning. Once the company paired the product with fall staples such as tights and chunky sweaters, it began selling.

“We’ve been helping advise retailers how to hibernate stock for months now,” she said. “It’s worth highlighting the importance of marketing and getting the optimal time for product drops.”