In an effort to get working people back to their offices, New York City’s mayor Eric Adams recently admonished, “You can’t stay home in your pajamas all day!” The collective response was a resounding “Really?!” Because if post-pandemic lifestyles have taught us anything, it’s that life in loungewear is pretty great. The good news for Mayor Adams, and fashion brands the world over, is that loungewear isn’t just for home anymore.
Countless fashion brands, from mass to luxury, added loungewear to their portfolios these past two years, finding it to be the bright spot of pandemic sales. Now, those brands are expanding their loungewear category to better meet the needs of the post-pandemic consumer.
To help its partner brands better understand that new loungewear consumer, Eastman—renowned for its comfortable and sustainable Naia™ cellulosic fiber—conducted a 2022 study among 2,000 U.S. and European consumers. The results revealed new opportunities and occasions to expand loungewear, close consumer satisfaction gaps pertaining to fibers, and meet consumer demands for sustainable materials for loungewear.
“After almost two years of lockdown, time at home and lack of external interaction, consumers are starting to venture back out into the world, and they are taking their new comfortable wardrobes along with them,” said Ruth Farrell, general manager, textiles at Eastman.
This means enhanced loungewear opportunities not just for hanging out at home, but to wear for the office, exercise, travel, errands, socializing and much more.
Sustainability: a loungewear influencer … with more potential
Sustainability continues to grow in importance, but it hasn’t reached its full potential as a driver in loungewear today; even self-identified “green shoppers” are prioritizing comfort over sustainability. Most consumers (59 percent) define the sustainability of loungewear by its materials and fibers, and 23 percent of those consumers further specify loungewear made from eco-friendly, sustainable or natural materials/fibers.
This presents brands with opportunities. The Eastman study revealed that 16 percent of U.S. and European consumers say they put a lot of effort into buying sustainable loungewear and 25 percent say sustainability is important for loungewear purchase decisions. However, most consumers (66 percent) still expect brands to offer sustainable loungewear.
“This means that products with strong sustainable-material stories could appeal to consumers as interest in sustainability rises over time,” Farrell said.
Shifting focus: continuous comfort
Covid-19 had a profound impact on U.S. consumer’s shifting attitudes and behaviors toward clothing purchase and usage, the study found. An overwhelming majority (79 percent) named clothing comfort as their No. 1 priority; 77 percent said they are dressing more casually at home; 67 percent said they are dressing more casually outside the home (which includes office wear); 67 percent are investing in more casual clothing; and 46 percent are going so far as to purge their formal, dressy clothing from their closets.
Results also found that 24 percent of U.S. consumers choose loungewear for light exercise, quick errands and travel. Looking to Europe, 26 percent of consumers their choose loungewear for light exercise, 16 percent for travel and 15 percent for quick errands.
In fact, consumers are planning to transition more of their wardrobe to loungewear over the next year (55 percent of U.S. consumers and 48 percent of European consumers, respectively). When it came to specific items, consumers were 30 percent more likely to buy more joggers and 19 percent more likely to buy more casual T-shirts.
Messaging comfort to close satisfaction gaps
“While comfort of loungewear is the strongest purchase driver, consumers are not fully satisfied with it. They also have difficulty defining it,” Farrell said. “Understanding how consumers define comfort can give brands and retailers clarity on closing satisfaction gaps and how best to meet consumer loungewear needs and expectations.”
Of course, using the word “comfort” in branding is the most straightforward approach, and brands and retailers should clarify the comfort details of their offerings as specifically as possible.
When it comes to issues of comfort, fit, quality, drape and durability, Eastman found that comfort had the biggest satisfaction gap (71 percent said comfort was very important, but only 58 percent were very satisfied with the comfort of their loungewear purchases), indicating an opportunity for brands to not only improve the comfort of their loungewear items but also to clearly position these improvements for consumers. In contrast, durability expectations were almost met with just a 46/41 split.
Another shift in consumer attitudes is that all loungewear is not created equal, with a fiber’s features and characteristics gaining in importance.
The study showed another shift in consumer response regarding their awareness of and expectations for loungewear fiber features and characteristics. This heightened interest means there are other words consumers identify with as well. According to the study, 85 percent of U.S. consumers want loungewear that “doesn’t pill;” 83 percent want it to remain “looking new;” 81 percent want “easy care;” 80 percent want “breathability;” 79 percent want it to “resist bacteria/odor;” 78 percent want it to “keep them cool;” 73 percent want it to be “hypoallergenic;” and 69 percent want it to “reduce landfill waste.”
“The conclusions from Eastman’s study will be of interest to loungewear brands who want to remain top-of-mind with today’s consumer,” said Farrell. “Since consumers are focused on comfort in most aspects of life, they are choosing loungewear more often and for different activities. As they purchase more loungewear pieces, consumers understand that the comfort and versatility they seek is related to the fibers loungewear is made from.”
Updating their fiber choices, educating consumers on comfort and offering more sustainable options will give brands the edge needed to win with consumers.
To learn more about Eastman and how Naia™ can be incorporated into loungewear, click here.