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A Psychological Profile of the Post-Covid Consumer

To say Covid-19 changed the way we shop would be a sweeping understatement. The effects of the pandemic rippled across the fashion industry, disrupting everything from design and development to supply and distribution.

Meanwhile, the consumer reached for their sweatpants and began to reconsider their shopping habits. However, as lockdowns start to lift in areas worldwide, what are fashion’s consumer priorities now and into the future? 

Will comfort continue to reign supreme? Or will we see an emergence of new trends and tastes on the horizon? Leading Fashion Psychologist, and founder of Fashion is Psychology, Shakaila Forbes-Bell, weighs in to identify the trends that will shape the consumer mindset for the seasons ahead. 

Glamour 2.0

One of the most immediate fashion-after-effects of the pandemic will be a return to all-out-glamour. Sweatpants – be gone – the consumer is looking to socialize – and sparkle while doing so. 

Good news is in the cards for both brands and retailers.

“In China, consumers have responded to life returning to normal with ‘revenge buying’. This is defined as the overindulgence of shopping to compensate for the inability to make purchases for so long,” said Forbes-Bell.

Although a date can’t be set, with vaccinations rolling out globally, shoppers have already returned to stores to refresh their wardrobes for a summer of postponed events and socially cognizant soirées. Early signs of a glamour-revival are on the horizon throughout Resort collections, with Pucci donning iridescent sparkles, while Kevin Germainer, Saint Laurent, Valentino, and Paco Rabanne placed occasionwear firmly back on the cards for this Fall. 

However, sparkle and shine come with a sustainability health tag – something that lockdown-consumers have become all the more aware of. “Customers have expressed a decreased desire to buy clothes simply because they’re fashionable and an increased desire to buy more mindfully,” explains Forbes-Bell. “This shift will certainly contribute to a rise in rental shopping for occasionwear.” 

“It takes 66 days on average to form a habit,” said Forbes-Bell. “Therefore while revenge buying and escapism dressing may burst onto the scene, the longer the pandemic continues, the easier it will be for the purchase of simple, comfortable, products that promote self-care to become a permanent fixture in our wardrobe.” 

But as we mark the beginnings of a new financial recession, will the pendulum swing back into the realm of minimalism? Let’s rewind for a second to the financial crash of 2008, a year that marked the end of a logo-mania, bling and overindulgence.

As many lost their jobs, homes, savings or all three, a new aesthetic was born that reflected recession spending. The more-is-more attitude suddenly felt drastically out of touch and untrustworthy to the average consumer, who began to strip back their wardrobe and home to the bare necessities, purchasing goods that were practical, basic and durable.

Phoebe Philo’s era at Céline captured the zeitgeist of the late 2000s and early '10s: beautifully refined, effortless and grounded in the everyday, Philo quickly became one of the most sought-after invites and names to be wearing on the luxury fashion scene. What followed was the birth of ‘normcore,’ to be cool in this period of the millennium simply required a good pair of jeans and a simple white tee. 

“Studies suggest that in times of crisis, consumers seek simplicity and adopt a sociological approach to shopping which favors pragmatism over materialism,” said Forbes-Bell.

So, while consumers may be drawn to the odd outlandish piece and statement accessory, “It makes sense for many people that their wardrobe as a whole will become more utilitarian with a distinct focus on comfort.” 

Australia Fashion Week, running throughout the beginning of June has already seen a more stripped back approach to dressing; St Agni’s stripped back palette and two-piece ensembles feeling decidedly Philo-esque. 

Dopamine Dressing 

A trend that’s rife with millennials and Gen Z who are on the hunt for a hit of feel-good fashion, ‘dopamine dressing’ has swept social and is set to stay as consumers seek mood-lifting looks that offer escapism from pandemic-induced monotony. Bright colors, cartoon-prints, retro patterns and novelty accessories are high on the agenda. 

“Nostalgic thinking has been shown to lift our mood, giving us a positive outlook and even make us feel physically warm. We embody these feelings when we embrace the revival of old-school fashion trends,” explains Forbes-Bell. The look is already being embraced throughout Resort 2022 collections. Designers like Christopher John Rodgers is channeling rainbow colors and head-to-toe florals, while Bottega Veneta and Balenciaga have gone to market with ’90s inspired accessories, jelly clogs and beaded necklaces. A flurry of emerging brands from Maisie Wilen, Marshall Columbia, and House of Sunny are reviving print messages with swirling psychedelics, Y2K patterns and optimistic slogans – the perfect social clout. 

Of course, many of these iconic patterns and decade-defining items are brand new to many consumers, and Forbes-Bell explains the science behind the retro-rush:

“Research has shown that a rush of dopamine accompanies fresh experiences. So, when old brands give new offerings, we experience both nostalgia and novelty and are essentially getting a psychological rush on two fronts,” said Forbes-Bell.

From novelty candles, kitsch prints and the omnipresent checkerboard trend, it’s safe to say that dopamine-induced spending has not only hit our wardrobes but our home lives too.

“Given the tumultuous nature of the last year, it’s expected that people will be looking to various places to lift their spirits,” said Forbes-Bell. 

It’s time to welcome in a new dawn of feel-good fashion.

Anna Ross Special to Polo Lifestyles 2021


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