Online shopping is not what it was six months ago. We are not immune to the realities retail is facing in the midst of a global pandemic and the economic hardship it has wrought. But truth is, many who can are largely still shopping, and the wheels continue to turn at e-comm sites big and small.
As we begin to see the shape of a new fashion landscape emerge, we turn to those on the ground floor, the buyers, to see what they have in mind for the upcoming season. How are they navigating current business challenges, what are they buying into, and what do they forecast their customers desire now? It’s less a question of the It bag or boot of the season, and more an inquiry into the true essence of what people who love fashion and still want it in their lives are reaching for right now.
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Tiffany Hsu, Fashion Buying Director, Mytheresa
“For spring 2021, we are buying as usual. However, we have paid more attention to luxury casual wear and items that are much more timeless. Anything that’s more opulent and extravagant seems a little irrelevant, especially when it comes to evening gowns. But post-COVID, we believe that people are going to celebrate special occasions again. Other than that, luxury customers are still focusing on investment items.”
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Dechel Mckillian, Founder, Galerie.LA
“The beautiful thing about Galerie.LA is we do slow fashion. Many of the brands and styles you see for summer are what we carried pre-COVID. Each piece at Galerie.LA is hand-selected to transcend fashion trends.
“Still, one big buying change that was made this season is around carrying more Black-owned brands in the sustainable clothing, clean beauty, and wellness spaces. We launched the GLA Goodie Bag in July to make sure we’re diversifying our shelves and supporting Black-owned businesses long-term. Each month, we feature a Black-owned sustainable brand with the intent of introducing customers to new products and getting dollars into these businesses at a time when they need it most.”
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Sam Lobban,Senior Vice President of Designer and New Concepts, Nordstrom
“Our teams had bought fall ’20 by the time the pandemic hit, so we all had to go back over our buys in order to ensure our product offering would make as much sense as possible for what has become our customer’s new normal. We’ve seen a big rise in key accessories, boots, sneakers, and bags—along with more casual, easy work-from-home apparel items, like sweaters and elevated loungewear and sweatpants.”
Tracy Margolies, Chief Merchant, Saks Fifth Avenue
“This season challenged us to not only change the way we see the collections, but also how we approach our assortments. We pivoted from in-person appointments in New York, Paris, and Milan to virtual market appointments with our designers and vendor partners. While we certainly miss the ability to touch and feel the product, we had the opportunity to get creative with new digital tools that make the buying process efficient and collaborative. This virtual way of working has afforded us the ability to be more agile in market and assort our buys with a more discerning vantage point.
“We have shifted our assortment to better serve our clients in what we are calling the ‘next normal,’ which includes virtual get-togethers, working from home, and smaller social gatherings. Our customer is responding to a more casual-luxe aesthetic and key separates, such as statement tops, so we will keep those preferences in mind when buying our overall assortment.”
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Natalie Kingham, Fashion Buying Director, MatchesFashion
“Throughout the pandemic, we have been in constant touch with our designer partners and have been holding buying appointments remotely via Zoom. Whilst I don’t think everything will revert back to how it was before, I do think we will now see a new mix of innovative digital presentations, physical packages, et cetera. I am managing to see some London-centric designers in their showrooms, as it does make a big difference being able to see and touch the clothing while having face-to-face conversations.
“In terms of mood, I think upcoming seasons will be a combination of an effortless glamour, joyful and uplifting fashion, and a relaxed approach to wardrobing, which is lifestyle dependent as our customer spends more time at home. People will be looking for opportunities to dress up again, but this may be in a more organic way. People still want to make an effort, but they will adapt on certain categories like footwear.
“I do believe there is still an appetite for newness and that trends will emerge as they did before, only this will be countered with a desire for versatile and timeless pieces that a woman will keep and wear for years.”
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Lisa Aiken, Buying and Fashion Director, Moda Operandi
“There was a lot of change that occurred within a very short time in terms of market, retailers, and the brands. Our fall 2020 buy is certainly unique in the sense that it’s more paired back and laser focused, enabling the shopper to get exactly what she wants or needs for this unprecedented environment.
“Yes, the global lockdown had an immense impact on budget and timing, but the real approach behind fall 2020 has been about working collaboratively with brands. It’s been an encouraging time, as the industry opens itself up to new concepts and ideas, and to establishing personal ways to connect with the shopper that didn’t exist before.
“The fashion industry as a whole needs to do better with diversity, and Moda Operandi will do better. We’ve committed to having 15 percent of Moda Operandi Trunkshows come from Black-owned brands or Black designers. We’re making progress toward that and have begun partnership conversations with more than 30 Black-owned brands or Black designers. These learnings and changes will leave a permanent mark on the fashion business, as it should.”
Libby Page, Senior Fashion Market Editor, Net-a-Porter
“Our goal as a global retailer is to always deliver seasonally relevant product to the Net-a-Porter woman, because that is what they are looking for. Additionally, the idea of buying investment pieces and continuing to curate our sustainability focuses have been some of the key strategies at the forefront of buying for fall 2020. While the last few months have changed our customers’ shopping habits in many ways, our focus has remained true to our overarching buying strategy. We saw interest and trends emerge in beauty, knitwear, loungewear, and investment pieces, such as fine jewellery and luxury handbags.
“As we move into buying for resort 2021, we continue to focus on the buy-now, wear-now strategy, alongside the new normal, which consists of pieces that are versatile and have a relaxed and casual attitude that also feels elevated.”
Celenie Seidel, Senior Womenswear Editor, Farfetch
“Farfetch is a platform, as opposed to a traditional online retailer. We partner directly with brands and boutiques globally in order to deliver the world’s largest, most diverse luxury fashion offering to our audience. While we do not buy stock as a business, we surface the buys of hundreds of our partners, so we have been acutely aware of how the pandemic has reshaped the buying process for this season.
“Although we have collectively faced one of the most challenging periods of our lifetime, there have been many positive things to have been born from adversity. We created a Shop by Black Designers filter on our platform to enable our customers to discover Black designers who are impacting and shaping the culture of our world. And we will continue to improve the representation of Black businesses, designers, collaborators, and creatives across our platform.”
This story originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US.