“I accept the discomfort”: fashion brand executives explain how their office style has changed
This article was reported – and first published by – the brother of Digiday Glossy
There has been a lot of speculation over the past 19 months as to whether the so-called sweatpants revolution will continue once people return to the office.
The forecasts have been divided. Some have said that people will be so used to wearing comfortable clothes – and office dress codes are loosening, anyway – that they will go to work with sweatshirts and styles that could double as pajamas. Others said that after several months of wearing just the same pair of tracksuits, people would jump at the chance to dress up.
Speaking with executives in the fashion industry, it’s clear that a style change is happening. Office cabinets are more relaxed and comfortable than ever. However, for some, especially those who flourish personally in their style, returning to the office is indeed a good reason to go all out.
Sarah LaFleur, founder and CEO of women’s fashion brand MMLaFleur, said she took the opportunity to purchase a whole new wardrobe before the company returned to the office in June.
“It was a bit of an investment, but I bought myself a new capsule wardrobe,” said LaFleur. “I have four new pants, three new dresses, four new T-shirts and six knit tops. Knit tops are stretchy by nature, so they’ve become my go-to for looking neat, yet comfortable.
LaFleur, who gave birth to twins during the pandemic, said comfort has become a priority for her since returning to the office. And she sees the same trend reflected in the brand’s sales: knitwear represented 25% of MMLaFleur’s sales in 2020, compared to 16% in 2019.
John Shumate, vice president of global brand marketing at Champion, said the pandemic has dramatically changed the number of company employees who dress, including himself.
“At Champion, we wear our sweatshirts, joggers and hoodies, but that hasn’t always been the case,” said Shumate. “It used to be more common to wear traditional suits and office clothes, but the reason I love working in this sportswear company is that we have the ability to express our style and have confidence in it. that we wear. When I put on a fleece, joggers, or hoodie for work, I feel uplifted and comfortable in it. It allows me to think creatively and do a great job.
Shumate said, in particular, that he wears Champion’s technical reverse-weave fleece hoodies.
The desire to dress more comfortably in the office is one that sportswear brands have taken over. As Rhône and Vuori exploded during the pandemic, thanks to people locked up at home, they recently turned to making clothes suitable for the office, like dress shirts and men’s polo shirts from stretchy materials.
But not all executives embrace comfort. Molly Howard, co-founder of women’s fashion brand La Ligne, has gone the opposite way for her personal office style over the past year. Before the pandemic, she dressed much more comfortably in the office.
“When we started The Line, I rebelled against my previous career in finance, where we had a very strict dress code and wore these really uncomfortable clothes 20 hours a day,” Howard said. “So when I started La Ligne, my style was always focused on comfort. I wore sweatpants all the time and encouraged the team to dress the way they wanted and be as comfortable as possible.
But for Howard, over a year and a half at home left him with the urge to dress up. She also had a baby during the pandemic. The combination of wearing the same sweatpants all the time, along with the stress of pregnancy, caused her to express herself through clothing in ways she hadn’t been able to.
“I’m spending more energy than ever on the look of my outfit,” Howard said. “I spent so much time in a pregnant woman’s body, not socializing as much as before, not even touching a pair of jeans once in over 11 months. And I wanted to get some of that expression back.
Howard said his team have been on a similar path since returning to the office in September. In an ecommerce photoshoot she attended on Wednesday, she observed that no one was wearing sweatpants. Howard pointed out that La Ligne does not have a dress code and that wearing sweatpants is by no means discouraged. “I wouldn’t even think of putting in place a rule about what people can wear,” she said. But more and more of his team are dressing simply because they are happy to have the chance to do so.
“It feels good to match my shoes to my sweater, button up jeans and wear them, even though they are less comfortable than sweatpants,” she said. “I accept the discomfort. “