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Casual comfort booms as tie and high heels hybrid office returns

Spanish fashionista Blanca Lorca once swore by heels and fitted clothing for the office, but covid-19 lockdown Change your style sense and shopping habits.

After working for months from her flat in Madrid, the 31-year-old pharmaceutical company employee is now dressing in neutral tones and in fits three days a week at the office as a partial retreat around the world.

in eighteen months loungewear While remote working during the pandemic has left professionals across Europe scrambling for new wardrobes as they embrace hybrid working.

This is a boon for hard-hit retailers.

the focus on comfort may have disappeared tie, dress shoes and heels, but it has inspired a new desire for versatile fabrics: smart enough for the office, but comfy enough for a kitchen table teleconference.

According to official figures, personal apparel sales – which include clothing, footwear and cosmetics – actually grew 8.5% in the 12 months to August, as increased mobility and back-to-office mandates fueled shopping.

Back-to-work “smart casual” women’s shoes are displayed at the El Corte Ingalls store in Madrid, Spain (Source: Reuters/Susana Vera)

In the UK, more than a quarter of people surveyed by the Office of Workplace Counselors Group said they would continue to dress less formally According to a note from Bank of America, about a third plan to experiment with different styles, even when back in the office.

“After being at home for so long, you like comfort, but at the same time you want to be stylish enough to be able to go out,” said Lorca, wearing a light shirt and loose-fitting trousers, when She saw the rack at Zuby, a small boutique in Madrid.

“I look for clothes that will last with the times, won’t go out of fashion[and]I can use for everything.”

pajamas and zoom

Big brands are paying attention.

Retailers such as Zara, Mango and H&M are highlighting on their websites the lounge- and sportswear as well as the “smart casual” trousers, shirts and dresses that the lockdown has made ubiquitous.

Several leading fashion brands have launched new collections for this unique back-to-work season, as the easing of restrictions and vaccination campaigns increase the dynamism.

The department store El Corte Ingels, a household name in Spain, said demand Casual Officewear Raised In summer, September intensified as customers returned to offices and business meetings.

Shops that successfully achieve pre-pandemic sales levels sell the fastest casual or hybrid workwear, according to analysts and fashion retail sources in London and Madrid, where Europe’s high vaccination rates have helped recover life.

Women whose employers have mandated partial returns will sometimes wear the blouse over pajama bottoms for Zoom calls, but now pair it with easy trousers and flat shoes, Zubi owner Elena Zubizaretta told Reuters. Told.

According to a survey by the country’s largest trade union CCOO, more than 78% of Spaniards have been fully vaccinated and nearly 80% of all workers have returned at least part-time.

Some, however, have missed strictness of formal dressingAlberto Gavillán, talent director for staffing agency Edeco, said formal dress was now the exception. “Most people would prefer Business Casual Code, which has proven to be so effective and comfortable in recent months,” he said.

‘Fashion has changed’

More than half of Spaniards who formally dressed for pre-pandemic work were excited to buy new clothes for their return to the office, a June survey by research company Dynata showed – the highest rate among 11 countries surveyed.

The British and Japanese were the least excited, at 19% and 21% each.

Spanish price comparison website Idealo.es said online searches for sports tracksuits fell by 96% from January to August as vaccination rates increased.

“Fashion has changed and after almost two years away from the workplace you feel like there are new things to go back,” said communications specialist Valme Pardo, wearing bold-printed dresses, ample tailored trousers and his bed in his Madrid home. But stretch blazers.

Men also crave comfort. Lucia Denero, a shopping consultant at El Corte Ingels in Madrid, has noticed that a stream of customers are looking for refreshment: but men never ask to try on ties anymore. “Previously, it was unimaginable for a man. Go to the office with the sweatshirt on… and now we see it,” she said, strolling the aisles and pointing to the now sought-after jeans businessmen. The ‘Relaxed City’ trend is global.

International brands Vince, Me+M, Uniqlo and The White Company, as well as US and UK retailers such as Nordstrom and John Lewis, with a strong emphasis on seasonal pieces to ensure versatility, “turn the site space into a modern workwear staple.” are dedicated to longevity,” Trend intelligence agency Stylus said in a recent report.

In fact, despite workplace mobility Still 30% below pre-pandemic rates, Jefferies Bank said in a note to customers in September, with apparel sales up 5% on average in key Western markets. Fashion giant Inditex’s physical and online sales were up 9% in August. And in the first week of September than pre-pandemic.

The autumn/winter season has got off to a strong start, Pablo Isla, executive president of Inditex, said at a conference call, before announcing the next Massimo Dutee collection, which it will call a “city of rest.” Yet despite improving demand, retailers continue to grapple with disruptions to the global supply chain: H&M’s sales grew less than expected in the third quarter, before being disrupted by supply restrictions in September. “The urge to ‘dress up’ after spending so much time at home is to be comfortable and we want… garments like unlined blazers and jackets, wide trousers and intricate knitwear,” says Ann-Sophie Johansson, creative at H&M The Advisor said. Backstage at Madrid Fashion Week, designers bet on new beginnings – which included bright looks, non-restrictive clothing and colorful jumpers.

“Heels have been left for very specific moments … but day by day people have gotten rid of them, to be more comfortable,” said Spanish designer Mite Casademont, whose “Comfy Wild” collection includes clothing. , smart loungewear and sports shoes.

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