Alexis DeSalva Kahler
Alexis is a Senior Research Analyst at Mintel. Alexis focuses on US Retail and eCommerce reports.

Like many events in the last 11 months, New York Fashion Week (NYFW), a pivotal industry occasion, had hopes that the second season impacted by the pandemic would have some sense of normalcy. Just like the September 2020 event, this season’s shows were mostly digital events, leaving many to wonder if it will ever return to pre-pandemic settings.

Rebecca Minkoff presentation

One thing is clear; COVID-19 has spurred a much-needed change to the bi-annual occasion. Instead of highly expensive and exclusive productions, many brands are favoring smaller, yet more accessible, ways of presenting their latest designs, and are inviting the consumer to watch. Even the designers who did opt for an in-person format offered non-industry insiders the chance to sneak a peek at the latest collections. As a whole, the industry is acknowledging the need for change, focusing on the consumer and responding to their needs, rather than dictating them.

Mintel’s Senior Analyst Alexis DeSalva Kahler reports on the mostly virtual shows and breaks down what these changes mean for the greater retail industry.

Consumers are invited to the party

Rebecca Minkoff is no stranger to evolution. In fact, Mintel has previously recapped the various ways she’s evolved NYFW, as well as the retail industry at large. And 2021 is no different. For this year’s presentation, Minkoff was one of the few designers who, again, opted for a small, in-person presentation. However, she didn’t forget to think of her customers. In addition to livestreaming the presentation on the official NYFW site, it was also streamed via TikTok and Instagram. Since much of Minkoff’s collection was available to order on the day of the show, viewers had the opportunity to see and shop seamlessly. Even consumers on a budget or worried about spending on non-essentials could shop with less worry, as the brand introduced their partnership with Klarna, a payment installment plan. This type of flexible payment is a factor that would motivate nearly a quarter of consumers to do more clothes shopping online, according to Mintel research on apparel retailing online.

Rebecca Minkoff presentation

Minkoff also used the occasion to launch her brand on a new platform, OnlyFans, being one of the first brands and designers to do so. There, fans have access to behind-the-scenes photos and videos, as well as the option to participate in conversations with Minkoff and access to other exclusive content for purchase (ranging from $5-$25). The benefit to shoppers is immediate access to a view of the industry they’ve never been privy to, one that you can’t get from typical social media livestreams. That access helps to foster a sense of community and can build a stronger connection to the brand. But there’s also a benefit to Minkoff’s team from an efficiency standpoint. Content that’s not used for YouTube or Instagram can be repurposed for OnlyFans and vice versa. The approach allows the brand to have a broader and more diversified reach to their consumer.

The industry responds to consumer’s COVID-19 fatigue

Source: Pantone Instagram

Pantone Color Institute, which forecasts the season’s colors, focused on “reinvention and re-emergence” for the upcoming Fall 2021 color palette. The colors, which include Illuminating (a bright yellow), Leprechaun (a bright green), and Fuchsia Fedora, were selected to spark some creativity. Pantone’s Executive Director acknowledged the burnout many consumers are experiencing after a year of staying at home. This palette, which also includes a bright blue and pale pink, is designed to stand on its own or work together, hoping to give consumers some inspiration to get dressed and find creativity in their own wardrobes. According to Mintel research on the casualization of fashion, nearly one-third of consumers are looking forward to getting dressed once the pandemic isn’t a threat, and such colors can help to motivate some shoppers to release pent-up demand and treat themselves to new clothes.

Why is this important?

While this is just one example, it’s a strong indication of where the market is going. Exclusivity is no longer of interest; consumers want to connect to a brand and belong to a community, even if it’s virtual. February’s NYFW built on what was introduced in September; an indication that such trends aren’t a fad, but an evolution of the luxury market. It signals a more inclusive fashion industry that centers around the consumers, which is something many want from brands (three in 10 think luxury fashion feels unrealistic for them).