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Are WFH collections the hope of fashion retail?

As our work and home spaces overlap, can a new work-from-home product category evolve for fashion retailers?

AND India from the House of Anita Dongre.
AND India from the House of Anita Dongre.

Right now, if our clothing choices were to be mapped on Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, they would most likely fall in the bottom two tiers of the pyramid—those related to fulfilling our psychological and safety needs.

Our state-of-mind and daily routine are reflected in the striped shirt we choose for Zoom meetings; the breathable, preferably sweat-proof, t-shirts for kitchen chores; and in strapping on a mask for a grocery run. “Comfort, versatility and shielding from germs have become key," says Rajul Jain, an independent fashion design consultant based in Mumbai. In the larger retail space, this trend may one day manifest as reinvented products or even a brand new work-from-home (WFH) segment.

Apparel brands have been taking note of this cultural shift, as our office and home spaces get entangled. For Myntra, a potential retail indicator emerged after they studied the behaviour of their company culture. As a precautionary and safety measure, they initiated a mandatory WFH practice starting early March. “It subsequently triggered the thought of how WFH would become a ‘new normal’," says Ayyappan Rajagopal, head of business, Myntra.

Thereafter, a new strategy was mobilised and Myntra unveiled a 'work-from-home edit' on their app, website and social media pages. Their approach is not restricted to only brand communication. Myntra has reassessed their inventory to develop WFH as a solid concept backed by products. For the moment, when manufacturing of apparel is temporarily suspended, these products have been picked from categories like casual and athleisure with a focus on versatility.

What constitutes WFH collections? A broad definition will include tailored shirts and even lounge-y pyjama sets printed with Studio Ghibli characters. These garments are easy to wear and maintain—think wrinkle-free and quick-dry options.

“We are seeing an almost 2X-3X surge in organic searches for categories like shorts and comfort wear, which indicates a strong consumer intent in these segments," says Rajagopal. The mainstay is multi-purpose or transient garments. But will they come at a higher price?

“Multi-functional garments will be a dominant retail player, but most likely pricing will not really change," says Kavindra Mishra, chief executive officer, the House of Anita Dongre. He adds that retail is about price and product offering, and while the former will remain mostly stable, the product segments will be altered. House of Anita Dongre’s high-street women labels, such as the Indo-western Global Desi and the corporate-focused AND have started releasing WFH looks on their social media platforms.

Rajagopal predicts WFH fashion will be a big focus area with high demand in the near future. However, it is too early to say if it could be established as a category in the long run. It may expand to categories such as fitness or wearable devices. “The concept is likely to evolve while setting the trend for the year ahead," he adds.

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