Behind the mask

Latin American fashion designers adapt to the new normal.

Apparel spending is estimated to shrink by 30% this year. Fashion brands and retailers are doing everything they can to retain customers and their wallets. 

Fashion has always embraced innovation but the rate of change in the past year has been remarkable. Brands are launching digital platforms including virtual showrooms, sustainability trackers, initiatives for selling unsold stock to support workers, etc. 

One interesting development is the emergence of antiviral garments. Gucci, Alexander McQueen, Saint Laurent, Armani and others have all been working on garments including the swiss-made ViroFormula fabric. Colombian designer Arturo Calle has already developed a product range using the material. 

A fashion designer in Colombia confirms, “It’s not just Arturo Calle, all the large brands have invested in research, some have launched masks or protective garments, other are looking at novel textiles.” 

All the large brands have invested in research, some have launched masks or protective garments, other are looking at novel textiles.”   

Fashion designer, Colombia 

It is not just protective clothing that is in demand, with most countries implementing some form of lockdown consumers are looking for comfort. A Levi’s executive in Chile explained, “We are the leaders in jeans worldwide but if you are locked at home you want comfort, we have had to adapt quickly. We are not using antivirus fabrics but we have developed anti-stain and anti-wrinkle technologies. The idea, with no more events, is that the garments can be with you at home or everywhere.” 

The designer sees value and longevity in the trend, “Remember, the Burberry trenchcoat was created during the war and now it is here to stay. Fashionable, protective clothing will become mainstream and the addition of technology creates a higher implicit value. The Levi’s executive agrees, “We cannot turn a blind eye, the needs of our customers have changed and we must adapt.” 

We cannot turn a blind eye, the needs of our customers have changed and we must adapt.”   

Executive, Levi’s, Chile 

There is also a generational shift underway in terms of purchasing power, the fashion designer in Colombia adds, “Millennials and especially Gen Z are questioning everything: what are the clothes made of, where are the materials sourced, what is their impact, how does it protect them, why are they paying that price. 

Lockdowns have turned the fashion world on its head, only those able to adapt will survive. 

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