Virus Outbreak Small Business Relief Success or Failure?

In this May 2, 2020 file photo, amid concerns of the spread of COVID-19, a mannequin displays fashion masks for shoppers to buy at the Highland Park Village shopping center in Dallas.

During this difficult time, the fashion industry is probably not a top concern for many Americans.

However, the fashion industry contributes $368 billion in retail spending to our national economy. Globally, the industry is projected to contribute $1.9 trillion this year alone.

It’s important to remember that the fashion industry provides us with more than just stylish clothes; it creates jobs and business in many diverse fields, including science, technology, finance and law.

The fashion industry, which is always in flux, has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of relying on foot traffic through brick-and-mortar stores, the industry must rely on consumers at home to keep up with modern trends and evolving tastes. The fashion industry has been adapting to meet the needs and desires of pandemic consumers.

Larissa Jensen, the vice president and chief beauty analyst for The NPD Group, said the first thing Americans shied away from at the start of the pandemic was cosmetics. Instead, they switched their focus to skin care. Women were wearing less makeup in part because they weren’t venturing into offices and restaurants, and also because they didn’t want makeup smudges all over their face coverings.

In May, lip product sales dropped 5%, but mascara sales rose by double digits. “It makes complete sense,” Jensen told The Washington Post. “When you have to go out and you’re wearing a protective face mask, that’s the product that emphasizes your ‘smize’ — your smiling eyes.”

Another major change also has presented itself: a dramatic decline in sales of women’s heels. Granted, sales in women’s heels have been dwindling for years, but the pandemic really pushed sales over the cliff. Women’s dress shoes plunged a whopping 70% in March and April, according to NPD.

The name of the game is comfort. Slipper sales doubled in April, as Americans splurged on higher-priced options such as fur-lined Ugg products, Beth Goldstein, a footwear analyst for NPD, told the Post. Goldstein said she believes the trend toward comfort is going to be a long-term shift.

Sensibilities regarding fashion are definitely changing — perhaps permanently. “Casualization,” as the industry calls it, has become increasingly normal, especially in the workplace.

Retailers meanwhile are working hard to keep pace with changing supply and demand. Fashion retailers are scrambling to shift their merchandise to appeal to our changing consumer sensibilities. More and more fashion businesses are making and selling face masks, and many have converted their traditional fragrance-production lines into hand sanitizer-production lines.

Fashion is a staple for our self-expression and identity. In an era such as this — when everything around us feels chaotic and unpredictable — it’s important to make sure our fashion is reflecting both our practical needs and our style desires.

Kayla Richardson is in grade 11 at Garden Spot High School.