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Fashion retailers bet bras with wires and a splash of color will sell this spring

Thu 1st April, 2021 11:00am
By Victoria Waldersee and Richa Naidu
    LISBON/CHICAGO, April 1 (Reuters) - After a year of nesting
in pastel-colored loungewear, shoppers are opting for styles
with floral prints, feel-good slogans and statement jewelry to
jazz up working-from-home outfits as optimism makes a comeback
in spring collections, designers and retailers told Reuters.
    While neutral, comfortable clothing remains more popular
than in a normal spring, retailers from Neiman Marcus to Walmart
 WMT.N  and Macy’s Inc  M.N  reported growing sales of bright,
optimistic color, flowy fabrics or dresses for the first time
since the start of the pandemic as shoppers prepared for a
return to normal life.
    “We’re seeing a return to occasion dresses and even bras
with wires,” Marie Ivanoff-Smith, fashion director at department
store Nordstrom  JWN.N , told Reuters. “As it gets warmer and
more people go outside, we thought people would really want to
showcase optimism and joy with prints and vibrant colors.”  
   So far, ditzy floral prints are up 31% in Europe and 16% in
the United States from last year, according to Heuritech, a data
firm analyzing millions of pictures a day on social media and
catwalks.
    Colors seen in catwalks for spring and summer 2021
collections were vibrant pinks and bold blues - "an energizing
source of inspiration to help carry us through,” the company
said in a February report. While vibrant colors and floral
motifs are typical of spring styles, the difference this year is
that fashion lines also include nude t-shirts and what Walmart’s
head of fashion editorial, Alison Hilzer, called “slouchy
cardigans."
    British online fashion retailer ASOS  ASOS.L  said in an
email that it noticed in recent weeks its customers were “into
feel-good slogans, brighter colors and floral accessories as the
weather has started to improve and they start to get ready for
the summer ahead.”
    “While neutral tones are still prevalent, we’re excited to
inject some much-needed optimism into our wardrobes with bright
accents. We’re loving yellows and greens for (spring),” an ASOS
spokesperson told Reuters in an email.
    "Bold colors, draping, and light fabrics created a perfect
complement to spring with collections from Dior, Loewe, and
Dries van Noten," said Lana Todorovich, president and chief
merchandising officer at luxury retailer Neiman Marcus.
    "It's clear that the trend is also about coming out of this,
although it's still a lot about comfortable garments," H&M
 HMb.ST  CEO Helena Helmersson told Reuters on Wednesday after
the Swedish retailer reported earnings.
    
    A 'NERVE-RACKING' PLANNING PROCESS
    Still, planning has never been harder than this year, as
designers used to finishing designs months and sometimes years
ahead were forced to adjust collections and marketing in line
with the fluctuating circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic. 
    In general, fashion trend forecasting will look two years
out, according to consumer product director at fashion trend
analysis company Stylus, Emily Gordon-Smith. But amid the
uncertainty of the pandemic, the company advised its clients to
play it safe with "seasonless" clothing.
    “We tend to plan six months ahead, which is nerve-racking
when you think about it,” Nordstrom’s Ivanoff-Smith said.
    “How are you feeling in New York? L.A.? Seattle? We realized
we needed to cater to all the scenarios,” Ivanoff-Smith said.
The Seattle-based department store “eased into the spring
season” by starting with casual clothes and then moving into
special fashions like jewelry and colorful dresses.
    Still, convincing consumers spoiled by comfy clothing seven
days a week to go back to heels and suits may not be easy,
Gordon-Smith said.
    “Once consumers are embedded in a comfort-based wardrobe,
it’s a very tough mindset to shift,” Gordon-Smith said. “It’ll
be underpinned by a desire to dress up again, but by our
predictions that’s not going to happen on a large-scale until
2022."
    
    ‘GET OUT OF SWEATSUITS’
    But as the return of spring and progressing vaccination
campaigns brought some cheer, Neiman Marcus, Walmart and Macy’s
said they have already begun to see people starting to tire of
cozy and comfy clothes.
    “We’ve begun to see many of our iconic designers show looks
and pieces that reflect a return to customers attending special
occasions,” said Neiman Marcus' Todorovich. Brands like The Row,
Brunello Cucinelli and Victoria Beckham have embraced “optic
whites that symbolize a sense of refresh, rebirth, and a natural
reset,” she added.
    “The customer mentality is wanting to get out of sweatsuits
and sweatshirt pajamas and put on something that makes them feel
pretty and excited to go out,” Walmart’s Hilzer said.
    At Macy’s, Durand Guion, vice president of the department
store’s fashion office, said he is even starting to see a return
to formal clothes and wedding gowns as states open up. 
    “Weddings can happen again, gatherings can happen again,” he
said. “I think a lot of that momentum will just sort of continue
as vaccinations take place.”  

 (Reporting by Richa Naidu in Chicago and Victoria Waldersee in
Lisbon; Additional reporting by Anna Ringstrom in Stockholm;
Editing by Vanessa O'Connell and Lisa Shumaker)
 ((richa.naidu@tr.com; Follow me on Twitter https://twitter.com/Richa_Writes;
 +1 312 636 8874; Reuters Messaging:
richa.naidu.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))
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