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Five Global Retailers Share What’s Selling Online, From Sweatpants to Wedding Dresses

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Fashion, like so many industries amid this pandemic, is on the brink of change. Brands are rethinking their missions: reimagining runway shows, pledging to be more sustainable, and working to realign their deliveries to better suit sales periods. Of course, none of their grand plans will come together without customer support. All the beautiful goods in the world don’t mean a thing without someone to buy and love them.

It might seem like we’re all doomed, because who’s buying designer handbags when we’re stuck indoors? But there is some good news: Luxury e-commerce sites are reporting a shift in the culture of consumption. Yes, cozy house clothes are selling like wildfire—as are candles, pillows, and other niceties for the home—but enthusiasm is also increasing for fashion that is exuberant, special, and thoughtfully made.

Will we emerge from our chrysalises as bedazzled butterflies or cashmere caterpillars? Vogue Runway polled five luxury e-tailers to get a sense of what fashion looks like now.

Home Life Rules

Searches for sweatpants have spiked 85% since March 9 on Moda Operandi, according to the e-tailer’s extensive sales report. Cashmere sweat sets from Madeleine Thompson have ranked among Moda’s best sellers since March 9, with almost 75% of buyers purchasing the complete set, priced at $450 for the sweater and $450 for the pants. The interest in luxury house clothes isn’t surprising when you consider that many of us are very inside right now—and it isn’t strictly a Moda trend.

“Our track pants alone have grown over 130% in the last couple of months, and it’s not necessarily surprising, but of course we weren’t anticipating it,” says Net-a-Porter’s global buying director Elizabeth von der Goltz. “We’ve seen that the customers are gravitating toward activewear, loungewear, beauty, and wellness products during this time.”

“Like most people, Ssense customers are understandably gravitating toward the comfort of loungewear, but our aesthetic is much more elevated-casual, not sloppy,” says Brigitte Chartrand, the vice president of womenswear buying for Ssense. “Activewear, lingerie, and swimwear are all selling well right now.”

Ssense’s vice president of menswear buying, Federico Barassi, echoes this: “As more people are working from home, comfortable attire has been top of mind for our customers. Loungewear and footwear are our best-selling categories right now. T-shirts, joggers, sneakers, and slides are outperforming all other categories at the moment, and we’ve also seen an increase in eyewear purchases.”

To meet customer interest, the Canadian retailer has introduced a number of exclusive collections tailor-made for this stay-at-home moment. “Shoppers come to Ssense for a refined offering of luxury and elevated loungewear, so going into this season many of our exclusive womenswear capsule collections were catering to this demand,” Chartrand notes, citing an exclusive Jacquemus capsule collection as a particularly well-timed collaboration. A terry cloth Gil Rodriguez capsule is likewise doing well, as are buzzy items with a lounge-y feel, like Ssense’s exclusive Off-White Nike sneakers. “Overall, brands that are offering elevated loungewear, like Sporty & Rich, are on fire.”

Celenie Seidel, a senior editor at Farfetch, reports that “there has absolutely been more of an appetite for loungewear and activewear, speaking to the obvious collective shift in lifestyle.” But that lifestyle shift doesn’t stop at socks and slippers. “Our homewares category has been receiving a lot of love—never have homes known so many candles,” Seidel continues. “People seem to be transferring the self-expression they once realized through clothes to the way they’re dressing their surrounding environment.” Moda Operandi also reported an uptick in homeware buys, with sales for home goods up 80% from this time last year.

Investment Pieces Are Still Worth Investing In

MatchesFashion.com’s fashion buying director Natalie Kingham says sales of “cult collector” investment items are up too. That includes “considered purchases which will last through the seasons ahead, from handbags by Loewe and Saint Laurent to fine jewelry and watches from Shay, Lizzie Mandler, Jacquie Aiche, and La Californienne.”

The move toward pieces of lasting value was echoed from all retailers. “We’re seeing high sales in fine jewelry, specifically in higher-price-point watches,” says Net-a-Porter’s von der Goltz. “People are wanting emotional buys that are good investment pieces.”

According to Moda Operandi’s retail report, “Half of the women surveyed said when investing in wardrobe pieces, they’re looking for a quality fashion piece that will last.” Lisa Aiken, the retailer’s fashion and buying director, tells Vogue, “There are Moda customer habits that have not shifted. She is still making emotional and cult-favorite purchases—our woman loves a fashion piece. And before lockdown, our clients were interested in dressing for their reality. They wanted the perfect button-down, a luxe everyday knit, a sharp blazer, and tailored trousers from brands like The Row, Khaite, and Bottega Veneta. This desire for reality dressing has remained constant throughout lockdown.”

Aiken says she’s been surprised that luxury handbags—arguably impractical items for women with nowhere to go—are still selling well. “I have been very intrigued by the uptick of designer handbag purchases. Our top-selling handbags are Loewe, Prada, and Bottega Veneta. We already sold out, in presale, the new Bottega Veneta pouch with a gold chain. That bag costs $3,600. I am so happy our client is buying these fashion pieces, but I do wonder, Where is she wearing it?”

Net-a-Porter also reported an increase in handbag sales: “We’ve also seen growth in the bag category—specifically bags that our shopper wears during the day,” reports von der Goltz—while Farfetch and Moda Operandi both reported increased interest in vintage pieces. “Sadly, so many people have been financially impacted by lockdown,” Farfetch’s Seidel says. “[But] among those who are in a better position, we are seeing strong sales in things like fine jewelry, which indicates a gravitation toward investing in more timeless items rather than trend-driven, seasonal items.”

The Future Is Bright—Literally

Among the most popular items at Moda Operandi for the summer and fall are a glitter bathing suit by Oseree and crystal-trimmed pumps by the Tbilisi-based brand Mach & Mach. Both are about as sparkly as a garment or accessory could be—proving that luxury shoppers are definitely embracing a happy, carefree sense of style.

MatchesFashion.com’s Kingham categorizes this kind of shopping as “hopeful” purchases. “Work-from-home looks and hopeful purchases have been on the increase, as well as dresses from designers such as The Vampire’s Wife, Vita Kin, Gabriela Hearst, Toogood, and Lisa Marie Fernandez as the weather improves.” In perhaps the most hopeful move of all, shoppers are also gravitating toward occasionwear. “Our wedding edit is up by 25%,” says MatchesFashion.com’s Kingham. “I’ve also heard from our private shopping team that our customers are wanting ‘uplifting pieces’—it’s lovely to know that fashion can help lift the spirits.” The message: Shoppers are saying “I do” to a better future.

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