THE YEAR 2020 began with a call for the extreme and the flamboyant. But with the onset of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the sudden shift to work-from-home arrangements forced everyone to slip into something cozier. For this coming 2021, comfort, versatility and function remain de rigueur, said fashion design and merchandising expert Christine Benet.

The newly appointed Associate Dean for Environment Cluster of De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde School of Design and Arts, has revealed next year’s style trends, in line with the predictions of giant trend forecaster World’s Global Style Network (WGSN), comprised of a team of over 250 experts and data scientists that curate an immense online library of insights and inspirations on fashion, retail, and the whole lifestyle industry.

The financial anxiety brought by the economic decline highlights consumer needs rather than commercial concepts. The need to stay-at-home drove a new interest in flexible easy-to-style and easy-to-wear outfits.

“The pandemic did not stop consumers from their purchasing behavior. Rather, there is a shift towards more practical products,” Ms. Benet noted. “Fashion pieces are now considered to be investments that will last beyond the pandemic.”

For ladies, long dresses and skirts with slim silhouettes are a go-to. Loungewear definitely reigns, and it is now more about print and texture rather than embellishments. Soft crochet gives an artisanal comfy vibe, while historic details and openwork embroidery bring romance to easy shapes.

“Loungewear has significantly risen in the Philippines and it goes to show how consumers have adjusted to the pandemic and created their own new normal at home,” Ms. Benet said.

Ribs and shirring likewise add a gentle touch in the over-all nightwear-look, while rustic fringing gives the ensemble a boho spirit. Patchworks like lace and ditsy florals as well as embroidered sheers create character in a minimalist ensemble.

Those who opt for an edgier touch can play with black and white contrasts in feminine looks, cutout cross-category bodywear or fine strappings in stretchy bra tops.

For men, fitted styles are likewise in. For cozier options, crew-neck sweats remain king, while universal cover-ups and oversized cuts provide layered slouchy looks. Sets and coordinated pieces are the focus, especially when matched with parka, bomber, and track jackets.

The work-from-home set-up likewise led to the so-called “Above the Keyboard Dressing,” which gives importance to the visible pieces such as necklines that give a professional touch.

“It took time for consumers to weave in their work schedule with their home environment. This goes the same with personal grooming,” Ms. Benet explained. “It may be simpler. Trying to look presentable during online work, while performing household chores, posted a challenge. However, consumers were slowly able to identify appropriate pieces that are still functional and fashionable, highlighting top clothing.”

Meanwhile, the popularity of sneakers, especially the growing interest in eco-sneaker materials, show how the pandemic has affected the consumers’ priorities when it comes to comfort and function.

“The pandemic brought awareness to social issues, as the general public saw its effects even in the manufacturing sector of the fashion industry. Now, there is more interest in social entrepreneurs and sustainable products,” Ms. Benet added.

Benilde is a subscriber to the WGSN, which is used by businesses and professionals to gather consumer insights and design movements.