Long-term loneliness is often associated with mental health issues including depression, increased stress, and anxiety. According to studies issued during the initial UK lockdown, one in four UK citizens stated they had feelings of loneliness. Prior to the lockdown one in ten UK citizen advised the same. As we face the risk of a second wave and are coping with the restrictions and practices of a post-Coronavirus world the need for community is central to the cultural conversation.
Fashion as a medium sits firmly at the heart of a diverse, almost innumerable, number of communities. It has the ability to reflect our times and connect us to those we identify with. In many ways, it fulfils the human need for belonging. The fashion industry has come into the digital age alongside the concept of community, and that concept is changing rapidly. It is becoming less physical. In a world influenced by the impact of the coronavirus, a brands’ digital influence is key to their success. We have seen positive trends with brands in the wake of the coronavirus that focus on creating and embracing community. This has become core to our culture since the impact of COVID. This is helping bridge the physical distance we feel with the creation of virtual spaces that sustain while simultaneously keeping brands alive in the face of economic downturn.
Seeking the right influence
Online fashion communities aren’t a new phenomenon. From collective fans of specific styles with their own #’s and user forums to those who follow green fashion influencers or plan their outfits on Pinterest – there exist a myriad of communities. However, fashion brands rarely saw a high level of genuine community interaction with most of their digital real estate dedicated to advertisement and conversion. That was until the coronavirus rocked the fashion industry and life at large.
Not every company has adapted to the changing landscape of fashion and the importance of a digital presence. Especially those without a significant online strategy. For others, the re-evaluation of how they connect with customers has proven beneficial to company and customer both.
Building a fashion community from home
How we interact with brands may forever be altered in the wake of the coronavirus. In many instances’ advertisements are giving way to conversation, viral challenges, tutorials, and Spotify playlists. There’s been a hard and human shift toward engagement, a great example would be fashion brand Marc Jacobs employees sharing “work-from-home” looks and playing host to a weekly draw-along, welcoming others to share their pieces by tagging the brand. They have managed to cure lockdown boredom through entertainment for many, attract significant attention and strengthen their brand. COVID’s effect on our culture has necessitated a human approach.
The new status quo?
This intelligent, honest, and compassionate online community-building approach may well set the standard for what people expect going forward. Even as we begin to step outside of absolute digital space and return to “normality“. Delphine Buchotte of digital agency Phidel cites “connecting brands to the culture,” as being core to current brand success. She describes the impact of COVID as going “far beyond when quarantine is over…”
As of now, our culture is isolated, it is conscious of its responsibility, and successful brands are speaking to this. This shift in how brands interact with consumers may not be an isolation-only blip. This sense of community may find relevance in physical space, becoming the new norm when it comes to brand interaction. For a long time, many stores have relied on the community aspect to keep them going. For example, board game stores often host tournaments, dedicated game nights, and provide space for people to meet and socialise. This sense of belonging engages and connects their customers. Fashion stores could easily echo these concepts.
Our cultures expectations of brands are evolving, as are our needs. It’s impossible for most industries, but especially fashion, to break away from cultural expectation and requirement.
It’s all about community
This more honest approach to consumer involvement and the genuine interest in tackling issues central to people, as well as the engagement and reinforcement of communities around brands could be a net positive for all. It positions the internet as a place for collaboration and belonging while diminishing the feeling of using it as a tool to target ads. In the same vein taking this thinking and applying it to a physical space could allow for further activities centred around people’s favourite fashion brands.
What kind of changes could we see? More active events like Ace & Jig’s “Clothing Exchange”, space for socialising, community-driven events and genuine mindfulness from companies. Simple changes that facilitate interactions both with the brands and with like-minded community members.
It seems an almost Utopian thought, but the community-focused approach has been proven successful online.
The industry has begun to appeal to the needs of its people in the wake of intense cultural change, and that is for the better. I’m not suggesting this will solve the issue of loneliness but that it may help us cope. I’m interested to see how brands will evolve to the needs of both a COVID and post-COVID world and how it will impact these feelings of isolation many of us feel.