Pandemic accelerates changes in business fashions

As people trade in their suits for sweatpants amid the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the industry built on business attire is getting shelved.

"Business has basically come to a standstill," said Butch David, who designs custom suits for men. "Very few people are doing anything right now with not knowing when they're getting back to work. That has been the challenge."

Even the big players have struggled in this climate. The high-end office wear retailer Brooks Brothers filed for bankruptcy this month after an over 200-year run that included fitting President Abe Lincoln.

Vincent Quan, a professor of fashion business management at the Fashion Institute of Technology, said that casual wear companies have struggled as well because they failed to diversify.

"Levi Strauss announced their quarterly results and they were down 63% in sales, which is a tremendous figure," Quan said.

Quan stressed the importance of knowing what consumers want right now. Demand has increased for tops, polos, and dress shirts as those pieces of apparel are visible during conference calls.

The silver lining, though, is that the pandemic has also allowed for new opportunities in the fashion world.

"Masks are definitely trending," Quan said. "Frankly speaking, it's a necessity."

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