COVID-19 SPECIAL

Coronavirus: The rise of loungewear in uncomfortable times

PHOTOS: 6IXTY8IGHT, KYDRA, BELLS & BIRDS, LOVE, BONITO
PHOTOS: 6IXTY8IGHT, KYDRA, BELLS & BIRDS, LOVE, BONITO

SINGAPORE  - For the past two months, 26-year-old Ailynn Song has been wearing almost nothing but pyjamas.

She wakes in the morning and, still clad in last night's pyjamas, starts work at home as a customer relationship management specialist at online marketplace Carousell.

After work, she changes into sportswear for a workout. A quick shower later, and she is dressed in a fresh set of pyjamas.

If she has to jump on a video call, she dons a more presentable top. "But always (with) boxer shorts," Ms Song stresses.

She recently spent $110 carting out a virtual basket of loungewear, boxer shorts and sports attire from Australian retailer Cotton On.

"It's the only reason I shop now," she says. "To get more pyjamas."

Like Ms Song, many are realising that working from home brings the perks of dressing down and working in unpolished comfort.

But there is a fine line between comfortable and sloppy. Enter loungewear, a growing segment of fashion now seeing accelerated demand as more people work from home during the coronavirus situation.

A March survey of 301 fashion businesses in the United Kingdom and Ireland by British retail magazine Drapers found that amid declining sales, their best-performing products were jeans, denim, leggings, loungewear and athleisure.

The growing interest is reflected in Singapore too. International lingerie and homewear label 6ixty8ight, which has eight stores here, has seen sales double in its homewear category - which includes nightwear and loungewear - compared with six months ago.

Bestsellers in the last three months include the brand's modal pyjamas and sleep shirts, lingerie, sports leggings, T-shirt dresses, and its Supersoft collection of lingerie.

Regional managing director Paulino Moreno says: "We see a big potential with shifting consumer behaviour even after the pandemic - comfort will be a priority in the customer's preference."

Local labels are seeing similar demand. Luxury loungewear brand Bells & Birds saw a 20 per cent increase in sales in April after an initial decline in March, says founder and designer Amanda Koh, 31.

Sales at her retail space in Shenton Way fell in March, alongside footfall in the Central Business District. With sourcing and partial production affected by the global lockdowns, she also had to delay production for a new collection scheduled for March by a few weeks.

But things have been looking up. Ms Koh, whose handmade pieces are priced from $80 for slips to $300 for robes, has noticed that "more people are looking for comfortable yet stylish loungewear". Customers have been asking for more robes and pyjama sets - her label's bestsellers - as well as accessories like mulberry silk eye masks and scrunchies.

Ms Koh, who started the label in 2014 with a focus on bridal robes, adds: "With weddings being postponed or cancelled, we are now fully focused on our loungewear."

Fashion retailers jump in

Other fashion brands have been quick in responding to the trend.

Home-grown label Love, Bonito launched its first loungewear collection online in early April. The seven-piece line comprising separates like kimonos ($39.90), camisole tops ($29.90) and an eye mask ($11.90), has mostly sold out.


PHOTOS: LOVE, BONITO

The collection was conceptualised in early 2019 and not timed to coincide with the current situation, says a representative from the company. "But there has definitely been an increase in interest for comfortable clothing that doesn't sacrifice style and versatility."

The label, which has three stores here, is planning a restock of the collection at the end of the month, which will include a capsule collection of twinning loungewear for kids.

Bangkok-based brand Pomelo launched its most recent loungewear and activewear collections in April - a week ahead of the planned date so it could be made available to customers earlier, says a representative from the brand.

Pomelo, which opened here at 313 @ somerset in June 2019, has carried loungewear and casual clothing even before the pandemic. But it took the opportunity to "ramp up offerings for work-from-home styles".

"Social distancing and working from home have shifted consumer demand for our popular categories like workwear and going-out attire, to items suitable for comfort at home," adds the Pomelo representative. "We were able to quickly adapt to these changing demands from our shoppers."

The brand already has plans to launch more loungewear, as well as a new "self-care product category" linked to "personal health, hygiene and protection".

The representative adds: "Beyond physical comfort, fashion now also plays an important role in providing a sense of normalcy during these disruptive times - being able to keep to a routine of dressing up daily helps people cope, as it is something within their control."

The return of activewear

Hand in hand with the growing demand for loungewear is a renewed interest in activewear, or comfortable workout clothing. It makes transitioning into spontaneous workouts at home more convenient, say shoppers here.

Content manager Adibah Isa, 32, has been buying "so much activewear" since February when she started working from home. Finding local labels lacking in size range, she favours international labels Alo Yoga, Dharma Bums and Lululemon.

"I wear activewear when I'm working so I can exercise straight away during lunch or after work," she says.

"I need more activewear since I now exercise every day, as opposed to doing yoga two to three times a week previously. I also wear it to get groceries because it's so comfy."

Pomelo, which introduced activewear in 2016 to meet demand for athleisure, says sales of activewear have quadrupled compared with pre- Covid-19 days.

Activewear bottoms, outerwear and tops saw a fourfold, fivefold and threefold jump respectively in online sales from mid-March.

With more people exercising at home, "demand has definitely surged these few months" for local activewear label Kydra. The unisex athleisure brand even went ahead to launch two new collections - for male and female - during the circuit breaker.

Co-founder Jimmy Poh, 29, says: "We were hesitant at first but after seeing how the community reacted and adapted quickly to the pandemic with home workouts, we decided to move forward with the launch."

The brand also started an Instagram challenge encouraging customers to work out at home in their Kydra gear, adds Mr Poh, whose stay-at-home wardrobe is exclusively Kydra.

"The newly launched collections have done very well, thanks to the support of our loyal following and the fitness community."

Heartened too by demand, Bells & Birds' Ms Koh has plans to add new offerings in the coming months. She intends to expand her sleepwear range with more silk and modal cotton pieces - fabrics that keep one comfortable "in our humid climate, especially with staying in all day now".

She has even received requests to expand her capsule nightwear collection - a line of more sensual pieces including bustiers, sheer slips and bodysuits.

"We're seeing a higher rate of returning customers, so that is encouraging," she adds.


WHERE TO GET COMFY LOUNGEWEAR AND ACTIVEWEAR

Living exclusively in comfortable clothing now? Here are some options if you are running low on work pyjamas.

6ixty8ight


PHOTO: 6IXTY8IGHT

The Paris-founded lingerie and sleepwear label is an affordable one-stop shop for all things cosy. You can find bralettes, sleep shorts, pyjamas and casual clothing from as low as $9.90. It added activewear too at the start of the year.

The store, which launched its e-commerce site in Singapore in November 2019, offers free shipping on all orders over $45, though customers should expect a longer delivery time.

Available here.

Bells & Birds


PHOTO: BELLS & BIRDS

For silk robes, slips, shorts, pyjama sets and other such luxurious sleepwear, check out home-grown label Bells & Birds. Slips are priced from $80 to $120, and robes from $120 to $300.

Founder Amanda Koh, 31, sources lace and silk fabrics from Japan, South Korea and Europe, to be handmade into the dainty pieces.

Available here.

Cotton On


PHOTO: COTTON ON GROUP

Fans of the fast-fashion brand will be pleased to know the webstore is offering free returns and exchanges for all online orders.

Aside from the main line, you can also shop from the group's sub-brand Cotton On Body, which retails intimates, sleepwear and activewear from $10.

Available here.

Kydra


PHOTOS: KYDRA

A home-grown favourite among gym bunnies, unisex label Kydra offers clean activewear basics for men and women. Sports bras are priced from $52, leggings from $76, and tanks from $32. For the guys, tops are priced from $36 and shorts from $62.

Their latest men's activewear launch features workout classics - functional tees, casual tanks and the brand's best-selling two-in-one shorts ($68)- with adjusted fits and more lightweight materials.

Available here.

Pomelo


PHOTO: POMELO

Founded and designed in Bangkok, Pomelo offers a large range of casual wear, loungewear, and activewear. They also sell antibacterial fabric masks ($9 for a pack of three), with profits going to charity.

While the physical store remains closed during the circuit breaker, the online store is still fulfilling orders.

Available here and Pomelo Fashion app

Uniqlo


PHOTO: UNIQLO

No surprise here that the Japanese basics retailer has a selection of comfortable, versatile staples you can wear both indoors and out.

Guys can keep it breezy with easy shorts ($19.90) or relaxed lounge pants (from $29.90). You can even find a curated T-shirt and shorts lounge set ($29.90) featuring Uniqlo's cooling Airism technology.

Available here and Uniqlo SG app