You could argue that at a time like this, clothes do not matter. And to some extent, that’s true. If there’s any silver lining to be found in the Covid-19 crisis, it’s that it has brought our priorities into sharp relief: friends, family, our health, our security, kindness.
And yet. We all have to wear something – even when we’re working from home (especially if you’re joining Zoom calls). And in a time of such uncertainty, pulling on clothes that look polished can make some of us feel more positive and in control, too.
The current crisis is shifting our shopping habits: Net-A-Porter reports that track-pants are up 42 per cent in the past week, with loungewear, in general, up 33 per cent compared to this time last year.
Here, at PRIMER, Fliss and I have always worked from home. This is partly because Fliss is based in Melbourne and I’m in Sydney, and partly because we’re a start-up and budgets are, ahem, lean. But rather than share the WFH style tips from the two of us (currently living in activewear) we thought we’d bring in the real experts: the designers and buyers who have made careers out of creating or curating stylish casual wear. Here are their tips…
As one half of veteran Australian fashion brand Bassike, Deborah Sams knows a thing or two about casual, but cool, wardrobe staples.
Sams sums up her own style as “casual but elevated, with an androgynous feel” – an aesthetic which translates well to WFH. “I think it’s about striking a balance between comfort and still feeling like you are in work mode, to help get you in the right mindset for your day.”
Right now, Sams is still commuting to Bassike’s spacious head office, and appreciates the “sense of normalcy” this affords her. Whether she’s working from there or her home-office space, though, Sams says,“I like to be comfortable first and foremost.” This is what she’s wearing at the moment:
Over the past 15 years as a fashion buyer, Teneille Oakley has watched casual wear slowly conquer the fashion world. “The sneaker trend made it acceptable to wear sneakers with pretty much everything, and now the rise of activewear means you can spend the majority of your weekend in leggings and a logo tee.”
And yet the David Jones womenswear buyer, who is also seven months pregnant, admits that casual wear isn’t her natural aesthetic. “My style is feminine and polished. I feel comfortable dressing up and sometimes struggle with casual wear as I don’t feel as put together.”
PE Nation, Bassike, Jac + Jack and Viktoria Woods are her go-to casual wear brands. “Comfort is important but I also want my look to be considered.”
Oakley says that since the emergence of Covid-19, David Jones has seen sales of nightwear, lingerie and activewear rise. PE Nation’s baseline leggings – one of her picks – are a bestseller, she adds.
Whether she’s working from home or at Ginger & Smart HQ, designer Genevieve Smart has two non-negotiables: a red lip and a jacket.
“Those are the two things that make me feel like everything’s going to be ok. Even working from home, I still need things that make me look polished and make me feel I’m ready to present.”
Living amid such uncertainty, Smart believes there is “strength in fashion”. “I think it feels good to make an effort to look after yourself – to honour yourself for that 10 minutes, and make yourself feel invincible.”
Right now, Ginger & Smart’s jackets are in high demand. “There’s a lot of women we dress in business who are really going for jackets at the moment because they’re sitting in front of their computer in a meeting in a jacket.” Smart herself is currently living in a pair of paperbag-waisted pants. “You can kind of tighten them, and I think that sense of being adjustable is quite important with people moving around differently.”
Having just returned from the US, Jac + Jack designer Jacqueline Hunt is not only working from home, but under strict 14-day quarantine conditions, too. “I have set up a desk space that’s separate from the other living spaces and I have made sure it has a bit of an outlook. I am using a landline phone as I am finding using the mobile phone a bit much all day.”
Hunt points out that one of the small but unexpected upsides of being stuck at home is that none of us has to rush out the door. “So, enjoy that time making a selection and pulling some pieces together that you enjoy. Clothes have a wonderful way of elevating your mood and keeping you feeling good.”
Right now, the designer says she’s drawn to cream pieces that suit her relaxed, monochrome and minimal aesthetic.