Fashion is in many ways a lens through which one could study the transformation of societal trends. For over two years now, we have been dressing from the waist up for zoom meetings, and replaced sharp tailoring with soft joggers. These days are over for some, and Microsoft reports that 50% of leaders say their company already requires, or plans to require, full-time in-person work in the year ahead. As the world is slowly starting to reinstate in-person meetings and office presences, thoughts on what to wear to work are becoming top of mind for many. Workwear is back, but it doesn’t look the way you remembered it. Think elevated athleisure meets power dressing.
What is Workleisure?
With hopeful hearts, many of us are ready to bid farewell to full time head-to-toe loungewear. As more and more business professionals are commuting into the office, whether it’s every day or on a hybrid model, a whole new fashion category has emerged - the workleisure. Workleisure, also referred to as power casual, merges elevated professionalism with relaxed comfort. The two may sound like each other's polar opposites, but together they are creating the perfect canvas not only for making the office transition a little easier, but also for some individual self expression.
This new world of workwear is seeing oversized silhouettes, elasticated waistbands, and hoodies and tees acquiring a place in the closet next to the perfectly tailored blazer. How retailers are responding? StyleSage data shows that online fashion retailers in the US are indeed expanding their selection of power casual office attire - the average product count of pants including key word ‘elasticized’ has grown 28% since May 2020. For pull on style pants, the growth is a whopping 65% vs. the same time period.
Wide leg is another keyword that perfectly embodies this trend. The wide leg silhouette is a relaxed nod to stricter tailoring that perfectly fits our current comfort-first mindset, without compromising on style in any way. It started already in 2021, with Stella McCartney showing a blazer peeking out under a sporty over-sized bomber jacket, paired with ultra wide pants. For the SS22 season, we saw this effortless chic pant being presented in collections from brands like The Row and Veronica Beard, and the demand for it is evident. Major US retailers Bloomingdale’s, Net-a-Porter and Nordstrom saw a sold out rate of 16% over the past 14 days in the wide leg pants category. The best part about them? They look equally good with a pair of sneakers as they do with high heels.
The blazer + hoodie combination holds sovereignty as a key wardrobe essential of the power casual fashion trend. The blazer has been a must-have in the professional closet for longer than most of us have been alive, and the hooded sweatshirt adds some welcome spice and modernity to it. Seen on trendsetting style icons like Hailey Bieber and Kaia Gerber, the structured blazer paired with the luxe athletic piece creates an alluring juxtaposition of comfort and style, and is exactly what we want to be wearing in the office right now.
So, which retailers are at the forefront of this new trend?
M.M.LaFleur is a brand that describes their style as “the clothing equivalent of work-life balance.”, and that is exactly the feeling that their clothing is radiating. Their lineup of chic yet comfortable and practical apparel work as well at the conference table as they do lounging at home. Micro pleated loose dresses, slinky knits and dress pants made out of stretch linen practically beg us to wear them for a long day at the office. One of the highlights of their line is The Meritt Jardigan - a jacket that has the sharpness of a blazer with traditional collar and lapel, yet the comfort of a cardigan thanks to a stretchy-yet-structured knit material.
Me+Em is a British brand that is also heavily tapping into this space. It is intelligent fashion, with a strong focus on innovation and functionality. Founder and CEO Clare Hornby aims to always blend function with fashion - “striking the perfect balance is challenging and exciting in equal measure; there’s no reason why a piece can’t tick off all the boxes, you just need to put in time and thought.” Their contemporary knitwear and luxe jumpers are perfect for those who are ready to return to socialize with coworkers and dress up, without giving up comfort in any way. Softer fabrics are a key player in this new category of power dressing, and Me+Em are doing it just right by letting luxe cashmere and fluid drapery take center stage.
COS is the Swedish brand that perfectly embodies the sleek and understated Scandinavian style that we’ve all grown to recognize and love. They’ve got you covered for an office style based on timeless staples made by meticulous fabrics. Wide-leg linen culottes are styled with soft ribbed tanks and loafers, making for a versatile outfit that can be worn both in and out of a workwear setting without anyone batting an eye. Their modern and updated pieces are marketed in their own online magazine, offering both style inspiration and design highlights. A deconstructed suit has never looked so good.
As we envision a new office dress-code in the post-pandemic world, power dressing has gotten an update. It is no longer stiff and uncomfortable, but rather polished without being overly formal. Dressed up and office ready now has a different meaning that feels utterly fresh and innovative.
Interested in more data on workwear trends? StyleSage clients can check out our latest trend reports here!