As Calgarians suit up and head back to the office, has casual Friday gone too far? Two years of Zoom meetings in shirts, ties and sweats or shorts have become the comfortable norm. But the fashion industry is responding to ensure people look, and feel, their best back at the workplace.
“In this fusion environment, we’re seeing people go a bit more casual, but with a dressy silhouette in more comfortable fabrics. Who doesn’t want to be more comfortable right now?” says espy Experience’s Megan Szanik. “There’s a blended movement happening where people have pieces they can wear at the office or on a Zoom meeting from home. We’re seeing fabrics that are more useful and casual come into these business silhouettes so people can be more comfortable. They still want that professional silhouette of a blazer, but they want something easier to wear.”
Supreme Fashion Connection’s Darren Biedermann is noticing a trend towards comfort, practicality and sustainability as well. “Today’s wardrobes are being selected with more conscious endeavour than experienced previously,” he says. “We’re seeing visions of long-term practical wear ability rather than simply fast fashion to fit in.”
For those feeling uncertain about transitioning from athleisure to office appropriate wear, Biedermann and Szanik break down their top tips. While the rules of dress may be shifting, both insist fit is key. In fact, Supreme and espy both employ professionally trained stylists and offer tailoring services.
“We don’t always know what flatters our body shape, and this where finding expert help is a differentiator,” says Szanik. “Do dress for your shape. Don’t wear ill-fitting clothing. When you wear something that fits you well, you’ll be so surprised by how different you look and feel with all the confidence in the world. It’s as simple as something that fits you well.”
Biedermann suggests people shop with fit and feel top of mind. “When it’s the right piece, we know, and we will not need to be sold or seek validation. Like all things in life, we best follow our intuitions. Invest the time and shop around with consciousness.”
Once that basic fit and personal comfort are addressed, it’s important to remember that the way people dress is an expression of themselves but also an indicator of how they will approach a work project. “When people wear things that don’t fit, they don’t look put together. Then people wonder, how is this person going to manage my project?” says Szanik. “I know it’s not fair, but it is the way the world works. We’re judged every time someone sees us. So, let’s put our best foot forward.”
Biedermann agrees. “The clothing we select reflects who we are. It’s our social skin, letting others know about us before we share any words. Our wardrobes have a profound effect on the way we experience life and connect with others. Dress to express not impress,” he says.
So, as fall approaches, what can people keep in mind?
First there’s a movement towards practicality and sustainability. This is where meeting with an expert can eliminate that proverbial problem of a closet full of clothes, nothing to wear. “As professional stylists, we can really build a wardrobe that you can actually use,” says Szanik.
In Calgary, people can expect to pay around $100 per hour for a stylist or visit a boutique where it’s part of the service. The initial visit tends to take two-and-a-half hours. “It can be some of the best money you’ve ever spent,” says Szanik. “Because now, when you’re at the outlets in Phoenix and know what to strategically look out for, you’re building a wardrobe. You’re empowered and educated when you go shopping.”
Building on that practicality means investing in a few staples that count and spending less on trends or accessories that pull everything together. For men this fall, it’s going to be all about a hybrid sweater/blazer. Szanik calls it a “swazer.”
“You’re looking for a blazer made of a knit fabric,” she says. “From far away, people think, look how great that guy looks in that blazer. Little do they know when they go up and feel it, it’s going to be so soft and feel like they’re wearing a cardigan. That ‘swazer’ hybrid is so important, maintaining the comfort we’ve had over the last two years.”
For the ladies, blazers are going to be oversized, which means a tailored approach is a must. “We need a strong shoulder, but also a nipped-in waist that doesn’t leave them looking like a box,” says Szanik. “Most of us are not supermodels so we need to use the tips and tricks to modify a style for us. It’s about how we use our bodies and accessories to make something work and give us confidence.”
Everyone can expect looser fits that come away from the body as opposed to skinny jeans and fitted blazers. “We’re seeing pants loosen up for ladies and men,” says Szanik. “Wide legs for ladies means thinking about our stature where a shorter lady might need some cropping to get that look. We think about dimensions, including a shorter waist with these looser pants. On the men’s side, let’s get away from skinny to a more tapered or straight legged jean.”
Finally, as Calgarians head back downtown, get ready for some bling. “Every collection for this year has so much shine in it. We’re going to see more detail, for example a button-up blouse for women with more bling on the cuff, she can style that under a blazer or a sweater, and then take it into an evening event,” says Szanik. “Even in men, we’re going to see a more understated version. In the blazer, up close, we’re going to see velourex in it or leather details to give some extra.”
As two owners who steered their businesses through the challenges of the last couple of years, Szanik and Biedermann credit their community in getting them through.
“We continually practice the golden rule with an attitude of gratitude,” says Biedermann. “We open our doors to individually, collectively and impartially serve the highest priority of the present moment in the heartbeat of our town.”
Szanik seconds the motion. “Calgary is an amazing massive city of over a million people with a small-town vibe,” she says. “It’s still reasonable cost-wise to run an independent retail business here. I don’t care if our governments are blue, red or orange, they believe in small business here. We have a great business environment because we are supported here.”