Is workleisure a new or rehashed opportunity?

Discussion
Source: Nordstrom’s Spring Fashion Trends - Workleisure Essentials
Aug 05, 2021

The casualization of office attire has morphed from “Casual Fridays” to “business casual” and now to “workleisure.”

Workleisure brings athleisure, often described as workout clothes that are stylish enough to wear to the coffee shop or other low-key social occasions, to the workplace. The term is being cited as an emerging trend as people stuck at home during the pandemic have grown accustomed to comfort.

Nordstrom released a survey in early July showing that 41 percent of respondents plan to dress comfortably for the rest of their life. At the time, the upscale retailer said it had been seeing a 165 percent spike in online searches for work clothes on nordstrom.com as corporations were planning returns to offices.

Many brands are scaling back their production of suits, adding more stretch to their pants and using new phrases such as ‘workleisure,’” stated a recent Wall Street Journal article. “They are turning out yoga pants that look like dress pants, T-shirts you can wear to work and a dressier version of cork-lined sandals dubbed the ‘Work Birk.’”

As with other attempts to bring more relaxed styling to the workplace, a debate has ensued about what’s appropriate to wear to work within the workleisure trend.

“For me, workleisure begins with the basics of the off-duty wardrobe (T-shirts, pullovers, track pants) translated in the materials and details of the office,” wrote Vanessa Friedman, chief fashion critic for The New York Times. “That means elastic waistbands are acceptable, but only if attached to the type of fabric — silk, linen, wool, pinstripes — that suggests a different kind of effort. That, when you catch them out of the corner of your eye, suggest you sit up just a little bit straighter.”

In its spring trends guide, Nordstrom described Work Leisure Essentials as, “Evolution for the work-from-home wardrobe focusing on comfort and versatility. Leisure-inspired pieces and elevated everyday essentials in calming neutrals keep this trend sophisticated and refined.”

Ben Checketts, co-founder of the DTC activewear brand Rhone, summed workleisure up to Glossy: “You fell in love with sweatpants during the pandemic, so you buy dress pants that are as close as possible to sweatpants.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is workleisure a new trend bound to reinvent the opportunity around business casual? What do you see as the essential elements that may differentiate workleisure from pre-pandemic takes on business casual?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Workleisure is leisurely. And here to stay."
"I wouldn’t want to be the person at HQ who has to tell staff that they’ll have to ditch the comfortable clothes and start wearing scratchy slacks again."
"It will be easier to identify the politicians and the lawyers. They will still be wearing suits and ties, high heels, and business suits."

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18 Comments on "Is workleisure a new or rehashed opportunity?"


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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

Yes, this does appear to be a new opportunity in the apparel category. And as challenged as the apparel category has been through the pandemic, the new opportunity will be welcomed for those brands/retailers who can take advantage of it. It’s hard to be specific about how workleisure differs from business casual, or if it even does, but what we can confidently say is that the way people dress for work has likely been permanently impacted as a result of the pandemic.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust
This is a fabulous line: “Nordstrom released a survey in early July showing that 41 percent of respondents plan to dress comfortably for the rest of their life.” I can relate. I remember when I decided I was done with panty hose forever. That was 25 years ago. I don’t think this genie goes back in the bottle ever. Casual Friday had different standards depending on where you worked – it was rarely “anything goes.” But when you’ve been living in pajamas and yoga pants for a year, the question of ” can I wear jeans or does it have to be khaki?” sort of goes out the window. Restaurant and in-store associates have already demonstrated that they’re willing to find employment better suited to their lifestyles, rather than work in risky jobs for low pay. The time will come soon when office workers do the same. After all, our workforce has shrunk by around 500,000 people so far (not including those Boomers who are saying “I think it’s time to retire and enjoy life.”… Read more »
Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

The less structured, looser look is certainly showing itself in collections on the shop floor and in the products consumers are buying. I expect it will be here to stay for a while, especially as more hybrid methods of working from home and office persist. But it’s not just about work. Consumers do like to be comfortable, especially when at home, but many got tired of wearing sweatpants and PJs day in and day out. That created a mini backlash with a desire for dressier and more stylish items that create a feel-good factor. This fusion between comfort and style addresses that need.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

We speak live in a week for the first time in 18 months and I cannot wait to get dressed up again. Seriously. Cannot wait.

Jenn McMillen
BrainTrust

The barn door has been left open, and the horses are out! Have you seen the movie Wall-E with all the overweight humans in sweatsuits in floating chairs? That’s where we’re headed.

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

Isn’t this business-casual? Obviously pants are needed, but I couldn’t see wearing pants that look like sweatpants to work (those that have please chime in). I never had the chance to work from home during the pandemic so I missed wearing workout pants and no shoes to work but if this is segmented as a new type of dress then so be it!

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

I wouldn’t want to be the person at HQ who has to tell staff that they’ll have to ditch the comfortable clothes and start wearing scratchy slacks again. I have faith in our fashion companies to create office looks that combine comfort with styling. Just don’t look for the stodgy clothes to return.

Gary Sankary
BrainTrust

This is certainly the hot trend at the moment. No one wants to get dressed up after almost two years in comfortable clothes. I suspect however, that after a few events and maybe a conference or two, some folks will miss the more formal attire and the enjoyment they get from dressing up and looking sharp. It will swing back, it always does.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

Casual Friday was a welcome step down from the formality of office wear. What a relief to not have to wear a tie! And I remember some cautionary advice was sometimes given. “Remember, it’s Friday, not Saturday.” The temptation to go too casual was hard to resist for some. Those rules are now gone forever. Now it’s not so much “business casual” as it is “comfortable office.” Or we can be comfortable at the office without being gym rat sloppy. Comfortable office wear is here to stay. How casual it is will depend on the office.

Ben Ball
BrainTrust

Gee, I’m not sure. Fashion has always confused me. BTW, are the ties wide or narrow this year?

Venky Ramesh
BrainTrust

Absolutely. Silicon Valley has been an early adopter of this concept (on the other extreme of the spectrum though is the New York culture, which is the opposite).

Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

Fashion is based on change. Any “trend” that brands can invent or grab hold of in some way to convince shoppers to buy new clothes will quickly gain broad support, no matter if it’s really new or not. Look at the return of high-waisted jeans, not popular (I believe) since the 1980s.

Martin Whitmore
Guest

The line between business casual and too casual has become blurred. As the virtual working model or hybrid model (home and office) continue to expand this line will become increasingly more difficult to define and maintain. Retailers have a hard enough time getting their assortment right for segments that have been around forever. I’m not sure if creating “Frankenclothes” will be the answer. I don’t see Brooks Brothers coming out with a yoga suit any day soon. It’s more likely that dress codes will lighten up so that casual Friday wear is the norm throughout the week. People want to dress in a sophisticated way. It helps the mindset of enhancing one’s productivity. Also, too casual could undermine one’s authority. With workleisure you can dress comfortably and still look respectable.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

Yeah, let’s see how many people show up at NRF next year in sweat pants. We may have lived in pajamas for a year but we are still professionals.

David Spear
BrainTrust

Completely agree with Ben Checketts’ statement about buying dress pants as close as possible to sweat pants. You’ll see much more of this. I have a 25-year-old son who loves a very popular retailer’s line of activewear pants for men. I have to say that when they come out of the washer/dryer – at first glance – they don’t look like a pair of pants that you’d wear to the office, but when he puts them on they are stylish, highly comfortable and look better than most traditional khakis he used to wear. Stylish leisurewear will become more of the norm in offices around the country, but there should be a red line. And that line is when an individual crosses over into the athletic apparel space, where clothing was meant for a workout, not office work.

Patricia Vekich Waldron
Staff

This a big opportunity for fashion brands to come up with comfortable, soft-but-structured apparel that is a step up from yoga pants and a step down from uncomfortable suiting.

Mel Kleiman
BrainTrust

It will be easier to identify the politicians and the lawyers. They will still be wearing suits and ties, high heels, and business suits.

RandyDandy
Guest
2 months 10 days ago
In terms of it being so named, regardless of cause, “work leisure” is itself a new category, and came to the fore as the pandemic very clearly delineated how some apparel items should comport with certain lifestyle and working conditions. However, the articles therein are mostly not new, and are often becoming hybrids of what they once were—or thought to be. Meanwhile, business casual remains a viable and separate category. In that it came about, and will continue on, as being about “going to and being at work.” As opposed to “workleisure,” which is about home-working and not venturing out in what you’re wearing. Yet there are times when one may venture outside; to a “professional” setting—and wonder if what they’re wearing is “appropriate.” This is where it becomes dicey. Because while both segments are definable, the edges are vague. Still, if you look at how both areas came about, it helps determine what really works and what does not in each: “BC” came about as a move away from restrictive apparel, but as some… Read more »
wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Workleisure is leisurely. And here to stay."
"I wouldn’t want to be the person at HQ who has to tell staff that they’ll have to ditch the comfortable clothes and start wearing scratchy slacks again."
"It will be easier to identify the politicians and the lawyers. They will still be wearing suits and ties, high heels, and business suits."

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