Britons turn to TV shows for lockdown fashion inspiration

An increasing number of companies have started to announce official merchandise for fans

For more than a year, TV has been one of our main sources of entertainment. We have seen some characters more than our own family and friends. So it is hardly surprising that as Covid restrictions end and we re-enter the world, we want to dress like them.

Figures reveal Britons spent 40% of their waking hours watching TV during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Capitalising on that popularity, an increasing number of companies have started to announce official merchandise for fans. Netflix announced a shoe collection inspired by Bridgerton, Friends launched its first official range of clothing, and a Killing Eve-inspired fashion range is incoming.

“As a country during lockdown, we essentially ran out of TV to watch, which meant that shows that aired during lockdown received a much wider audience than usual,” says Lynsey Moore, the costume designer behind two of lockdown’s biggest hits (and fashion moments), I May Destroy You and Anne Boleyn. “Being confined to our homes meant that TV and the internet became our primary link to the outside world.”

I May Destroy You’s costuming – from Arabella’s (Michaela Coel) pink hair to Kwame’s (Paapa Essiedu) teddy bear jacket – was perfectly realised. “The transmission date of the series came at the perfect time,” Moore says, adding that the costumes were meant to be “unique and iconic”. “People were ready for something new and hoping to be inspired.”

As the fashion industry’s annual season of shows were halted, TV shows such as I May Destroy You, as well as The Queen’s Gambit, The Crown, I Hate Suzie and Normal People, started to dictate clothing trends. Suddenly, everyone wanted Connell’s chain or Suzie’s Barbour jacket.

Angela McRobbie, a professor of communications at Goldsmiths, says the pandemic had massive repercussions across the fashion industry, causing a scramble to find new media outlets. “TV and the streaming phenomenon provided ideal locations for building fashion narratives through the series and then taking on a life of their own [on social media]. [It’s] cost-free for the brands,” she said.

This is currently being played out via the rebooted Gossip Girl and the not-yet-released rebooted Sex and the City (And Just Like That …), where fashion exists almost as a main character in its own right.

The closure of marquee named, bricks and mortar high street shops such as Debenhams and Topshop also had an effect. “The absence of window displays and [the] street style of passersby on the high street meant that people’s avenue of wardrobe inspiration was limited. TV became the main source of outfit inspo,” says Moore.

It’s no coincidence that Netflix opened its first official online shop in June. “The Netflix e-store shows the incredibly rapid transformation of fashion to e-commerce and the diminishing role for the high street, calling for a whole new sociology of consumer culture,” says McRobbie.

The Bridgerton shoes in collaboration with the designers Malone Souliers are set to launch next year. “I’m a huge fan,” says the firm’s founder Mary Alice Malone, “Bridgerton revisits the past with a sense of revolution and joy, which is exactly how I approach shoemaking.” Malone says the collection was inspired by key looks from the show. “Movies, TV and new streaming platforms such as Netflix have always been a great influence on fashion,” she says.

Meanwhile, the current series of Love Island allows you to purchase the clothes the contestants wear on the show via the app, almost immediately after transmission. It follows a similar business model devised for Amazon’s fashion designer talent show Making The Cut, where viewers could buy the clothes designed by the contestants.

McRobbie believes this is the future. “[It’s] clearly the next step,” she says. “Emulating the models set up by companies like Farfetch and Net-a-Porter, logistical labour will deliver a dress, a bag or jacket from Call My Agent! – ordered while watching, to your doorstep in less than 24 hours.”


Priya Elan

The GuardianTramp

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