Shopping, right now, is more than a little bit complicated. The challenges posed by a global pandemic are so big—so serious—that doggedly tracking our packages’ shipping progress suddenly seems like the least important thing we have to worry about, and spending money on anything as frivolous as fashion (read: any item that’s not toilet paper or a non-perishable foodstuff) is a tough sell. So yes, I’m well aware this is a hard ask. It is for us, too. But if you have the means, now is also the most important time to support the brands you care about.
Without customers to buy their clothes, the small labels and upstart designers of the world might not make it through the pandemic. And while bigger brands with equally huge parent companies may not face quite the same existential threat, supporting them is crucial, too. As of last year, the domestic fashion industry employed close to 2 million people within the United States alone, and countless others outside of it. Workers along the supply chain, in textile mills and factories and all the other spots we tend not to think about quite enough, also depend on people shopping. Critics tend to think of the fashion industry as frivolous, but it represents an inarguably critical component of the national (and world) economy, one we can’t afford to let dwindle indefinitely. So, if you can, shop, so the industry can weather this storm—and so we can all stay stylish once it’s over.
Scroll through below to take a look at some of the best options to buy now and support some of your favorite brands in the process.
It’s probably no surprise we have a serious thing for Italian labels over here at Esquire HQ, but these days buying anything with a “Made in Italy” tag has taken on an extra degree of significance. Italy was one of the first countries ravaged by the spread of the virus, and its storied production centers were hit particularly hard. It only feels appropriate to spotlight a taste of what Italy has to offer, from unstructured tailoring to ultra-luxe loungewear to (almost) everything else the country is famous for putting its signature spin on.
France has long been the fashion industry’s lodestar, the place where emerging design talent goes to make a splashy debut on the global stage, and where the painfully stylish members of the fashion glitterati go to decide on the Next Big Thing(s) each season. Fittingly, our list features a who’s who of fashion’s heaviest hitters, along with some smaller labels we’ve been really feeling that might not be on your radar yet.
Actively supporting small brands in any way you can is more important now than ever before. Fashion is a notoriously fickle business, and for emerging designers effected by the spread of the virus (which is all of ’em), worrying about the long-term stability of the brands they worked so hard to build is now an everyday concern. In that spirit, we picked a few of our favorite independent labels, from small but feted brands about to blow up to beloved ragtag operations that might have cult followings but deserve way more mainstream recognition. The common thread? They all share an indefatigable passion for what they do and a desire to do it better than the big-box retailers they’re up against.
From across the cultural capitals of the world, these are the brands we return to again and again, whether we need a perfect pair of derbies or the best damn denim on the planet—and particularly if we’re in the market for some small sense of solace in these increasingly turbulent times. From master shoemakers to expert-level tailors, these are the trusty standbys, the ones we can always rely on for whatever it is we’re looking for, even if we’re not quite sure what it is yet.
Suddenly finding yourself confined to a limited roaming radius means if you want to shop, you got to do it online. Luckily, there’s never been a better time to try your hand at tracking down every single piece of covetable clothing you can imagine on a little old resource called the World Wide Web. So we rounded up a list of some of the best players in the game, including the e-commerce giants your credit card is probably a bit too familiar with, and some smaller local joints that are just starting to figure out the whole online shopping thing but offer such good stuff we couldn’t resist adding ’em in.
Let’s face it: If you’re working from home you’re almost definitely doing it in sweatpants. And guess what? That’s totally fine. In fact, if we’re being honest, sometimes the warm, comforting caresses of fuzzy, fleece-lined pants are the only thing that get us through the day. Embrace the look and shrug off the yoke of societal expectations as effortlessly as you would shimmy into your favorite pair of worn-in sweats.
No WFH fit would be complete without the proper footwear. If you wouldn’t head out the door without lacing up the choicest pair of shoes in your closet, you can’t expect yourself to operate at peak productivity without an on-point slipper game. And sure, we all look forward to the day when we’re all standing in line once again, jostling with each other just for the chance to cop the newest pair of sneakers. But for now, you’ll catch us sliding around our hardwood floors in the coziest socks around like a young Tom Cruise in Risky Business. Tired: sneakers. Wired: slippers.
Illustration & Art Direction by Mike Kim
Animation by Elaine Chung