Having just come back from New York Fashion Week in February and coronavirus hitting us hard in March, I never thought I would be wearing sweatpants this much… as I’m writing this post, we are now on week 5 of social distancing and self-quarantine. To make it clear, I have not worn “real pants” in over a month… Who’s with me? My “uniform” consists of sweatpants and leggings. Mostly sweatpants. You know, the kind that has a really elastic waistband. I’m not wearing anything that doesn’t expand and nothing that I can’t curl up into the fetal position in!
As America and the world have entered a self-isolation period, sweatpants are the one item of clothing that every one of us has in common right now. According to WWD, sweatpants are the only fashion trend in America right now. Although economic forecasts have shown a steep drop in overall fashion sales, sweatpants appear to be the exception, and their popularity is spiking.
This is my new normal… I have dozens of jeans, you know; boyfriend jeans, distressed jeans, skinny jeans, flare jeans, white jeans, cropped jeans, ALL THE JEANS. But, I keep reaching for my same two pairs of softwear sweatpants. I keep reaching for them because they are undeniably soft, and I also know I’m putting clothing on that is made right in the heart of where America is being hit so hard by COVID-19. I feel that I am trying to connect with the people of New York all the way in Virginia through my sweats. Softwear is comfort wear made from sustainable materials and non-toxic dyes, locally manufactured in Brooklyn and 100% American. To top that off, softwear is affordable and, like its name, extremely soft. It’s literally like wearing clouds.
Sabrina Zohar, owner, and founder of softwear, started her brand of comfort wear in Brooklyn. I met Sabrina through Instagram while on my way to New York Fashion Week. Staying true to my personal brand’s mission, I wanted to connect with local and sustainable designers while in the city. When Sabrina replied that she had a pop-up at Chelsea Market, I knew I had to stop by. When I met Sabrina, her energy was contagious. She is vivacious, kind, energetic, and produces products that literally melt in your hands. After meeting her, seeing (and feeling) her product for myself, I knew I had to bring it home and share it with my readers!
I’ve asked Sabrina to share a little bit about softwear and how she and the brand are holding up during this pandemic.
The below is a Q&A we conducted this month, it is edited for content and readability.
Britt: Your brand is based in Brooklyn, New York, one of the most COVID affected areas in the country; how are you handling manufacturing and shipments? Are you still producing products?
Sabrina: It has been extraordinary navigating through the Covid crisis in one of the top hit cities, to say the least. Unfortunately, our factory is closed, so we cannot produce anything new Luckily, we had inventory left over so I took 3 carloads home and made my basement the distribution center! I ship daily to ensure our clouds are getting the customers when they need them most. To combat the fact that we can’t make anything new, we are offering free tie-dye for any purchase, a rainbow in the clouds if you will
Britt: What are the values that you base your brand Softwear around?
Sabrina: Softwear has three pillars we stand behind- buttery soft, 100% the USA made, and sustainable from start to finish. When I started softwear, I knew we had to be different; otherwise, we were just another basics brand like the rest that is cheap synthetics and made overseas; what’s the point?
Britt: Popularity for sweatpants have generally seen a huge spike in sales. Have you found that your sales have increased or decreased since the pandemic?
Sabrina: Yes! We have seen a really nice spike in online sales, which has been amazing, but it’s not enough to compensate for the wholesale orders we lost due to the stores and studios’ closures. We don’t have an investor or backing, so we rely on word of mouth and social media to help spread the word, and that has been a challenge to get a broader audience looking for pants!
Britt: With people wearing sweatpants now more than ever, do you think people will value comfort wear/athleisure more after all of this is over?
Sabrina: I hope so! I hope that people will truly see the value and appreciate the USA made quality and support local businesses. Now more than ever, local and small businesses need support, especially ones trying to elevate the industry and bring something different to the market. Consumers are used to cheap polyester made in China sweatpants that cost over $100; I just can’t support it.
Britt: In your opinion, do you think that this crisis will change the way we dress? Do you think wardrobes will become more casual?
Sabrina: Before the pandemic, I lived in sweats and leggings, so for me personally, this is my norm! I think we appreciate comfort for everyone, and although we miss going out, do we miss the discomfort of jeans or dresses? I don’t!
Britt: Recently, Scott Sternberg, founder of the sustainable basics label for Entire world, has seen his site traffic and sales conversion rate double during the first full workweek charted under quarantine, stating, “There is a real shift in values within this moment.” Do you agree with that statement? If so, where do you see a value shift?
Sabrina: I couldn’t agree more, honestly! People want to support something with a heartbeat and a pulse, a brand that does more than making a sweatpant. I think the tide is turning, and I am so grateful to be fighting for what I believe in and what I think so many others are believing in as well. The way things were going had to change, and it’s time to make that happen.
Britt: What do you see for the future for Softwear after this Pandemic? How do you think this will change the way you do business?
Sabrina: I take it day by day because ultimately, that’s all we have. I think sustainability and USA made will see a huge increase in sales and support; I believe softwear will make it through this and see many brighter days ahead. Unfortunately, it took a pandemic to change the fashion industry, but whatever moves the needle, softwear will continue as long as people support and buy our pieces!
I couldn’t agree more with Sabrina and her outlook on these times in our history. All we can do is take it one day at a time, hour by hour, minute by minute. Last year, I made the shift to be more mindful in my purchases by supporting designers and brands that are sustainable, using ethical practices, and are produced locally. Along with Sabrina and Scott Sternberg, I too see a value shift in our culture. People are more aware now than ever where their food and products come from. Sabrina is such an inspiration to so many entrepreneurs out there doing whatever it takes to keep their businesses going during these trying times.
Many of us are embracing sweatpants right now, and the style has seen a huge increase in reported sales. But what will happen when we emerge from all of this? If history repeats itself, crises can change the way we dress. For example, if we look at history, post-WWII, pants became more common for women who had been introduced to the mainstream workforces after spending 4 years covering traditional men’s jobs, and wardrobes generally became more casual.
We don’t know how this story will end; no one does. Will we all be wearing matching facemasks? Will designer masks become a status symbol? Will we become a more minimalist culture? For me, this experience has been incredibly humbling, eye-opening and has revealed much of what truly makes me happy as an individual, professional, student, and mother. Who knows what our future holds…what I do know for sure, I will always be wearing my softwear sweats.
To support those risking their lives right now in our communities, Sabrina offers 40% off to medical and frontline workers. Also, Sabrina is extending a 10% off code to my readers! Try softwear for yourself… slip into clouds by using code “BRITT10” to receive 10% off your purchase at softwear!
Thank you, Sabrina, for meeting with me and sharing your incredible clothing line with the world. When we all need a little extra comfort, softwear is keeping me in good spirits.