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How Shopping During The Pandemic Is Being Reimagined By Small Designers & Boutiques

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Starting in March, stores began to lock their doors and clear out their window displays — some temporarily and some for good. Now, designers that once relied heavily on the fitting room experience are finding creative new ways to connect with their clientele and devising new strategies for shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Growing up during the '80s, '90s, or '00s, malls and department stores were the pinnacle of the shopping experience so it may be hard to imagine a world where you aren't able to touch or see (let alone, try on) an item before you buy it. Especially when it comes to luxury shopping, stepping into the store and getting a feel for an item before it's neatly wrapped up in a luxe box all helps to justify the high price point. But, thanks to technological advances like augmented reality and digital streaming, brands are experimenting with how to offer the same level of intimate service that you'd receive from an in-store interaction.

To give customers a better feel for what it is they're buying, before they buy it, retailers have started rolling out a number of strategies that are certainly beneficial. Jewelry designer Marla Aaron is offering private Zoom appointments in lieu of showroom visits and has started the Instagram page, @majhelp, to better assist shoppers with their orders. Telsha Anderson opened her luxury concept store, t.a., in the midst of the pandemic, offering to schedule a one-on-one visits at the new Meatpacking location. Whether you're looking for more info on that perfect fit and fabrication of an item, or simply hoping to get a glimpse of your favorite brands up close and personal, there are a few different ways to go about it. Some of which, don't involve leaving your couch.

We only include products that have been independently selected by The Zoe Report's editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.

How To Shop During The Pandemic: Marla Aaron

Revered for her hardware-inspired fine jewelry, Marla Aaron has continually pushed the jewelry shopping experience. In 2017 she rolled out her first jewelry vending machines, an idea she had during a trip to Japan. So when it came time to make adjustments for the pandemic, her and her team were more than up for the task. "Buying jewelry is a personal experience and we have always spent a great deal of time understanding that experience and translating it", Aaron says. As a result, the designer is giving shoppers the option to schedule a Zoom appointment to get a better feel for a product before committing to it. But to be clear, it's about more than a video invite — it's a customized experience that is happening in the same helpful spirit and cadence than its traditional showroom visits.

How To Shop During The Pandemic: M.M. Le Fleur

If you're not familiar with M.M.La Fleur, the womenswear brand is known for its intimate in-store styling appointments. In an effort to offer customers a shopping experience that's on par with that of one of its physical locations in the midst of a pandemic, they rolled out virtual appointments that begins with a survey and ends with a one-on-one Zoom session. Your assigned stylist will put together curated product selections from the brand's site, as well as a look-book of potential outfits for inspiration. Plus, it gives those that don't live in a major city with one of their showrooms a chance to take advantage of their on-hand experts from wherever they are.

How To Shop During The Pandemic: t.a

Very few could launch an entire concept store in the middle of a pandemic but t.a. founder Telsha Anderson and her team pulled off a virtual debut that's worth talking about. After New York's stay-at-home orders were put in place, t.a. introduced its well-curated offering of emerging brands (like, Ottolinger, Wesley Harriott, and Pushbutton) to customers digitally as an alternative to a grand opening. Now, the brand has a reservation tab on its e-commerce site that allows you to schedule a private shopping session at its Meatpacking location, giving you a chance to see international brands in person, while ensuring safety.

How To Shop During The Pandemic: Brother Vellies

Founder and Creative Director Aurora James expanded Brother Vellies' offering of artisanal designs to include a new subscription model that sends you a little something extra each month. "I had to rethink what it means to be a business during a global health crisis and I was thinking of our incredibly supportive customers and wanted to do something for them", James tells TZR. "So, we developed a program called SomethingSpecial. These are new items made in small batches that I hope will bring some comfort and beauty into our lives during this time."

How To Shop During The Pandemic: Hanifa

Hanifa's Pink Label Congo collection debuted earlier this summer with a 3D runway show featuring a modeless catwalk that depicted the free-flowing movement of the clothing, sans people. But virtual runway presentation aside, the immediate availability of the lineup is also worth noting. Mere minutes after the brand streamed the show on Instagram live, the pieces seen were available for pre-order. Her concept sits between the see-now-buy-now model and the more traditional schedule, making a strong case for the restructuring of the fashion season all together.