This summer, Wall Street is getting comfortable and colorful — and everyone wants something stretchy to wear when to go back to the office

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A year ago, the pandemic decimated Gina Mignona’s bespoke clothing company overnight. She and her co-founders at Bond & Bari had spent the last 10 years creating custom suits for Wall Street’s top brass, but a year of remote work ground her business to a halt.

With some banks in recent weeks announcing their return to the office, business is once again booming.

Gina Mignona, Viktoria Giese, and Lesly Bavardo, co-founders of Bond & Bari

"In the middle of April, all of the clients who told me last year, ‘I’m never wearing a suit again,’ started calling to say they needed blazers and dress shirts," she said. Pre-pandemic, Bond & Bari handled 20-30 clients a month by meeting with clients in their home or office in New York, Westchester, and Palm Beach. In the last two weeks alone, they’ve seen about 60 clients, she said. 

"People want to dress well, and it’s not just because the company is giving them a dress code," she said. "When you go back, you want to look good, and you want to be comfortable."

For months, time has been ticking for remote work on Wall Street, with prominent bank CEOs Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan and David Solomon of Goldman Sachs complaining about the downsides of working from home. Remote work is also playing a key role in burnout among junior bankers, and executives say it’s ruined the apprenticeship model Wall Street uses to train up young talent. 

Big banks are finally heading back to the office: JPMorgan and Goldman have officially ordered employees to return to some in-person work in the coming weeks, and other banks are holding out hopes that they’ll be able to bring interns into the office at some point this summer. Some like Bank of America, are eyeing a fuller return post-Labor Day, while others, like Citigroup, have said they are embracing a hybrid model to let employees work from home a few days per week.

For many bankers, this means the time has finally come for a fresh haircut, resuming regular manicures, and digging shirts, ties, and dress shoes out from the back of the closet. 

‘Everyone wants something stretchy’ 

But while dressing for the return to Wall Street and other offices will be a far cry from leggings and loungewear, retailers say that demand for comfortable — albeit office-appropriate — duds has never been higher. 

"As people start to transition back to the office, there has been a shift from the pre-pandemic formality of getting dressed in traditional corporate attire to a more casual approach for work attire," Tracy Margolies, chief merchandising officer at Saks Fifth Avenue, told Insider in an email.

She said that office dress won’t be as "buttoned up" as it has in the past, and that top-selling categories at the department store for men are soft polos and knits; cargo pants and chinos; and soft shirt jackets.

Women are buying transitional knit dresses; dresses in "punchy, bold colors," and fun summer flat sandals, she said.

There’s also high demand at J. Crew for soft woven dresses, pants and shirts, Lisa Greenwald, the retailer’s chief merchandising officer, told Insider in an email. 

"The change in trend is driven by more relaxed silhouettes like easy pull-on pants in linen and chino (not sweats), linen dresses and button-down shirts as well as feminine tops," she said.

Mignona said she’s seeing a similar demand for comfort from her clients. Wall Street firms for years have been paring down their dress codes from business professional to business casual — Goldman Sachs, for one, switched to a "firm wide flexible dress code" in 2019, though told staff to keep dressing in-line with client expectations for meetings. 

Bond & Bari jacket

This trend is likely to continue if firms want to succeed at enticing bankers from the comfort of their home, where they can meet with clients and close deals in sweatpants.

"Everyone wants something stretchy," she said. Clients are also asking for high-end, tailored denim that’s suitable for even the "most mature business person," she said.

In March, Credit Suisse’s capital markets and advisory leadership told employees that firm will implement a relaxed dress code when people are heading back to the office, but traditional dress-code requirements will remain for client meetings. A Credit Suisse spokesperson told Insider this month that the firm is set to lay out more concrete back-to-office plans in the coming weeks. 

JPMorgan’s Dimon recently spoke at the Wall Street Journal CEO Council wearing jeans, loafers, and a polo shirt. 

Comfort is top of mind for bankers reintroducing commutes and office work back into their lives, finally seeing coworkers and clients again in-person is inspiring some to take more risks with their work attire. Wall Streeters are after loud blazers, colorful shirts, cashmere vests, and pocket squares, Mignona said.

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"I have a client who has probably bought 45 navy suits of the same color, same weights, same fabric, same style, with red ties and white shirts for 10 years," she said. "Last month, he called me and said he wanted a pink seersucker blazer, salmon cotton pants, and light-blue pants."

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Samantha Stokes May 10, 2021 at 08:33PM

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