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Pandemic Aside, These 8 Fashion Trends Took Shape on the Runway

The global pandemic and the consequential shutdown of retail, new consumer demands, and even the departure of red carpets and street style, which serve as sartorial tea leaves, have thrown the art of fashion forecasting for a loop.

It’s for those reasons and more why the relative normalcy of the Spring/Summer 2021 fashion month took experts by surprise, including Fashion Snoops vice president and creative director of women’s wear Melissa Moylan. “We really didn’t know what to expect,” she said this week during a webinar entitled “Spring/Summer 2021 Women’s Runway Recap.”

From runway shows—both intimate, like Christian Siriano’s backyard catwalk, and the audacious, à la Chanel’s Hollywood-themed show set in Le Grand Palais before it shutters for renovations—to a growing number of digital showcases driven by videos and panel discussions, designers exhibited resiliency in not just what they designed but also how they presented it. It also spurred a number of luxury brands to finally come around to TikTok as a means to present their collection to Gen Z, Moylan noted. Others created hybrid events that brought the physical and digital worlds together.

Despite taking various routes to show collections, clear fashion themes emerged—especially ones that reflected the current state of affairs. Designers, however, interpreted events in an optimistic light. Hints of escapism were present across fashion week cities, Moylan said, as well as a strong consideration for what consumers actually need in their wardrobes and will need as they (hopefully) return back to work and social gatherings next year.

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From elevated classics, investment pieces and fashion that sparks joy, here’s a look at the eight S/S ’21 trends on Fashion Snoops’ radar.


Nature was something that designers felt strongly about, Moylan said, and it was evident in where they staged their shows and in their collections. As a trend that aligns with the rural and rustic countryside, Meadow, a grown-up evolution of this spring’s Cottagecore uprising, is a nod to nature while also serving as a light and upbeat version of escapist fashion.

Botanical prints and motifs that represent the healing power of nature, as well as fuss-free, relaxed silhouettes live here. Feminine details are also present, such as gingham, whimsical tied elements and puff sleeves that “speak to joyful summertime delights and picnics,” Moylan said.

There’s “no avoiding” the puff sleeve top, she added. This shape will be especially important as consumers continue to work from home and dress from the waist up. S/S ’21 will also bring versions with a shorter sleeve and cropped fit, she said.


Quotidian related to daily attire. “This gets back to wardrobe staples, and also speaks to just the increasingly casualization of ready-to-wear,” Moylan said. The theme focuses on the concept of buying “less but better,” she added, but updating samples for both practicality and with notions of athleisure comfort.

These multi-purpose items are made with crisp poplin and classic shirting, as well as tailoring with casual details like trousers with a drawstring waist. There’s also a continuation of knitwear to add a sense of comfort, she said.

The trend takes a turn toward ’90s minimalism with bra tops and bandeaus paired with relaxed suiting.


Nature plays a strong role in Rebirth as well. The look, however, has a strong emphasis on craft, knitwear and deconstructed silhouettes, unlike Meadow. Deconstructed knit dresses and skirts, as well as raw-looking knits inspired by loungewear are key items.

The theme’s earthy grit is reflected in accessories like bucket bags with natural beads and woven techniques, knotted headbands in saturated natural colors and statement cuffs that incorporate natural stones or crystals that offer healing properties.


In Individualist, a burst of clashing color and bold patterns is used for self-expression. The theme was seen heavily in London, Moylan said, and echoed in Milan and Paris. “We have a little bit of loungewear fatigue, so we’re wanting to [wear] things that uplift us but are also very expressionist in nature,” she said.

Christopher Kane’s one-of-a-kind painted garments, Valentino’s oversized studs on footwear and handbags, and fashion-forward masks with contrasting colors and exaggerated tie closures—a look that Collina Strada has coined—were some of the ways designers made a creative splash.


A more youthful and less artistic interpretation of Individualist, Uproar is centered on promoting self-identity and expression. Patterns and graphics are key, Moylan said, especially items with messages that can ignite change and optimism.

There’s also a sustainable tie-in, she noted, for brands that are leveraging pieced constructions and upcycled garments.


Slinky dress silhouettes and silken yarns are essential in Sensual. In terms of shapes, Moylan said there’s a movement towards narrower silhouettes and more body-skimming techniques like wrapping and draping.

Sets, dresses and nods to intimate apparel are key, she added. Layered illusions with sheer fabrications also play a role.

Destination Unknown

Because no one knows what travel will look like come 2021, Destination Unknown offers a travel-inspired look with bold tropical prints, dramatic kaftan shapes and bold colors as a mood booster, Moylan said.

The theme calls for playful accessories, like statement sandals with 3-D floral appliques, visors and bucket hats that coordinate to ready-to-wear items and basket bags with printed pouch inserts for a pop of color.

80s Energy

A high note of the season, designers brought 80s Energy to life by splashing bright colors, prints, acid-wash denim and metallics across their collections. Puff sleeves, Moylan noted, plays a starring role in dresses and tops. There’s also an opportunity for more angular shoulder shapes and neons, which Balmain perfected.

Oversized sunglasses with a mirrored lens, clutches with experiential shapes and embellishments and strappy sandals with rhinestones and ruffles add a glam factor to the theme.