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Fall’s Poncho Trend Reflects Shift to Protective Outerwear

One Fall/Winter 20-21 outerwear trend is taking on a more poignant meaning in the age of COVID-19.

Ponchos made a return to the F/W 20-21 runway in ways that haven’t been seen since the early 2000s.

Max Mara and Michael Kors delivered wool versions with country and city appeal. Zimmermann and Gabriella Heart opted for fringe and chunky knits. Palm Angels and Dsquared2 revisited the garment’s Native American roots with blanket materials, while Salvatore Ferragamo reinterpreted ponchos in the ‘It’ fabric of the season: leather.

The flood of ponchos on the runway indicates that designers were thinking about protective apparel before the pandemic swept across the world. And though they executed their poncho designs with style and commercial appeal, the uncertainty around contamination is giving designers, retailers and consumers new reason to consider the functional, protective garment.

The poncho, said Fashion Snoops vice president/creative director of women’s wear Melissa Moylan, is a garment that makes the wearer feel safe in a very literal sense. “Rain ponchos are to protect yourself from the rain,” she said. And now, she added, the fashion sector is going to be thinking about how it can adapt that level of functionality to everyday fashion.

Ponchos have the potential to become a barrier between the clothes we wear in our homes and the outside world. In a recent interview with Rivet, Jeanologia president Enrique Silla said the concern about contamination via clothing is likely to linger even after the pandemic subsides.

It’s a sentiment echoed by members of the 2019 Rivet 50. Earlier this year at Bluezone, Ebru Ozaydin, senior vice president of sales and marketing of Artistic Milliners, said news about climate change and deadly outbreaks will lead to consumers asking for more protective clothing.

And the trade show’s denim curator Panos Sofianos envisioned a future where fashion would become armor.

“What I see is that we’re going to live in a world that is not going to be very friendly, so the next fashion will be function,” he said.