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How Spring/Summer ’21 Runway Trends Stack Up In Europe and the U.S.

Data by trend forecasting firm Heuritech reveals how the Spring/Summer ’21 runway is not one-style-fits-all for U.S. and European markets. Though the key runway trends identified by Heuritech are forecast to appeal to both sides of the Atlantic, the firm’s predictive analytics confirm that the degree to which they are adopted by consumers in the regions will vary.

The fabric choices of each market show a clear divide between Europe, which welcomes novelty fabrications, and the U.S., where comfort continues to reign. The same can be said for color, where vibrant hues are poised to captivate a U.S. market that’s currently flooded with neutral colorways, compared with more subdued tastes overseas.

Here, Heuritech fashion content manager Mélanie Mollard and Jenna McFeely, Heuritech fashion curator and trend analyst, offer a glimpse into the breakout trends for S/S ’21 and how they will play out in the U.S. and Europe.

Summertime classics

From Acne Studios to Alberta Ferretti, the “gentle and soothing touch” of linen made it a must have for S/S ’21. And the breezy trend already has a strong foundation. Linen has been filtering across countless designer collections and in street style since the start of this year, which McFeely said means the fabric has already been “somewhat adopted by the market and there’s already some level of visibility for this trend.”

The au natural fabrication is a strong bet for the European market and an even stronger one for the U.S. In Europe, where the number of linen pieces is expected to increase 23 percent compared with last year, linen mostly appeals to “edgy” consumers, McFeely said. In the U.S., however, linen has s greater appeal worn by “edgy” and “trendy” consumers.

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Trend forecasting firm Heuritech offers a glimpse into the S/S ’21 breakout trends and how they will play out in the U.S. and Europe.
A linen suit by Altuzarra. WWD

Linen dresses will be the most represented category, followed by tops. Another aspect of the linen trend she added, is that it is typically expressed through natural tones.

White is a seasonal staple, but its ability to add a sense of comfort is enhancing its appeal for S/S ’21. Alice + Olivia captured the feeling with relaxed white cargo joggers, while Ami served up the ultimate house dress with a loose ruffled white frock. “It reminds us of loungewear,” Mollard said of the color.

In Europe and the U.S., tops will the most popular category for white, Mollard said, including T-shirts, tank tops and anything else that make sense for summer such a flowy dresses and skirts.

Light blue emerged as another color to watch. Though the hue brings to mind denim, during fashion week McFeely said designers used light blue on a wide variety of different textiles beyond denim such as ribbed knits and silk. “It’s calm and soothing, but still uplifting,” she added.

It’s a universally loved color, too. In Europe, the number of light blue garments is expected to increase 10 percent by summer 2021 compared to summer 2020. “Pants and shorts are the most represented categories for this color, McFeely said, noting that consumers are already accustomed to wearing light blue jeans.

The color is a “safe bet” in the U.S. market for mainstream consumers, but McFeely noted that it could use a refresh to entice more fashion-forward consumers. “In the U.S. light blue hasn’t really been reimagined among like niche designers or reinterpreted in an exciting way,” she said.

Bold and beautiful

Metallic looks were one of the most popular trends on the runway. In Paris, Paco Rabanne splashed gold on dresses and caplets and Isabel Marant punched up ’80s looks with metallic pink. In Milan, Giorgio Armani opted for liquid-like silver and gray metallic suiting.

With a predicted growth of 5 percent in Europe and 8 percent in the U.S. in S/S ’21, Heuritech’s data indicates that the metallic trend is “performing quite stable.”

It is a more niche trend in Europe, however. Metallics are predicted to grow 5 percent in Europe, with metallic skirts being the most popular garments. “It’s more attention grabbing so maybe people who aren’t afraid to [be bolder] with their style are bigger fans of this trend,” McFeely said.

Metallic looks are moving at a faster clip in the U.S., where she said a wide scope of consumers are already wearing the trend. In the coming season, the visibility of metallic fabrics in the U.S. is predicted to slightly increase by 8 percent, mainly as dresses and coats. Considering the number of designers who included metallic garments in their collections, McFeely suggested that it could be the next hit among edgier consumers.

Trend forecasting firm Heuritech offers a glimpse into the S/S ’21 breakout trends and how they will play out in the U.S. and Europe.
A metallic look by Isabel Marant. WWD

Sheer fabrics were one of the most versatile and inspiring trends seen across S/S ’21 collections, from Cecilie Bahnsen’s puff-sleeve frocks to Dsqauared2’s transparent lace tanks. “It’s clear that [designers] really played around with it,” Mollard said. “It’s perfect for layering and for showing-off tailoring.”

And despite its “intuitive niche appeal,” she said sheer is going to appeal to all consumer segments in both the U.S. and Europe, most popularly as skirts and dresses.

Ditsy floral prints are a seasonal favorite but designers like Anna Sui and Boramy Viguier added a new look to the pretty print. “This season, we saw a lot of designers actually placing the print on a black background so it kind of gives it a more almost a wintery vibe, which is interesting for the summer,” Mollard said.

The trend is forecast to be strongest in Europe, where the number of ditsy prints is expected to rise 31 percent. “And luckily for designers, it appeals to all consumer types, so no matter your audience ditsy is sure to please for the summer,” she said. Ditsy will increase 16 percent in the U.S., particularly on dresses and skirts.

Niche appeal

While most trends resonate to U.S. and European markets in comparable ways, others will act like polar opposites.

Taffeta, which Mollard described as a “niche fabric,” made a big impression on the S/S ’21 runway but it is resonating differently across the two markets. “In Europe, taffeta is not going to behave at all like in the U.S., which is interesting,” she said. Taffeta will rise 15 percent in visibility in Europe, but it has a strong growth rate among edgy and trendy consumers.

Trend forecasting firm Heuritech offers a glimpse into the S/S ’21 breakout trends and how they will play out in the U.S. and Europe.
Taffeta dress by Molly Goddard WWD

The U.S. has a much different expectation, where the fabric is going to slightly decrease by 7 percent. “It’s definitely not a no-go for your collections; it’s still an interesting move to make if you have an edgy audience,” she said.

Leather’s hold on fashion continues, which Mollard said was surprising given the sustainable fashion movement moving through the industry at the moment. “But despite that we did see lots of leather on the catwalks on the streets,” she said.

The trend will increase 2 percent in Europe, but it has a big magnitude because it is a classic fabric. “It’s going to appeal to all consumer segments, which makes sense because leather is kind of a fabric that can be worn year-round,” Mollard said. “But what makes it interesting this season is that we actually saw it most often on coats, blazers and trenches, which isn’t a way that we always see leather being worn.”

In the U.S., on the other hand, leather is going to be decreasing by 4 percent.

And cable knit, a fabric that is strongly associated with winter, is making a play for warmer months. David Koma served strong tennis looks with knit vests, while pale yellow added a summery feel to Salvatore Ferragamo’s cable knit dresses and sweaters.

“During S/S ’21 fashion week we saw a lot of designers reimagining the classic cable knit,” McFeely said.

With a 20 percent increase for S/S ’21 compared to last year, the trend is considered a “bold bet” in Europe, but less so in the U.S., where it will experience a decrease of 13 percent. Experimental uses of cable knit, she added, are favored among edgier consumers in Europe, while classic uses of the fabric a favored by mainstream consumers in both markets.