If a picture can say a thousand words, a print can certainly describe a mood. The next 18 months of prints, patterns and graphics will likely reflect the emotional toll COVID-19 has on designers, artists and consumers.
In a recent webinar, Fashion Snoops creative director of patterns and graphics Lisa McCandless and Rachel Gentner, pattern and graphics editor, described how the current desire for nostalgia, calm and introspective thoughts will translate into motifs for fashion and home.
Though the forecast looked at Spring/Summer 2021 and Fall/Winter 21-22, McCandless said the concepts will likely have greater longevity.
“Something that we’ve been seeing before [COVID-19] is that seasons are kind of merging into one and trends are evolving into one another versus completely changing and doing a 180,” she said. The pandemic, she added, has solidified this as the rules of seasonality and the concept of what a trend is has blurred.
And many of the themes, she pointed out, are relevant now. Here, McCandless and Gentner break down those stories.
One of the sentiments—as Fashion Snoops describes them—that feels the most relevant to the current climate, Mindful is a story that reflects a more slowed down lifestyle, the growing awareness of personal wellness and a deeper connection to the environment. “It’s tapping into the vulnerability aspects as well as tapping into the global aspects and the loving of Mother Earth,” Gentner said.
Florals are a natural choice to express this feeling—this time updated with blurred effects and gauzy layers. There’s a feeling of transparency with sun prints that give a zoomed-in look at petals and foliage. Brands are also taking a more direct approach by incorporating messages of holistic well-being, reminding consumers to meditate and stop to smell the roses, she said.
Transparent slivers of fresh fruit add a soothing textural element to prints. They can be layered to create an all-over pattern, or layered to highlight the organic shapes and irregularities.
Key for men’s is a new camouflage, which Gentner said introduces a soft, tonal palette and foliage imprints that feel worn and aged. Painterly or dyed mediums enhance the look. Likewise, organic, uneven dye effects build on the tie-dye trend by adding a splotchy complexity to garments. Inky botanicals also stand out in children’s wear, she said. Be it sun prints, stamps or block prints, she said the focus is on finding the “beauty in the imperfections.”
Wavering lines and concentric circles evoke the feeling of a meditative state. This, Gentner said, is about listening to your intuition and relaying that into printing techniques. The result is minimal yet almost hypnotic, she added. Meanwhile, soft illustrations and sketches of humans promote a feeling of togetherness, vulnerability and introspection, while bringing attention to mental health.
In Play, Fashion Snoops looks at hot topics, including the excitement around sexual wellness and erotica that has infiltrated the beauty industry, and indulgence, which McCandless said “plays into the idea of not everything that’s bad to you, is actually bad.”
Here, she said, the focus is on “easing up on life’s stressful responsibilities and just surrounding yourself with anything that gives you joy and pleasure.”
This is carried out into prints and patterns with DIY self-expression and free-flowing, spontaneous art forms. “The story is about putting emotions on a canvas,” McCandless said. The same spirited emotion is reflected in vibrant and energetic tie-dye techniques that are uplifting and optimistic. “The dyes don’t have to be cheesy or cliché even though the colors are so impactful,” she said. “They can still be elevated and chic.”
A checkerboard prints revival is also brewing, this time adding a sense of surrealism to forms. Classic black-and-white patterns are present, but high-energy color contrasts enhance the pattern’s playful mood.
Lighthearted, naïve and kitschy prints are on the upswing. Comic-book graphics, juicy fruits and retro floral prints live here—concepts that would normally be part of Fashion Snoops’ children’s forecast but are increasingly evident in men’s, women’s and home, McCandless said. “It’s definitely tongue-in-cheek,” she added.
To contrast this sweetness, McCandless said look for provocative erotica-inspired graphics and “in-your-face visuals” that depict the human form. “Ultimately, it’s about liberation and to be able to talk about sex and wear it,” she said.
Fashion Snoops’ story, Goodness, is about things that spark joy, with an emphasis on connection, kindness and generosity to community.
“We just see so much of it right now,” McCandless said. “So many people are being selfless and wanting to help others. They’re donating their time and their energy to charity and also to those that they love.”
This renewed appreciation for humanity is captured in kitsch florals, another naïve floral concept, which McCandless said can be dramatized with contrasting color and scale. Smiley faces, furry textures, candy graphics and multi-colored typography with positive messages live here, too. In particular, she said look for fonts that are inflated and bouncy like a balloon animal, or mimic the look of child-like alphabet magnets.
Goodness also ushers in new ideas for untraditional tailoring. Classic houndstooth checks, plaids and pin stripes are due to be recolored in nostalgic colorways. It’s a chance for designers to reinvent familiar garments, like adding a colorful plaid on top of a faux-fur coat.
Geometrics get a retro filter, too, with simplistic two-tone color palettes. McCandless pointed out that patterns and prints that mimic old-school board games—like jacks, dominos or an abacus—are clever ways to update monochromatic geometrics.
Meanwhile, color-saturated stripes continue to be strong. “We see this happening across all of the markets,” she said, adding that designers should avoid conventional rainbow colors and opt for more surprising contrasts.
Though loud color and patterns are the general vibe of Goodness, there’s still room for designers to be calm and serene, McCandless noted. Expect to see more tonal, white-on-white soft abstract graphics filter into fashion and home goods. Contrasting surfaces or textures help define the shapes.
“This is a great print option for people who don’t like prints,” Gentner added.