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Why Brands Need to Pivot to ‘Silent Streetwear’ and Protective Fashion

Though Informa’s Las Vegas fashion markets like Project and WWDMagic are postponed to Sept. 29-Oct. 1, what the post-pandemic fashion buyer will be drawn to weighs on the minds of the show organizers.

In a webinar with Fashion Snoops called “Designing for Seasons Ahead,” trade show executives and trend analysts discussed how efforts to slow down the spread of the coronavirus, like staying indoors and wearing protective masks, will give rise to new consumer wants and needs.

From functional fashion to design inspired by better times, here’s a look at three themes to watch in men’s wear and women’s wear.

Surreal Nature

In future seasons, expect to see more fashion source inspiration from nature. “Nature has always been a key consideration for design but we feel following the pandemic, it will become more relevant than ever,” said Nia Silva, Fashion Snoops material editor. “More consumers are going to crave reconnecting to their environment, and [have] an even deeper appreciation for protecting it.”

The direction, however, is veering toward more “wondrous ways” than standard foliage and florals. In Surreal Nature, fantastical color and texture combinations, biomimicry and organic shapes and forms allow fashion to take a surreal slant. Natural dyes and prints that mimic earthly elements create “enchanting” art pieces, while untreated fabrics allow the natural grain of fibers to shine through.

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This natural yet considered look is captured in women’s fashion with concepts that Melissa Moylan, Fashion Snoops vice president and creative director of women’s wear, said have an “overgrown supernatural” feel and create a form of exoticism. Blooming jacquards with an allover vine design or oversized floral can be used to encapsulate the wearer. “It’s a way that we could immerse the customer in nature,” she described, adding that jacquards work well for matched sets, tailored blazers and statement tops, which are gaining importance.

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Dramatic landscape prints serve as a new eco activist statement, and it’s intended to both inspire and evoke action, Moylan said. Prints on sheer materials take on an ethereal feel, but the look translates to tees and sweaters, too.

The trend story also invites new dye techniques, which Moylan pointed out have been a key driver this summer and will continue to be in the coming seasons. Look for hand-painted brush strokes, layers of color and eco dyes to add a sense of surrealism to casual items like tees, sweatshirts and denim. Pair these sustainable dyes, she added, with jeans made with green chemistry, wasted or upcycled fabrics.

“A lot of the denim mills have really been at the forefront of sustainability, so this is a great place to apply that,” she said, naming Trucker jackets, denim shirts and trend-forward silhouettes like slouchy jeans as the ideal canvas for the creative approach.

“Sustainability is now an obligation. It’s no longer a buzzword, so even if you’re a junior fast-fashion company, you have to jump on the bandwagon wagon,” said Kelly Helfman, president of WWDMagic, Project Women’s, Micam Amerias and Sourcing at Magic. “There is no more avoiding it.”

Surreal Nature takes men’s denim into wintertime with chalky textures. “There is going to be a really nice return to denim,” said Michael Fisher, Fashion Snoops vice president and creative director of men’s wear. “It’s been soft for a little bit now, and we’re really excited for that.”

Sweaters will be a major part of collections as elements of protection and comfort are going to be prevalent in all designs, he added. Big, crafty sweaters, turtleneck silhouettes and slouchy fit are key, while pixelated marled sweaters added dimension.

Informa and Fashion Snoops examine how trends may be dictated by the emotional rollercoaster consumers are experiencing during COVID-19.
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Looking at parkas, expect to see luminescent effects and metallic coatings take the staple into more of a fashion realm. The look, Fisher noted, is a nod to the flashy styles from the late ’90s and early 2000s.


Expect fashion to serve a heavy dose of nostalgia in the coming seasons. “We are looking to product that’s going to comfort us, both literally and metaphorically,” Fisher said. “Let’s have fun with our clothes again.”

Color, wholesome design and a touch of quirk sum up this outlook, which Fashion Snoops simply calls Nostalgia. “It’s an ongoing collision of eras and style tropes that…[are] slightly recognizable,” he said, adding that designs could reference the ’50s or allude to the 2030s.

The theme also includes the best parts of at-home fashion that consumers have become acclimated to: comfort. Vinyl, geometric prints, along with knits and body-focused fabrics will be key, Silva said. Expect to also see more molded forms and bubble textures that emphasize the lightness and softness.

Part of what Nostalgia represents in women’s fashion is a dreamy world of soft colors and unconventional styling, Moylan pointed out. Though minimalism has been trending in women’s, consumers crave playful simplicity. Boxy jackets with nostalgic colorways and a hint of utility through details like pockets and drawstrings live here. Retro florals also help bring Nostalgia to life, particularly on midi dresses and skirts with button-front details. Trousers with flare legs, waist ties and covered buttons instantly add a throwback feeling to soft suiting.

Head-to-toe, light-infused pastels are also coming through, Moylan said, noting that they can be applied to a variety of items including Trucker jackets, high-waisted flare pants, jumpsuits or casual T-shirts. “It’s an emotionally uplifting statement, that I think is going to be really important for the consumer,” she said.

Informa and Fashion Snoops examine how trends may be dictated by the emotional rollercoaster consumers are experiencing during COVID-19.
MSGM Pixelformula/SIPA/Shutterstock

Nostalgia calls for irreverent preppy classics that deliver a touch of sweetness and rebellion to men’s wear, Fisher said.

For outerwear, expect to see more cocoon shapes like oversized overcoats and experimental quilting. While diamond and box quilting are the standard, Fisher said there’s a movement toward silhouettes that mimic the look and feel of duvets.

Look for cardigans and matching sets made with “super textural” fabrics and minimal streetwear items that shy away from the logos and loud colors that were trending prior to the pandemic. The category, he added, is pivoting to cleaner lines and more tailored influences.

This shift, said Brian Trunzo, Informa’s head of sales for men’s fashion, is “indicative of emerging out of a crisis and looking for something new.”

Refined Utility

Though the term ‘fashion meets function’ may be overused, everyday essentials that truly protect the wearer will become more important. “This concept becomes a need-to-have,” Moylan said. In Refined Utility, Fashion Snoops examines how “we can actually translate the idea of form and function and make it a little more sophisticated,” she said.

Materials will be essential in this attempt to offer consumers multifaceted protection. However, Silva said fashion designers will need to step away from the black and gray colorways that tends to drive the protective apparel category and opt for soothing colors or fabrics with hyperreal finishes like reflective elements or high shine for the fashion consumer.

Informa and Fashion Snoops examine how trends may be dictated by the emotional rollercoaster consumers are experiencing during COVID-19.
Marques’Almeida WWD/Shutterstock

In women’s wear, Refined Utility borrows inspiration from outdoor performance apparel. Harnesses and buckles add a performance update to items that speak to true utility like cargo pants and overalls, Moylan said. Statement utility is also gaining traction, particularly performance drawstrings, contrast zippers and utility pockets. Moylan urged designers to think outside the box with unusual placement or color blocking.

Textural shearling and high-pile fleece in oversized shapes add a sense of safety and coziness to outerwear and loungewear, she added. Meanwhile, the aspects of a protective puffer like nylon and down layers are being applied to robes, pants and overcoats.

Men’s wear takes a similar approach with items like oversized parkas, but Fisher said Refined Utility is really where “silent streetwear” takes shape. Shine and cleaner lines are among the subtle ways designers can dress up sporty influences.

Informa and Fashion Snoops examine how trends may be dictated by the emotional rollercoaster consumers are experiencing during COVID-19.
Louis Gabriel Nouchi LAURENT BENHAMOU/SIPA/Shutterstock

“Luster is super important to the seasons ahead,” he said. “Liquid-like synthetics are something that are new for us [and] they’re going to bring a whole new life and energy to what’s otherwise a very basic silhouette.”

The theme also shows how utility doesn’t have to be overly aggressive. Brands, Fisher said, can enhance garments with plush quilting and high-energy colorways, while maintaining function.