The wall that once barred fashion consumers from experiencing fashion week continues to crumble. Though bloggers, influencers, social media and “see now, buy now” concepts have slowly chiseled away at the exclusivity of fashion week, the Spring/Summer 2021 runway shows were more accessible than ever.
With many fashion week regulars staying closer to home this season, designers retrofitted their presentations for a broader digital audience. Through video, Instagram live and social media posts, designers offered fashion lovers a virtual respite from the coronavirus and U.S. election news that has consumed their feeds in recent months.
This digital-meets-reality influenced how some designers approached colors, textures and developed the overall plotlines for their collections.
Hi-vis fabrics and revealing silhouettes were part of the “noughties nostalgia” trend that retail market intelligence platform Edited called out. References to the late ’90s and early 2000s fashion—from cowl necklines and cropped tops to and sheer fabrications—dotted the runway.
Set to a backdrop of TV screens featuring famous faces like Jennifer Lopez and Kris Kardashian, Balmain’s runway show ticked off all the boxes for Y2K fashion serving exaggerated suiting in neon colorways and metallic silver and pink slip dresses and skirts that were reminiscent of the iconic 1999 Atelier Versace butterfly chainmail dresses worn by the likes of Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell.
In Matthew Williams’ first collection as Givenchy creative director, the designer emphasized tactility with croc-embossed leather, marbleized prints and tinsel fabrications as well as other 2000s trends: mini bags and platform footwear.
And while loungewear continues to trend, denim was a part of the late Y2K equation. Edited urged retailers to update their noughties denim buys by adding straight and wide-leg styles as well as details like frayed hems and patchwork denim as seen in the collections by Dolce & Gabbana and Phillip Plein.
Fashion search engine Tagwalk, however, noticed an uptick in interest in another glam era: disco.
Searches on the platform for the keyword “disco” increased 174.8 percent compared to S/S ’20. Meanwhile, searches for “1970” dropped 43.3 percent compared to the prior year, revealing how fashion is shifting gears to embrace the livelier end of the decade.
The disco theme was evident in Cynthia Rowley’s collection that featured liquid metallic wide-leg trousers as well as in Claudia Li’s iridescent sequin tops and skirts and Acne Studio’s metallic knits.
Contrasting prints and voluminous shapes achieved through tulle constructions or chunky knits brought a joyous feeling to the pandemic runway. Here, designers like tulle-maven Molly Goddard introduced fantasy while Versace offered a sense of escapism in an Atlantis-inspired collection filled with micro pleated fabrications and mini dresses featuring opulent prints and crystal bra-tops.
Uplifting colors also dominated the runway. “Underpinning maximalism and nostalgic themes, the runway was illuminated by the power of color acting as an antidote to the bleak year,” Edited stated. Echoing this feeling, Tagwalk reported that searches for “earthy tones” decreased 43.6 percent.
Tom Ford’s burst of royal purple, Ricostru’s oversized lime green suiting and Sportmax’s pop of orange were among the strongest examples of monochromatic styling. Color blocking, like MSGM’s two-tone knits and the neon-like graphics as seen on Chanel’s Hollywood-themed catwalk added a sporty and youthful feeling to garments.
But as one set of fashion designers beamed towards excess, another group favored simpler looks. S/S ’21 presented a “juxtaposition of minimalism and maximalism, drawing parallels to the current climate,” Edited reported.
The shows in Milan especially opted for pared-down fashion. “Clean silhouettes” with square necklines, head-to-toe neutrals and tailoring with elements of athleisure guided this newfangled approach to less is more. Key items, Edited reported, include wide-leg pleated trousers, oversized blazers like the ones presented by Gabriele Colangelo and casual takes on work wear like Thakoon’s button-down work shirt with a stretchy smocked waistband.
Crop tops and garments with cut-outs also add a sleek look to minimalism. And as it turns out, midriffs are trending. Tagwalk reported that searches for “crop top” increased 86.3 percent compared with S/S 20 searches.
Designers, however, did not ignore the demand for at-home fashion. With comfort top of mind, Cromantica, Victoria Beckham and Simon Miller centered parts of their collections around easy coordinating sets with fluid pajama styling.
This trend, Edited noted, serves as another avenue to promote the house dress alongside silk pajama sets that can double as day or nightwear.
The designer hoodie is also gaining momentum. Balenciaga continued its tradition of creating meme-worthy fashion with its “Paris Fashion Week” hoodie—a playful nod to the fashionistas who kept a watchful eye on the Parisian catwalk from the comfort of their couches.
And it worked. Tagwalk reported that searches for “hoodie” increased 132.8 percent year-over-year.