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The Fall/Winter 20-21 Fashion Trend That Craves a Human Touch

The right side of the brain is challenging the data-driven fashion world.

At Fashion Snoops’ Trend Immersion Day in New York City Friday, the trend forecasting firm shared a Fall/Winter 20-21 outlook for apparel, home and beauty that indicates a movement toward design with stronger elements of humanity.

In “Belonging,” Fashion Snoops co-founder and president Lilly Berelovich describes a macro trend based on shifts in modern lifestyles that are disrupting traditional ideas of home and community. Belonging accepts gender fluidity, inclusiveness and diversity as the new normal—not a trend.

The theme, Berelovich says, taps into consumers’ desire to find deeper connections with people outside the confines of their own four walls, including from the brands and products they shop. Here, designers create for people who are being excluded—be it race, size or disability. These brands can be tied to kindness marketing initiatives, like Diesel’s “Hate Couture” campaign, or giveback strategies that support marginalized groups.

The theme allows genderless fashion to break from its grey and beige rut, ushering in bold fluid shades to create a new category called “non-binary glamour.” Fashion is designed to stand out and celebrate differences through off-beat romanticism, humor and swabs of color. “Embrace uniqueness so we can empower the uniqueness in others,” said Michael Fisher, Fashion Snoops vice president of men’s wear.

And one way for consumers to connect with apparel is through touch. Fabric first designers, like Rivet 50 member Faustine Steinmetz has achieved this in recent seasons with her felted denim. Fashion Snoops describes this “tactile therapy” as an antidote to the fakeness of the digital world. Gentle quilting, engineered neoprene, spongey textures and plush fabrics also invite the customer to touch. Crafty textures and fabrics that have an animated and expressive personality, free-form yarn works, floating yarn and fringe, tap into the growing demand for fidget apparel. These quirky fabrics are balanced with weighty luxury fabrics like silk (or less expensive rayon and viscose blends) with a raw look.

Color is used to enhance the sensory story.

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“Color is a feeling,” Berelovich said. “It has an emotion behind it.” Gentle, a buttery yellow, anchors Belonging. A softer version of Gen Z yellow, Berelovich says Gentle evokes a sense of connection, comfort and joy. “It’s a mood lifting and optimistic color,” she said, adding that it could replace millennial pink as the go-to colorway to attract young consumers’ attention. The yellow shade is also season- and gender-less and looks good on textural materials like fuzzy sweater knits and quilting.

Color and texture come together in Resonance, a fashion story Fisher says is built on the concept of soft strength.

“Do not dismiss someone’s softness for being a lack of strength,” he said. Empathy and compassion is important to the trend. The goal, Fisher added, is to make what’s important popular, rather than the other way around.

Here, Melissa Moylan, Fashion Snoops VP of creative for women’s wear, said women’s fashion is based on generous volumes, refined layers and perfect imperfections. The maxi dress and skirt returns with textural interest. Tailored pieces have rounded shapes. Blazer dresses and white button-down shirts come forward with new elongated lengths. For men, Moylan said consider streetwear pieces with embellished trims. Marabou feathers and teddy bear-like plush surfaces add texture to children’s wear. The category is also seeing an uptick in positive mantras in unexpected places, like around the collar.

Playful elements add interest to accessories. Shearling and knit materials from the apparel world are used on footwear, like mules. Scarves are minimalistic yet colorful. Frame bags are done in exaggerated shapes and jewelry skews quirky, like oversized pearl anklets.

In home, the trend translates to comforting, padded shapes that hug the dweller. And Gentle yellow feels glamorous in both textiles and hard goods made with translucent materials, offering a new way to interpret maximalism.