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Aqua Hues, Mushroom Leather and Circular Sneakers Poised to Win in 2021: WGSN

2021 may be off to a rough start given last week’s massive display of political upheaval at the U.S. Capitol, but there’s still time for the cultural reset that shoppers have been so ardently hoping for.

While the new year may not offer a totally clean slate, it seems poised to offer a slew of new fads, according to trend forecasting group WGSN, which recently shared predictions about the movements, innovations and consumer behaviors that stand to shape 2021.

AI Aqua

While Pantone may have deemed Ultimate Gray and Illuminating the colors of the year, WGSN and its color forecasting arm, Coloro, predicted that “AI Aqua,” a shade of blue-green inspired by the tech realm, will demonstrate “key relevance” this year. The world’s biggest websites—including tech players like Twitter and Facebook—disproportionately favor shades of blue, they said. “In a digital age when we’re able to curate our identities and our online personas are as important as our offline ones (if not more so), we expect this hue to resonate broadly with consumers and have strong appeal across all design categories and demographics,” they wrote, citing fashion, activewear and interiors as ripe targets for new offerings in this shade.

Genuinfluencer takeover

Digital domination is all but assured, they added, and social media will continue to play a large role in consumers’ daily lives. While influencers have been around for quite some time, a new breed of digitally native tastemakers is lining up to sway opinions about everything from public health to politics. “Genuinfluencers” will take it upon themselves to combat the rampant misinformation that has proliferated across web-based channels, pushing the agendas of groups like the World Health Organization (WHO) instead of skincare products and supplements.

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In Finland, 1,500 influencers were deemed essential workers during the pandemic, and were tasked with disseminating vital information about safety and Covid hygiene, while the WHO teamed up with 20-year-old virtual influencer Knox Frost to encourage donations and share safety updates and tips. “This new type of serious storytelling will naturally and seamlessly integrate with influencers’ everyday lifestyle content,” according to the report, “and will feel less like advertising and more peer-to-peer driven, with a focus on lessons learned over likes.”

Mycelium madness

There’s a new material in town, and despite its slimy-sounding name, WGSN predicts it’s poised to be all the rage. Mycelium, the vegetative component of fungus, is “an underground network key to regenerative agriculture and carbon absorption.” While its flora, mushrooms, have already become an important component in beauty products, food and drinks, 2021 will see mycelium more widely adopted for use in handbags, shoes and sofas as a replacement for leather. This bio-based innovation has been generating buzz for a few seasons, but WGSN believes mycelium is finally positioned to “go beyond the experimental stage and scale big, and soon.”

The proof is in the brand buy-in. Adidas, Stella McCartney, Lululemon and global fashion firm Kering have joined forces to invest millions in Mylo, a novel biomaterial that promises a convincing replacement for cow-hide leather. The fashion players are gunning to scale up production and create a viable supply chain for the product, which they plan to adopt throughout their lines.

Circularity for the soles

Sustainability still has its place in the fashion sector, but the concept of the year for many brands is circularity—the sustained use of resources without creating waste.

Adidas is doubling down on its eco-friendly commitments by product testing its first circular shoe, which can be recycled in its entirety at end of life to create new products. Made from a single material, the shoe can be ground to pellets and melted into material for components for a new pair of shoes. The Ultraboost DNA Loop, which was conceived to eliminate supply chain and post-consumer waste, is said to be launching to a wider, public audience later this year.

Smaller brands are also vying for a piece of the circular pie. Zurich-based athletic wear brand On Running has created a subscription service for its recycled running sneakers. Every six months, members send back their worn out sneakers to be recycled and receive a fresh, trail-ready pair in the mail. French outdoor brand Salomon has instituted local collection points for its first fully recyclable running shoe, the Index.01. Made entirely thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), the shoes can be washed and disassembled, then ground down and melted into material suitable for other products, like ski boots. The Index.01 will debut this spring. Vivobarefoot and Thousand Fell are getting in on the circular action, too, with programs to take back and re-use their worn sneakers and shoes.

“If the circular runner is anything to go by, 2021 will see us picking up speed towards a more sustainable economy,” WGSN said.