“I’m an optimist. The future is yet to be decided,” concluded Virgil Abloh in his show notes for Louis Vuitton’s FW21 collection. This sentiment was explored and expanded upon en masse this season as designers tried to imagine the world we would emerge into post-pandemic. For Louis Vuitton, that world is one that challenges the norm and recognizes the transformative power of fashion. It is one in which cultures mix freely, and diversity is a priority. “There are a lot of stories mixing cultures,” Abloh said. “And from that, a new language will be created.” An exploration of his own African heritage and what it means to be a Black American creative director in Europe, the collection is a reflection of Abloh’s own life and the change that this moment in history calls for. Both personal and universal, this season’s shows represented the evolution of an industry forced to adapt to a rapidly changing world.
Phygital formats dominated this season, with brands like Prada and Fendi livestreaming their shows. In the most memorable format of the season, Balenciagateamed up with Unreal Engine, the games engine of Epic Games, to create Afterworld: The Age of Tomorrow–a video game, collection, and a glimpse into what could be the future of fashion presentations. Each Balenciaga model and their movements were digitally scanned and transformed into avatars to embark on a hero’s journey, while showing off Demna Gvasalia’s collection of oversized suiting, street style favorites, and battle-ready armor.
A color palette of burgundy, teal, and mustard wove its way into several collections this season. Tactile materials like shearling, fur, and fleece evoke feelings of comfort and fulfill the audience’s desire for contact in a world devoid of it. Dolce & Gabbana, Dior, and Fendi all presented different interpretations of oversized fur coats, while Reese Cooper and Tod’sfocused on functionality with exposed fleece jackets. Functionality was a primary focus this season, and details like zippers, utility pockets, and drawstrings brought attention to utilitarian outerwear aesthetics. Puffer jackets remain a winter staple, while aviator jackets and bomber jackets re-emerge as trends for the coming season. Scarves of all shapes and sizes complimented the collections of several designers. Silk scarves at Lemaire and Hermes elevated classic suiting, while matching knits scarves created a cohesive cold-weather look at A-Cold-Wall and Dries Van Noten.
For Fall 2021, designers are building a wardrobe fit for a post-pandemic world. Stripped back collections, fabrication-focused design, and functional upgrades at Alyx and Dries Van Noten explored what we as consumers deem as “essential.” Escapism, a survival tactic during long months of confinement, inspired many of the season’s newest trends. Having recently spent a lot of time roaming the valleys in Northern Italy, Massimo Giorgetti created a collection inspired by nature’s magnitude for MSGM. At the same time, Reese Cooper encourages his audience to protect nature while they still can with an outerwear collection that benefits the National Forest Foundation. Designers like Jonathan Anderson and Jeremy Scott look to the future with optimism, however hard it may be. Bright colors, unconventional styling, and hand-painted fabrics set the tone for a future full of untapped creative potential.
Designers are building a wardrobe fit for a reshaped world. Ermenegildo Zegna’s collection, aptly titled “The (Re)Set,” features garments built for the post-pandemic world, a world in which the indoor and outdoor collide. Fabrication-focused design and the anticipation of a comfort-focused future at Alyx created the foundation for a stripped-back collection. At Dries Van Noten, wardrobe staples received functional upgrades with optimized materials and construction in a timely re-examination of what is deemed “essential.”
Nature has played a vital role in our collective wellbeing during a time when the outdoors offers our only respite. Having recently spent a lot of restorative time roaming the valleys in Northern Italy, Massimo Giorgetti created a collection inspired by nature’s magnitude. Several collections straddled the line between high-performance gear and country sophistication. Featuring classic outdoor pieces, Tod’s FW21 collection embraced the restorative beauty of nature.
A year of domestic confinement leaves little to be optimistic about; however, many designers chose to find what optimism they could by exploring the creative potential of life post-pandemic. Kean Etro played with the idea of wardrobe cleanouts, rediscovering and mixing garments together. Dolce & Gabbana’s collection was a portrait of the social media generation, built on spontaneous self-expression. Inspired by the queer New York artist Joe Brainard, Loewe’s collection explored punk fashion's more joyful side.
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