During what is usually the busiest time of the year for the fashion industry, the streets of New York remained virtually empty as fashion week came and went. Uncertainty surrounding the event this season lasted until the very last moment and left people questioning its true purpose. In the wake of plunging sales, broken supply chains, and newsworthy bankruptcies, several high-profile designers were absent from the NYFW schedule, including Marc Jacobs, Pyer Moss, and Prabal Gurung. The remaining designers had to grapple with the weight of a global pandemic while being saddled with the pressure of presenting inspired new collections to an audience of uncertain industry professionals and price-sensitive consumers. For those designers, this season represented an opportunity to challenge the way things have always been and redefine fashion week to better meet the demands of the modern industry.
Forced to take digital experiences more seriously, many brands explored new ways to present to an at-home audience. The most notable format came from Khaite, where AR technology brought the audience as close to experiencing the collection IRL as possible. Khaite’s Catherine Holstein sees the brand continuing to use this technology well into the future. “There are so many untapped technological resources that luxury fashion has shied away from,” she told Vogue. “If the pandemic hadn’t happened, we never would have been forced to explore this. But it’s changed our business forever.”
As for the collections themselves, designers stuck to what they know best while catering to consumers’ new affinities for both comfort and escapism. In reaction to the current cultural climate and the rising popularity of WFH-wear, Eckhaus Latta, Thakoon, and Cynthia Rowley brought loungewear to the luxury market. Oversized sweatshirts, baggy pants, rib knit dresses, and matching sets were among the most popular items featured, and were often styled with sneakers or sport sandals for maximum comfort. Looking to escape our harsh reality, several designers took a more whimsical approach to spring dressing. Shot in a field of wildflowers, Veronica Beard’s floral maxi dresses and puff sleeve details invoked feelings of freedom, while Rentrayage’s vintage fabrics and ruffle hemlines looked right at home against a wooded backdrop. Anna Sui embraced the cottagecore aesthetic that emerged online post-quarantine with her nostalgic and crafty collection, aptly named Heartland.
Face masks may have been the most relevant trend to emerge on the runway this season. A stark reminder of the current crisis, the face mask was reimagined to be a wardrobe-enhancing accessory. Christian Siriano garnered attention for his mask-making efforts early in the pandemic and brought new life to the standard face mask for his spring collection. Each model walked the backyard-turned-runway sporting a mask that perfectly matched the rest of their look.
Though only a shadow of what it once was, NYFW persisted. In a show of creativity and resilience, designers presented their spring collections in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges. Whether the week was a success is a matter of opinion as the future of fashion week remains a question mark, but for now, it seems the show must go on, one way or another.
Keep reading for a closer look at the apparel trends spotted on the Spring/Summer 2021 runway.
Orange, -5% to LY
Orange is the color to watch this season as models at Jason Wu, Veronica Beard, Adeam, Sukeina, and Eckhaus Latta sported varying shades of the citrus hue. A bright pop of color in dark times, orange represents a form of escapism and creative exploration for designers and consumers alike.
Tiered Maxi Dress, +56% to LY
Tiered maxi dresses and ruffle hems brought whimsy and romance to the runway. Batsheva took a vintage-inspired approach to the trend, while Ulla Johnson and Zimmermann turned wanderlust to reality with statement accessories, ethereal fabrics, and soft color palettes.
Cottagecore, +6,899% to LY
It seems the cottagecore trend won’t be going anywhere as designers continue to draw inspiration from the great outdoors. Titled Heartland and shot against a hand-painted cottage backdrop, Anna Sui’s collection is full of whimsical house dresses and crafty details. In an ode to happier days, Rentrayage and Veronica Beard featured floral maxi dresses and puff sleeves that look ready to become the new spring uniform.
Loungewear, +192% to LY
In reaction to the current cultural climate and the rising popularity of WFH-wear, designers brought loungewear to the luxury market. The Eckhaus Latta show avoided spectacle with loose silhouettes and comfortable materials throughout. The Academy New York, Thakoon, and Cynthia Rowley each presented their own take on stylish sweats.
Face Mask, +926% to LY
In the midst of a global pandemic, face masks are the only accessory that matters. This season, designers found creative ways to incorporate the essential into their collections. Each model at Christian Siriano sported a mask that perfectly matched the rest of their look.