fw21 fashion weeks trends and themes

FW21 Fashion Weeks Trends and Themes

Key takeaways

  • These Fashion Weeks were defined by a spirit of optimism for the post-pandemic future, which was reflected through a theme of Flamboyant Liberation.
  • Analog Nostalgia is the second key theme of the FW21 Fashion Weeks, referring to a romanticization of the pre-digital world.
  • Space Age Core is our third theme that emerged during the FW21 Fashion Weeks, describing a technological, futuristic aesthetic.
  • Old Money Reboot is the fourth major theme we spotted, representing a parallel to the style of the 1920’s.

The FW21 Fashion Weeks in New York, London, Milan, and Paris bore the closest resemblance to a “traditional” Fashion Month from the “before times” despite Covid restrictions still preventing most brands from inviting physical attendees to their shows. 

Compared to SS21 Fashion Month back in September and Men’s Fashion Month that happened in June, Heuritech noticed that brands this season generally preferred a simple, audience-less filmed runway show to present their FW21 collections, compared to previous post-pandemic seasons where far more brands used short films or other experimental digital mediums to present their collections. 

Reflecting back to just one year ago, we didn’t know it yet, but we were experiencing our last “normal” fashion month, which was marked by mixed concerns over the growing pandemic. However, just a few days after the end of the shows, we all plunged into the unknown and had to re-invent ourselves.

Although this season was still a far cry from fashion week as we once knew it, a sense of normalcy is undoubtedly resuming, with a palpable spirit of optimism defining many brands’ FW21 collections. While only the future can tell us what history will remember from this period, we guarantee that it will remain inscribed as that of the development of new models, and profound paradigm shifts that have taken place over the past year.

Flamboyant Liberation

For FW21, designers traded loungewear for party attire, preparing us for the future when social gatherings are finally permitted again. New York based designer Sandy Liang perfectly summarizes this approach that many others took this season, stating that:

“It’s really important to be optimistic and to design things that don’t make sense for right now” but for the future once “normal” life has resumed.

This attitude manifested in the form of flamboyant going-out attire:

  • Micro-length dresses and skirts
  • Fabrics such as feathers, velvet, and sequins
  • Stylistic elements like leopard, fringe, embellishment, and skin-tight silhouettes

Brands like C+plus Series, Del Core, and 16Arlington are a few key examples of brands who explored our flamboyant liberation theme during FW21 fashion month. 

Heuritech trend forecast for leopard print this FW21

Analog Nostalgia

The analog nostalgia theme refers to a romanticization of the past, when the digital realm did not yet exist and technology did not yet dominate the world. During Fashion Month, this theme was reflected through artisanal elements like crochet, lace, or quilted materials, bringing to mind garments of pre-industrial times that required a high level of craftsmanship to be made. We forecast that lace, for instance, will only decrease slightly this season.

Heuritech trend forecast for lace this FW21

Designers drew upon a wide range of historical references for FW21:

  • Yuhan Wang’s feminine yet whimsical collection was inspired by Tang Dynasty watercolor paintings that merge nature and fantasy
  • Gabriela Hearst’s collection was inspired by the 12th Century visionary Hildegard of Bingen, incorporating hand-painted interpretations of Hildegard’s flower illustrations on belts and silk dresses.
  • Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini, Tod’s, and Sea included ruff collars, originating from the mid 16th Century in Europe.

Space Age Core

A sleek, spacey aesthetic emerged during FW21 Fashion Month as another one of the key defining themes of the season. Space Age Core is defined in part by:

  • Clean lines
  • Androgynous silhouettes
  • Bold colors: Neon orange, lime green, and turquoise
Salvatore Ferragamo FW21

One of the stand out shows of this theme was Salvatore Ferragamo’s collection, which was presented in the form of a short sci-fi film loosely inspired by Gattaca, featuring “bionic” bodysuits and transparent ponchos inspired by Blade Runner. Courrèges’ collection was another stand out show clearly in line with this theme, with designer Di Felice envisioning a minimalist space-age collection honoring the brand’s legacy of “radical simplicity”, featuring trapeze mini dresses, monochromatic catsuits, and geometric cutouts to recontextualize the brand’s DNA for the future. 

Old Money Reboot

The last major theme we spotted encompasses a traditional, bourgeois vision of fashion where neutral color palettes and luxurious materials are used to create classic, timeless collections. The brands who explored this Old Money theme tended to avoid the use of loud colors, busy prints, or flashy monograms, with Max Mara, The Row, and Khaite being some of the key brands that are known for this discreet yet opulent aesthetic.

Heuritech trend forecast for fur FW21

Even brands like Fendi and Valentino who do not normally explore old bourgeois aesthetics switched gears this season, both presenting collections in exclusively neutral colors, relying on decadent materials like fur, leather, and feathers to build an aura of luxury.

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This focus on materials rather than bright colors or loud prints is well summarized by Khaite’s Catherine Holstein, whose FW 21 collection was loosely inspired by the 1920’s, with this era being “a response to the 1918 flu”. Thus, the emergence of this theme represents a parallel to the post-pandemic period of the 1920s, where decadent yet comforting silhouettes like the satin slip dress or fur coat emerged as the new wardrobe staples for the liberated woman.

This season was clearly defined by a response to the pandemic, although designers varied in their reactions and hopes for the present and the future. Thanks to trend forecasting, we found that optimism for post-pandemic times, romanticisation of the non-digital, expectation for a technological future, and a parallel to the 1920s were the overarching themes of this season.

Jenna McFeely

About the writer: Jenna McFeely, Fashion Curator and Trend Analyst

Jenna writes about the relationship between fashion, art, and technology, taking an cross-disciplinary approach to analyze trends in visual culture.

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