Quarantine Rebirth: Men’s Fashion Week Review SS21

Key takeaways

  • Men’s SS21 digital fashion week represents a turning point in the fashion world, being the first major digital fashion week following Haute Couture, with designers creating innovative new ways of presenting their collections, challenging the traditional format of the fashion show
  • Following this period of crisis, brands are questioning their reason to exist, with the meaning and intention behind their collections being equally as important as the garments themselves
  • A major theme this fashion week was a “return to nature”, with designers showing a renewed appreciation for the natural environment, and favouring more artisanal materials and textiles that require a high level of craftsmanship

This men’s SS21 digital fashion week was a pivotal moment for the fashion world, with both independent designers and luxury maisons being tasked with the challenge of somehow translating the experience of attending a show IRL to the virtual realm. Although there is no true replacement to the “real thing”, many designers took advantage of this unique opportunity to challenge the format of a traditional fashion show, and utilize the possibilities afforded by technology to communicate with their audience in a novel way. Another first related to this (almost) exclusively digital fashion week is the democratization of the viewing experience, as would-be fashion show attendees and the “average” person both see the collection through the screen of their devices.

Brands were forced to adapt to this new reality, with many coming up with highly innovative ways of presenting their collections in the digital realm. UNDERCOVER’s collection was completely rendered in 3D, with models appearing like avatars from Grand Theft Auto; Sunnei’s “Canvas” collection utilizes CGI to depict models wearing white garments that are completely customisable through the brand’s VR platform; COOL™ created an interactive experience using VR; Kolor’s Junichi Abe developed a 360 degree camera system so viewers can see each look from every angle.

Narration to Convey Emotion

In addition to experimenting with the format of the digital fashion show, several designers took a philosophical approach in attempting to convey a deeper meaning behind the collection that goes beyond the physical garments. A distinctive theme that emerged this fashion week is using narration to convey a sense of emotion, with designers’ videos featuring poetry, novel excerpts, home-video audio recordings, and Nietzsche quotes dubbed over visuals. The Bolognese brand Magliano created a mythological universe, with each model embodying a fictitious character, featured in a video narrated by the novelist Isabella Santacroce. Luchino Magliano, founder of his eponymous label, explains that “Narration is the first form of augmented reality. We asked ourselves how we could overcome the virtual medium to convey the emotion and research behind each object, and we came to the conclusion that the word is the strongest medium.” Given the amount of designers who utilized narration to convey the story behind their collections, it is clear that many others would agree with Magliano.

Return to nature

Ironically, a prevailing theme this fashion week was a “return to nature”, despite collections only being presented in the digital realm. Numerous brands either focused on nature as a guiding theme, or incorporated the natural environment into their collections in some capacity, whether it be floral motifs, lookbooks shot amongst vegetation, or plants physically attached to garments. This gravitation towards nature is ostensibly related to the desire to convey a deeper meaning and a sense of emotion with viewers via the internet, as times of crisis often result in a renewed appreciation for beauty, especially after being locked indoors for several months.

Discover the key themes for Men’s SS21 Fashion Week

Bohemian Inspiration

A key inspiration for this back to nature theme is the 60s and 70s, which is logical, since the aesthetics of these epochs are defined by political upheaval and a questioning of the established order. Since we are experiencing both of these phenomena today, this free-spirited, bohemian sensibility ostensibly resonates more strongly than it would otherwise, manifesting through the physical garments in the form of paisley, patchwork, ikat patterns, fringe, tinted aviators, and loose, flowing silhouettes, shown by brands like Children of the Discordance, Isabel Marant, Greg Lauren, Etro, and Magliano. Tunics, knitwear, and espadrilles were also token elements of this theme, shown by the brands that were inspired by this free-spirited, bohemian mood.

Hippy Streetwear

Another iteration of this natural theme comes from a more streetwear perspective, with brands such as Blue Marble, Etudes, and MSGM combining t-shirts, hoodies, as well as more tailored garments with the typical “hippy” accoutrements, like natural-dyed textiles, beads, rope accessories, psychedelic prints, and vibrant colours paired with muted, “sun-drenched” tones. These details emanate a sense of joy and optimism, with vibrant colours and hallucinogenic motifs symbolising a type of rebirth, as we are entering a new phase of life following this period of confinement. Massimo Giorgetti, creative director of MSGM, states that “for the first time in my life and in the life of the brand, I perceived the fall of the myth of the city as the place to be and the rise of a new desire for nature”. Clearly, Giorgetti is not alone in this desire to be connected to our natural world and have a fresh start.

Focus on Craftsmanship

Lastly, a key trend was a gravitation towards artisanal materials and techniques, with an abundance of embellishment, knits, linen, woven textiles, and embroidery representing a renewed appreciation for the craftsmanship required to create such garments. CMMN SWDN, Ermenegildo Zegna, and Jacquemus are a few examples of those who incorporated these artisanal elements into their collections, combining these “crafty” details with tailoring to create a level of sophistication. Some staple garments amongst brands that explored this theme include espadrilles, tunics, and loose fitting pants, typically in earthy, muted tones. 

Ultimately, this fashion week seemed to predict, at least in part, a return to a time where collections were smaller, craftsmanship was rightfully given the spotlight, and nature was directly reflected in the product. In other ways, tradition was challenged, with the digitalisation of many catwalks and look books giving access to more than only industry insiders. What we do know is that these trends inspire us to keep our roots in the ground and our eyes to the sky. 


About the writer: , Jenna McFeely

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