River Island: Forecasting Winter 2021 Trends

Key takeaways

  • River Island provides head-to-toe looks in stylish and affordable clothing for fashionable, young consumers.
  • For the brand's Winter 2021 European womenswear collection, both loungewear and going-out looks are the themes to focus on.
  • Trend forecasting based on social media gives River Island a better look into which designs and assortments to include this Winter 2021 in Europe.

For 60 years, River Island has been the British eldorado for stylish and affordable fashion, with weekly reassortment. In the brand’s own words, “We pride ourselves on being the perfect store to pick up everything you need for a brand new head-to-toe look.” Nearly all of River Island’s designs are created in house, with consumers across Europe and elsewhere. With that in mind, we’ve been on your website to review your product assortment. Here is an extract of what we are able to do.

Raleway Spring Campaign

We’ve picked core and recurring trends on River Island’s current collection assortments from your e-commerce platform, comparing them with our data to gauge demand for the Winter 2021 season in Europe. In particular, this article focuses on going-out looks as we look forward to the end of global lockdowns and the revival of party attires. It also focuses on loungewear, a wave that has gained popularity and visibility for a year now.

After all, the Winter season calls for warmth and cosy looks, but also for opulent silhouettes with the holidays as one the highlight of this season. By understanding how trends in these themes will behave, trend forecasting can help River Island in two chief ways:

  • Your design team can establish an efficient collection plan with desirable trends and avoid those who won’t be as appealing to River Island’s customers
  • Your merchandising team can build an efficient collection assortment with accurate trend and demand insights

Opulent glamour for Winter

River Island going-out looks

The resurgence of 80s opulent disco aesthetics is a theme that has been making its way back into fashion, with the campy, kitschy nature of this era bringing a charming appeal. The over-the-top style that defined the 80s is being embraced by many today, with token stylistic details like statement shoulders, embellishment, animal prints, metallic fabrics, and rich, eye-catching colors that evoke the feeling of going out dancing on a Saturday night. 

However, this style is not only for evening wear – we are seeing the distinction between day and night apparel being increasingly blurred, with embellished mini dresses or metallic trousers becoming perfectly acceptable daywear when styled with more casual garments. The Attico is a perfect example of a brand in this aesthetic, incorporating details like feathers and sequins into looks that can easily transition from day to night.

1. Shift Mini Dress

The mini dress is the perfect garment for going out — it can be styled in a multitude of ways, all for fun occasions. Given its length, however, the shift mini dress is undoubtedly a look for warm weather. For this reason, we qualify this trend as a last call for River Island’s Winter 2021 womenswear collections.

What does this mean? It means that by the time Winter 2021 comes around, the mini dress won’t be in season anymore, so River Island should push the garment throughout its high seasons of Summer and Fall. In this way, the brand can avoid unsold inventory and ultimate waste.

Heuritech forecasts the shift mini dress trend for Winter 2021 in Europe
Heuritech’s trend forecasting platform

This garment does have a big potential market demand — a big magnitude — but its falling growth rate is part of what makes the mini dress a last call, as mentioned previously. This decrease of -13% signals a drop in visibility of the garment on social media come Winter 2021 compared to Winter 2020 in Europe, a logical result given its warm-weather appeal. Finally, River Island’s teams should be sure to keep in mind the trend’s mainstream and trendy consumer segmentation in order to make the right decisions on design, product assortment, and marketing. 

2. Zebra

Zebra print is a fun, eye-catching motif we’ve been noticing over the past few seasons with the rise in popularity of animal print. Indeed, zebra will continue to maintain popularity this Winter 2021 in Europe among mainstream and edgy consumers. Its appeal to these consumer segmentations can be explained largely by its longtime presence on the market, as the mainstream has picked up the trend by now, while consumers with more niche tastes are going for new, original iterations of the print. 

Heuritech forecasts the zebra print trend for Winter 2021 in Europe

We classify zebra print as a steady trend: this is due to the combination of its small magnitude and +8% growth rate. With these insights, River Island knows to rely on zebra print for their upcoming collections, particularly because this trend is not married to a particular season as we saw with shift mini dress. A non-seasonal trend gives designers plenty of room for creativity, as they can create many garments for different seasons.

Curious to see how FW21 trends compare in Europe and the US?

Winter 2021 calls for comfort refuge

Fashionable loungewear has been a major focus for brands this year, since people are seeking comfortable clothing that can easily transition from inside to outside without sacrificing style. While the explosion of loungewear is clearly related to the pandemic, it is likely that dressing more casually will become a new norm in fashion even once the virus has passed. 

Loungewear set for FW21

The ribbed knit matching set is one of the most common loungewear looks we have been seeing lately, embodying the intersection of comfort and fashion. Amongst small emerging brands this trend has been an interesting playground to propose versatile silhouettes suitable for different occasions with mohair, linen, and ribbed knit being amongst the most popular fabric choices. Soft hoodies and sweatpants are a few of the other key garments of the comfort refuge theme.

1. Ribbed Knit

As the perfect cozy fabric for lounging (or working!) at hole, ribbed knit is the breakout fabric trend of the year — we’ve picked up on it over the past few seasons in Europe. This Winter 2021 will be no different. Ribbed knit is a safe bet for this season with its big potential market demand and a positive growth rate of +8% compared to last year in Europe, indicating to River Island that they can’t go wrong with garments in this fabric during the cold months.

Interestingly, though, ribbed knit will appeal more to trendy and edgy consumers than the mainstream despite its widespread popularity as of late. This gives River Island more opportunities to test niche, on-point designs this Winter 2021. 

Heuritech forecasts the ribbed knit trend for Winter 2021 in Europe

Text & Drawing Casual Jersey

While loungewear has been massively successful since the start of the pandemic, this trend won’t find quite the same success come Winter. Casual jersey garments with graphic text and motifs are a last call, so River Island should consider selling through the maximum inventory during Summer and Fall before the Winter season arrives. 

Heuritech forecasts the text and drawing casual jersey trend for Winter 2021 in Europe
Heuritech’s trend forecasting platform


We forecast this trend to decrease by -11% this Winter compared to last year, but its medium magnitude should reassure River Island that it’s still possible to sell this product throughout the next two seasons before its seasonality is over. Finally, mainstream and trendy consumers will be drawn to graphic casual jersey clothing, a logical segmentation given that this trend is at the end of its life cycle for the moment. 

Trend forecasts for River Island’s Winter 2021 collection

Heuritech trend report summary for FW21 River Island

To summarize, we’ve compared a few key trends taken from River Island’s e-commerce platform with our data to provide a glimpse into how they will behave in the European market for the Winter 2021 season.

  • For partywear, the zebra print is a safe trend to bet on and its graphism makes it easy to iterate on different pieces of clothing. 
  • On the other hand, the shift mini dress, which is a basic, appears to be losing desirability being a last call.
  • Seen a lot during fashion weeks for a few seasons now, the ribbed knit popularity has still interesting dynamics, making it a safe bet
  • Lastly, text & drawing casual jersey will be  a last call next winter. Consider instead flower prints that are predicted to be steady for this season.

With trend forecasting, River Island’s design teams can be sure to make optimal choices in tune with consumers’ expectations, and merchandising teams can be sure to allocate the right number of skus to booming trends and therefore avoid overstock.

About the writer: Mélanie Mollard, Fashion Content Manager at Heuritech

Mélanie writes about the fashion industry and its many features through the lens of applied data and trend forecasting technology.

Questions or feedback? Email us at info@heuritech.com

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