Patchwork jacket by Kuwatani

Patchwork: The trending star of sustainable fashion in 2021

Key takeaways

  • Patchwork has been one of the year's breakout trends leading the sustainability movement in fashion.
  • With the pandemic keeping many indoors, consumers have turned to DIY activities, one of which is patchwork.
  • High street and independent designers are producing patchwork pieces from upcycled fabrics to respond to changing consumer values and desires.

Patchwork has been one of the past year’s top breakout trends: it’s an incarnation of the growing sustainable fashion movement, combined with consumer reactions to the pandemic. For one, patchwork is a common technique used to upcycle old garments. And while sustainability is nothing new in fashion, its salience has thrived throughout the pandemic as more attention has been put on the environmental consequences of the industry.

Secondly, many consumers turned to DIY hobbies during lockdown, including hand-making and upcycling clothing. Patchwork is a common technique used to upcycle old garments or deadstock fabric, and the aesthetic is noticeably hand-made. 

Ultimately, patchwork is a product of the times. As such, we predict that the patchwork trend will continue to remain popular throughout 2021 among brands and consumers alike. 

Heuritech's trend forecasting platform predicts crochet
Heuritech’s trend forecasting platform

The slower the better: Patchwork is fashionable and eco-conscious

Asymmetry, purposely unfinished hems, knit crochet, and contrast topstitching are a few token characteristics of patchwork.

“Knit crochet is predicted to rise +4% among women in the US this Fall 2021.”

This helps signal the rise of the “craftcore” subculture that’s become quite trendy over the past year, describing the return to hand made goods reflected by the abundance of independent slow fashion brands appearing lately.

Luisa Orsini, co-designer of TL180, unpacks the appeal of craftcore and patchwork: “Beyond the obvious trend and nostalgia of the ’90s, there is, in the concept of patchwork the idea that nothing is thrown away. Everything is preserved and used and this is deeply in line with the increasing awareness on sustainability in the world of fashion.”

Curious about 2021 pandemic trends according to Heuritech and Pantone?

Patchwork is fashion’s designer DIY

While patchwork was originally a way to use otherwise unusable materials, it has now come under  the attention of the high street, as well. Brands including Miu Miu, Bode, Ciao Lucia, and more have featured the trend in their collections, from patchwork cardigans, to dresses, to pants: some are truly upcycled vintage, and some are not, but the trend remains. 

Ssōne is one brand taking sustainability seriously — they recently launched Re-Ssōne, an initiative entirely rooted in patchwork. Creative Director Caroline Smithsone explains that her particular method of patchwork is called Kantha and comes from eastern India, involving embroidering pieces of fabric together to create new patterns and pieces. Her reasoning behind using this method in her collections is indeed one of sustainability: “What excited me about the Kantha technique was that we weren’t creating more waste for landfill but in fact recycling our leftover cloth and embroidering them into new unique fabrics.”

Models wear patchwork for Kolor FW21 collection
Kolor Fall/Winter ’21

Making non-trends trendy: Patchwork fashion

Patchwork signals the rising importance of eco-consciousness in the fashion industry from both the brand and consumer level. Brands are recognizing the urgency of sustainable fashion, and consumers are filling their time with grounding, creative activities. Our trend forecasts note strong potential for patchwork: to be sure to appeal to the growing number of consumers who value slow fashion, brands would do well to incorporate this trend in their upcoming collections during 2021.

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.

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