What we spotted this FW21: Forecasting womenswear trends
Heuritech’s fashion and data experts analyzed over 180 runway shows this season. What trend forecasts should you look out for come Fall/Winter 2021?
Table of Contents
FW21 Fashion Weeks, a testament to adaptability
Exactly one year ago, we had our last “normal” fashion month. Though of course, we didn’t know it at the time. Who could have imagined what would follow?
- A global pandemic
- Frantic readaptation
- Consequential trends
- Digital transformation
- Closer brand-to-consumer relationships
So this time around, the fashion world seems to have found its new cruising speed. The Fall/Winter 2021 Fashion Weeks gave way to a schedule turned upside down by the lack of physical shows and the reactions of designers and attendees, but despite this, we seem to have recalibrated. The themes in this report are all the more meaningful, then, because they give substance to what underlies fashion’s way of responding to the unknown and the unpredictable.
Today we are at a cultural crossroads between nostalgia and a return to essentials, and a frenzied race towards the future and what progress this brings.
After all, history repeats itself: a century ago, the world experienced a pandemic, too, and in the aftermath, Paris remained the center of the artistic and literary world. When we look at the Big Four in 2021, Paris maintains a sincere and playful optimism, conducive to welcoming creativity in an age of restrictions and prohibitions. Far from an almost resigned frugality, fashion is tinged with joyful sobriety, and shines through its know-how. Perhaps this is Fashion Month’s raison d’etre: to inspire, and pave the way to the future.
Indeed, questions surrounding the growing pandemic, fashion trends under Covid, and how the fashion industry would move forward grew louder and louder as we moved from New York, to London, to Milan, and to Paris.
All of fashion was plunged into the unknown, and we were none the wiser -- but out of the ashes we rise.
The methodology behind the trend forecasts
All of Heuritech's work lies in a subtle marriage between fashion intelligence and tech intelligence; this presentation is the result of a precise and conscientious analysis at the frontier of fashion and artificial intelligence. Our analysis is both quantitative and qualitative: some trends are still emerging, and others are already backed by data. In this analysis, the four themes and their trends are determined by a collaboration between Heuritech’s fashion and data teams. We analyzed more than 180 shows and 70 trends throughout the entirety of Fashion Month to draw out the major products across the Big Four.
- Analysis scope: The selection of trends is based on the curation of Fall/Winter 2021 catwalk trends from New York, London, Paris, and Milan.
- Data source: We analyzed millions of Instagram images in Europe to capture the dynamics of trends in the European market.
- Analysis period: This forecast compared Winter 2021 to Winter 2020.
Technology: Heuritech’s proprietary image recognition technology recognizes thousands of products and trends in images.
Understanding our metrics
The second part of Heuritech’s trend forecasting methodology are our metrics. These constitute all of the different ways in which each trend is broken down.
- Growth rate: Compares the evolution of a trend’s visibility in Winter 2020 with what we forecast for Winter 2021.
- Magnitude: Evaluates a trend’s forecasted visibility on social images during the season of interest, and therefore its level of potential market demand.
- There are five levels: micro, small, medium, big, and massive
- Consumer Segmentation: Gives the most representative consumer segment to understand what kind of consumers will most desire a trend.
- There are three segments: edgy, trendy, and mainstream
- Trend Cluster: Characterizes the status of the trend for a given season based on its growth and magnitude metrics. There are six clusters:
- Fashion Bet: Very visible trend with growing dynamics to bet on
- Bold Bet: Less visible trend with growing dynamics on which you can can bet on taking higher risk
- Safe Bet: High magnitude trend with stable dynamics to safely bet on
- Steady: Low magnitude trend with stable dynamics that won’t make any fuss
- Last Call: High magnitude trend with decreasing dynamics that have still a business potential
- Mark Down: "One shot" trend which won't be carried over as they are decreasing and of low magnitude
Learn everything there is to know about trend forecasting in the fashion industry:
Top Fall/Winter 2021 Cities
During Fall/Winter 2021, Paris and Milan were the top most mentioned cities across Fashion Month, accounting for 44% and 30% of posts mentioning Fashion Week cities, respectively. And compared to this time last year, both Paris and Milan experienced an increase in mentions on social media by 6%, while New York and London both decreased by the same amount.
But what does all of this mean?
- This data reflects the general trend of Paris and Milan growing stronger as Fashion Week hubs. Many major luxury maisons in these fashion capitals have continued to present during the traditional Fashion Week calendar, likely accounting for their increase in mentions compared to last year.
- New York and London are losing momentum, a probable result of many major American and British brands opting out of the official Fashion Week calendars this season, instead presenting on their own schedule.
It’s also useful to look back on Spring/Summer 2021 to see how these Fashion Weeks compare with those of this season. Does the time of year make a difference for the performance of each city, and can we place this within the temporal context of the pandemic?
- Paris outperformed itself during FW21 versus SS21 by +3% in mentions, maintaining its seemingly eternal lead among the Big Four.
- Milan attracted less attention during FW21 compared to SS21, despite a major spotlight on the Prada and Fendi shows this season. We noted a 6% decrease in Milan’s mentions this season, accounting for 30% of posts this season.
- New York experienced +3% increase in mentions compared to SS21, benefitting from its offbeat scheduling and experimental young designers this season.
London had only 10% of posts mentioned in Fashion Week cities, and finished in last place as it remained stagnant, neither increasing or decreasing in comparison to last season.
Top Fall/Winter 2021 Brands
We noticed four big names that rose above the rest: Chanel, Dior, Louis Vuitton, and Prada. It's not lost on us that all of these collections were showcased in Paris and Milan, which were determined as the top cities this Fall/Winter 2021.
Top Fall/Winter 2021 Shoes and Accessories
While bags and shoes may not seem very relevant during a time in which so many of us spend much of our time inside, designers seemed to tell us that soon, we’ll be walking the streets, shoes on our feet and bags on our arms.
The experimental nature of these accessories in FW21’s collections seems to signal designers’ projection to a post-pandemic period.
1. The fur bag is an unexpected accessory trend this season.
Fur made a splash, but a fur bag isn’t something we see every day. Tactile fabrics in general, though, dominated the runways, and fur accessories may indeed be a natural progression of the comfort dressing trend of this past year. Designers weren’t timid about this accessory, either -- the overwhelming majority opted for an oversized format, almost as if the bag was meant to double as a pillow. Ports 1961, Altuzarra, Fendi, and Burberry are a few of the designers featured fur bags in neutral beige tones on the catwalk.
2. Platform shoes seem to be FW21’s star of the shoe show.
Valentino’s version of the accessory alone had social media buzzing with excitement. These tall, chunky shoes recall 70’s style in iterations like that of Valentino, but when the shoe is flat with a chunky sole, we’re transported back to the 90’s. Eytys, for instance, is partially responsible for the return of this trend, but this season, new versions cropped up left and right. PH5, Sunnei, and Loewe included platform mules in their collections, while Erdem and BMUET(TE) went for ballet flat-inspired platform shoes.
3. We noticed a surprisingly large amount of metallic shoes this season.
There were metallic boots appearing in the collections of Victoria Beckham, Jil Sander, and Molly Goddard, while The Academy New York proposed a metallic kitten heel.
Peter Do also incorporated metallic shoes in his FW21 collection, reflecting the general theme of metallic fabrics in the collection.
Forecasted macro trends for FW21
As a preamble to our trend analysis, we took a different analysis approach for the following macro trends. To do this, we ran all 246 shows from FW21’s Women’s Fashion Weeks through our AI technology. Among the 5430 looks analyzed, we spotted 650 trends.
These are just a few of the macro trends from our report:
- Stripes: This print appeared on 246 looks, accounting for 4.5% of the analyzed looks.
- Neutral Tones: Monochromatic, patternless looks accounted for 53% of all looks, or 2861 looks individually. This likely illustrates the ongoing appeal for sobriety and timelessness.
- Fur: This fabric was spotted on 106 looks total. Fur was largely faux or upcycled as brands are now giving more attention to animal cruelty or environmental issues.
It’s interesting to note the confrontation of timeless luxury with extravagance this season: the former gives us noble materials and neutral tones, while the latter exhibits bold patterns, colors, and shapes. There truly seem to be two teams in the collections of Fall/Winter 2021, between an acceptance of the present and a longing for the future.
To see all the macro trends spotted by Heuritech, download our free report:
FW21 womenswear trend insights: The Heuritech forecast
1. Flamboyant Liberation
Feathers, sequins, and velvet for future celebrations
This fashion week, designers traded loungewear for party attire, preparing us for the future when social gatherings are finally permitted again. Optimism was a word frequently used by designers to describe their vision for the FW ‘21 season, with many brands this fashion week offering us with something to look forward to. New York-based designer Sandy Liang perfectly summarizes the attitude that many others took this season:
“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.
Clearly, a positive outlook for the future influenced brands’ collections this season, manifesting in the form of ostentatious materials:
- Sequins, feathers, and velvet
- Micro length dresses and skirts
- Plunging necklines and skin tight silhouettes
- Fringe, cut outs, embellishment, and leopard print
Bright pink is an uplifting color choice reflecting the celebratory, optimistic mood that many designers were clearly feeling for the Winter 2021 season. The color was commonly used for going out looks, like mini dresses as well as casual garments and even outerwear. The magnitude of bright pink is medium, with mainstream and trendy consumers being the most fond of the color. With flat dynamics, bright pink is a safe bet for Winter 2021.
The mini skirt is back and better than ever. Even for the Fall Winter seasons, this daring trend was one of the most common silhouettes we saw across fashion weeks. This throwback trend reflects the anticipatory mood we’ve been feeling for the future once we can finally attend social events. The mini skirt is a safe bet, as the magnitude of the trend is massive with flat behavior. Since all three of our consumer segments are attracted to the silhouette, the mini skirt is sure to dominate the fashion landscape for the foreseeable future.
Sheer fabric is an ideal choice to add a dimension of sensuality to a look, either for evening wear or everyday dressing. Brands like Coperni and Sportmax showcased a sexier application of sheer fabric, while Tod’s used it in a more modest way to add a twist to a classic pleated dress. Sheer fabric is a safe bet for Winter 21, as the behavior of the trend is flat, with a medium magnitude. Since the fabric is more daring, it is logical that it is most worn by trendy and edgy consumers.
2. Analog Nostalgia
Looking to the pre-digital era for Fall/Winter ‘21
The analog nostalgia theme refers to the past, romanticizing a time when the digital realm did not yet exist and technology did not yet dominate the world. We’re certainly noticing a post-pandemic desire for physical touch, in-person interactions, and simply, the past. During fashion month, this theme was reflected through artisanal elements like crochet or quilted materials, bringing to mind garments of pre-industrial times that required a high level of skill and craftsmanship to be made.
Anton Belinskiy’s FW 21 collection is emblematic of this theme, incorporating photographic prints of disparate cultures alongside folk elements and crocheted garments that were hand-crafted by local artisans in Ukraine. Acne Studios’ FW 21 collection offered an escapist “dreamscape fantasy situation” as described by designer Jonny Johansson with ditsy floral prints in faded pastel tones alongside deconstructed crochet garments and ceramic accessories to build this pastoral mood.
Gabriela Hearst is another designer worth mentioning in the analog nostalgia theme, creating a collection inspired by the 12th Century visionary Hildegard of Bingen, who is widely considered as the founder of natural history in Germany; Hearst featured hand-painted interpretations of Hildegard’s flower illustrations on belts and silk dresses, as well as crocheted appliqués applied to matching knitwear sets.
Light blue is another one of the muted yet uplifting tones constituting the analog nostalgia theme, with the color being used for all types of garments from dresses to tops or outerwear, worn monochromatically or paired with other colors. Light blue is a safe bet for Winter 2021, due to the flat behavior and medium magnitude of the trend. Although blue is a classic color, only our mainstream and edgy consumer segments have adopted the color while it is not as popular amongst the trendy group.
The cardigan is a quaint, charming garment that was spotted in the collections of Sea, House of Sunny, and Prada, having a high level of visibility across all fashion weeks. Our data confirms what we saw on the runways this season, with an impressive predicted growth of 27% by Winter ‘21 compared to last year. When combined with a big magnitude, the cardigan is a fashion bet for Winter 2021. Additionally, all three of our consumer segments are fans of the cardigan, making it a must-have garment for a Winter ‘21 collection.
This season, designers unleashed their creativity when it comes to quilted fabrics, using the material for far more than your average outerwear. Quilted fabric was the star of Miu Miu’s collection, being used for garments like pants and even bodysuits. This comforting fabric is predicted to remain steady by Winter ‘21 given its flat behavior and small magnitude. When a classic fabric is being reimagined in new and creative ways, the consumer segmentation is often mainstream and edgy, which is the case with quilted materials.
3. Space Age Core
Techwear for the future
A sleek, spacey aesthetic emerged during FW21 Fashion Month, defined in part by:
- Clean lines
- Androgynous silhouettes
- Bold colors: Neon orange, lime green, and turquoise
Salvatore Ferragamo’s collection, presented in the form of a short sci-fi film loosely inspired by Gattaca, clearly embodies this futuristic theme by using innovative materials to create garments like “bionic” bodysuits layered under transparent ponchos (as seen in Blade Runner) to evoke this technological aesthetic.
Emilio Pucci also proposed a distinctly futuristic vision this season, creating skintight catsuits in an updated version of their signature “Pucci print,” paired with floor length coats to propel us into the future, while Heliot Emil’s monochromatic collection incorporated utilitarian elements like hardware and clean lines to convey this mood. Regarding prints, graphic stripes and gradient dyes were amongst the most popular choices, as seen in the collections of Private Policy, Kiko Kostadinov, and MSGM, to name a few.
Utilitarian garments like the shirt-jacket (or shacket), the doudoune, and sleek leather jackets were other popular choices amongst the brands who fall into this theme.
Turquoise is a fresh tone of blue that enlivens any look, embodying the space age core theme. The color was featured in the collections of both up and coming and luxury brands, from Sunnei to Tod’s to Prada. Although the color seems to appeal to a wide audience, for now, the edgy consumers are the most fond of turquoise. Turquoise is considered a steady trend, due to its small magnitude and flat dynamics.
The puffer jacket, or doudoune, is always a staple outerwear garment for the FW season. During fashion month,, we saw several unique adaptations of the garment in vibrant colors and dramatic silhouettes, with Rick Owens and Ottolinger pushing the limits of the garment. Understandably, the magnitude of the puffer jacket is big, with flat predicted behavior making it a safe bet. Since it is a wardrobe staple, the doudoune is popular amongst all three of our consumer segments.
It wouldn’t be Space Age Core without metallic fabrics, evoking a futuristic, technological aesthetic with silver lustrous fabrics seen in the collections of Ferragamo, Sportmax, and Peter Do. Pink metallic fabrics was another common iteration we saw of the material, offering an alternative to silver or gold. The magnitude of the trend is small, which is understandable considering its niche appeal. Since the dynamics of metallic fabrics are predicted to remain flat, the trend is considered steady, and is most worn by our mainstream and edgy segments.
4. Old Money Reboot
1920S MEETS THE 2020S
As the name suggests, this theme encompasses a traditional, bourgeois vision of fashion where luxurious materials and a reserved aesthetic are prioritized over flashy colors or logos. Max Mara, The Row, and Khaite are some of the key brands that are known for their reinvention of this discreet yet opulent aesthetic, using neutral color palettes and creating simple, timeless silhouettes rather than following ephemeral trends.
This Fashion Week, many brands who are not known for exploring old bourgeois aesthetics switched gears this season, namely Fendi and Valentino, who both presented collections in exclusively neutral colors, representing a distinctive shift from past seasons. Moreover, both Valentino and Fendi relied on decadent materials like fur, leather, and feathers to build an aura of luxury, and compensate for the simple silhouette choices and lack of color or pattern.
Although the style of the 1920’s is known for being ostentatious and flashy, there was at the same time a desire to be comforted through clothing, which resulted in an embrace of fluid silhouettes like the slip dress rather than constraining garments like the corset. 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.
Based on FW21 Fashion Weeks, navy blue is the new black, taking over as the go-to neutral color for countless brands from Prada to Jil Sander to Courreges. This color can easily be applied to any type of garment, and while it can be mixed with other colors, we mostly saw navy blue worn monochromatically or with black. Like most neutral colors, navy blue is a safe bet for Winter ‘21, with a big magnitude and stable dynamics. Again, since it is a neutral color, it makes sense that all three of our consumer segments are represented.
This classic garment was omnipresent on fashion week runways, and seems to never go out of style, explaining the massive magnitude of the blazer on the market. This season, brands managed to create unexpected, unique versions of this classic tailored garment to reinvent the blazer. Despite its slightly decreasing dynamics, the blazer remains a safe bet, as the magnitude of the garment is massive. In terms of segmentation, trendy and edgy people wear the blazer the most compared to their mainstream counterparts.
While fur in general was a huge trend throughout fashion weeks, we noticed short fur in particular being the most common version of the fabric. The fabric is a safe bet, with flat dynamics and a medium magnitude, including all three consumer segments. We saw short textured fur textiles being used in multiple ways:
- Neutral tones
- Vibrant colors
Which womenswear trends should we remember for Fall/Winter 2021?
- Flamboyant Liberation was one of the key themes that emerged, with designers creating going out looks for post-covid parties using exuberant materials like velvet, sequins, and fringe.
- Analog Nostalgia highlights the romanticization of pre-internet times that many brands conveyed through their FW 21 collections, manifesting as ditsy florals, frills, lace, and pastel colors.
- Space Age Core represents a vision of futuristic fashion that brands like Heliot Emil and Salvatore Ferragamo explored this season, with neon colors, metallic fabrics, and androgynous silhouettes being some key elements of this theme.
Old Money Reboot describes a return to bourgeois aesthetics, defined by a focus on luxurious materials like fur, and neutral color palettes.
Looking ahead: Tradition meets innovation in FW21’s top trends
As we can see, this season’s Fashion Weeks and off-schedule presentations harbored two distinct and opposing tensions:
- There was a return to historical roots, magnified by masterful staging and a distinct attention to know-how. Traditional, collective values shone through the clothing and the designer behind it.
- The future was also more present than ever: designers pointed to a more technological existence in which innovations born and unborn dynamized their collections.
Somehow, though, these two sides are not so discordant -- we’ve accepted the departure from normalcy, and in their own way, both bring us to a place of joyful serenity. Fashion now has the role of a purveyor of dreams more than ever, transporting us temporally or metaphysically.
As a preview of a more definitive elsewhere, and as a form of continuity with our digital interiority, a more radical form of fashion has resolutely turned towards a technological future.
Which path we choose to take is up to each individual, but if we read between the lines of this Fashion Month, profound paradigm shifts have taken place over the past year in this crossover between the pandemic and fashion. While the future will tell us what history will remember from this period, we guarantee that it will remain inscribed as that of the development of new models.