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Fall 2021 Ready-to-Wear Trendspotting

In this month’s trend letter, we’re talking all about the trends we see on the Fall 2021 Ready-to-Wear runways. (Are you subscribed? If not, do it today!)

We pored through designer look books and watched films created in place of traditional runway shows, it was clear that this season’s overarching theme is coming out of lockdown. With people getting vaccines and hope on the horizon, fall feels like the time of year life will begin to resume some regular activities. As we think about reemerging, designers are asking, what are we all coming out to? What will life be like? No one knows, but the question is inspiring designers in vastly different ways.

It’s crazy to think that designers have now been designing four or more seasons while in lockdown, with no fashion shows. A year ago, the novelty of having to create differently was seen by many as a creative challenge and inspired a lot of contemplation. By now, the novelty has worn off. For some designers, they are digging deep to find inspiration. Others are nostalgic and look at the history of their fashion house for inspiration. Still, others think about what they miss from “the before times,” such as nightclubs and high glamour. A lot are asking, what will we carry over from this time?

One thing is definitely for sure, people are ready to be out and about, reconnecting with friends in person, and doing those things we miss doing. Whether that’s nightclubs, coffee dates, or high fashion parties.

If we were to put all the top trends we spotted into one category; it would be tactility.

Collectively, we have all spent over a year connecting to the outside world predominantly through our screens. Lectures and symposiums are now webinars. Art museums have virtual exhibit tours. Happy hours, weddings, memorials, these have all been experienced through a screen. On the one hand, digital connections have been our only lifeline with people and events. On the other hand, we’ve had a high emphasis on how we’re presenting ourselves to the world on these tiny screens.

What does this digital world not give us? Touch, texture, human contact.

Humans learn a lot about the world around them by touch. Shopping for clothing and home textiles used to rely heavily on touch. Are these sheets soft enough for sleeping? Is this blanket warm enough for a baby? Will this sweater itch? During the pandemic, brands are doing their best to communicate this information to people shopping online. Yet, you can only get so much information while scrolling with your thumb.

Clearly, designers tuned into this and expressed it with texture and a keen awareness of materiality.    

The most significant trend we spotted on the runways was knits. For better or for worse, we’ve all spent a lot of the last year in comfortable knit clothes. While many of us are ready to relegate our yoga pants to yoga, the idea of going back to clothes that limit our movement is not appealing. Designers used a lot of knit fabrics and also added huge, chunky knits to their collections. Think large, oversized sweaters, knit dresses, and bulky accessories like wraps and scarves. People will likely be going out more in the fall but still probably outdoors. Oversized knits will keep you warm.

Another big trend we saw was sparkle. Think glitter boots, sequins, and beading. Sometimes the sparkle is the statement of the outfit, and sometimes it’s a flair of embellishment. However it is used, the sparkle adds a tactile quality that is visually eye-catching and texturally appealing. There were also plenty of sparkling fabrics, such as lame and lurex. Designers are definitely thinking that a lot of us have been missing glamour, getting dresses up, and special occasions. This fall they picture every occasion feeling special!

Faux fur was also all over the runways, as a big statement or as trim or embellishment. It is both cozy and glamourous. Faux fur also brings a sense of occasion to getting dressed up again, something we’ve all missed. It also adds a whiff of luxury to outfits that otherwise wouldn’t be. Faux fur was often paired with other highly textural fabrics such as leather, vinyl, and satin.

We also spotted a lot of plaid. And even the plaids were rarely flat but offered materiality to them. Visually, they were often more prominent and graphic, such as windowpane plaids. For texture, fabrics were brushed or woven with textured yarns to create dimension that makes you want to reach out and touch it.

Beyond these bigger trends, designers played with texture with chiffon, velvets, cut out fabrics, laces, pleats, and ruffles. Sometimes, it was layering all of the above!

What about color trends on the Fall 2021 Ready-to-Wear runways?

As for color, black is still dominating the runway but is making room for brown. As we’ve seen the past few seasons, there are many monochromatic looks, with pops of saturated colors. Cobalt blue, pink, red, and yellow are used on their own or to complement neutrals. Brown was very popular, adding a grounded and earthy quality to collections. In general, neutrals were plentiful and have moved a bit warmer. The whites lean more ivory than cold white. For more details about color (and a free, downloadable color card) we have a whole post focused just on color.

If you want to see some of our favorite picks from the 2021 Fall Ready-to-Wear runways, check out our Pinterest board (and don’t forget to follow us while you’re there!). And if you’re not already subscribed to our newsletter, we hope you’ll subscribe today!

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Kristin Crane

Kristin Crane has designed jacquard designs for the home furnishing and residential jobber market for many years, with mills in the US and in China. Today, she writes about pattern and design trends for Design Pool from her home in Providence, Rhode Island. When not writing about fabric, she can be found weaving in her home studio or hiking along the Rhode Island coast.


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