The Who What Wear take on autumn/winter 2021’s top fashion trends has been curated just like any other season: it is, has been and always will be entirely grounded in what you’re going to want to wear. You can consider this is your ultimate edit and a checklist to keep referencing, rather than a vast, overwhelming, never-ending stream of runway pictures and examples of unrealistic looks that won’t/don’t translate into the majority of wardrobes up and down the country. It’s a gargantuan task, but someone’s got to do it, and who better than a team of editors known for their ability to not only decode trends but predict them too?
Traditionally, the darker, colder months are a time for cocooning, but I think we can agree that we’ve all had our fill of that. The short days and chilly temperatures provide us with an opportunity to get cosy in front of the fire, layer into outfits that work for a brisk walk and snuggle up to one’s favourite cashmere jumper, and whilst those indulgent seasonal moments aren’t off the cards entirely (let’s remember, this is still Britain, not the Bahamas), autumn/winter 2021’s fashion trends are looking a lot more vibrant than any other autumn/winter season I’ve seen before. The collections will be arriving straight off the back of what has felt like a never-ending period of wintry lockdown and the mood is visibly more convivial than that of last year.
Designers and consumers are ready once more for fashion—proper fashion—and what’s being provided to us in this period of emergence, celebration and joy is a clever mix of elevated casual staples our revised closets have come to rely upon and more outré items that provide plenty of peacocking mileage.
As the Libby Page, senior market editor at Net-a-Porter told me, designers were early to tune into the “the colour, eclecticism and optimism through fashion that our customers have been craving. From sequins, feathers and ruffles, to artisanal knitwear, statement outerwear and glamour. This mash-up of joyful clothing is an antidote to the comfort we’ve been wrapped in over the past year. Fashion is back, and we welcome its energetic and vibrant return.” The mood? Switched onto maximum, my friends, and I couldn’t be happier about it.
Courtesy of Gucci
This A/W 21 Gucci look pays homage to Tom Ford’s iconic red velvet suit and ticks a lot of this season’s major trends.
On an industry level, this particular autumn/winter season has been a complicated one to unpick. You don’t need me to tell you the world has been upside down, and in response, the fashion industry has experienced peaks (like the fact e-commerce is up) and troughs (some brands and stores have struggled and had to shutter).
History tells us that difficult times foster innovation, and there have been breakthroughs and developments aplenty to appreciate: important conversations around sustainability and diversity have come to the fore, whizzy new tech via gaming or NFTs (google that later) is being seriously considered as the future, and we’ve even seen the somewhat outmoded clothing calendars and ways of working be blown apart.
If Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons can band together under one chic roof, if creators and consumers can say no to the fast-paced cycle of constant drops and if major labels can be more transparent in not only their status around their supply chains and ethical practices but also their commitment to inclusivity, then things are actually looking more positive in many ways than 12 months ago. The inner workings of the fashion industry may not feel of relevance, but there’s a renewed energy coming from those who choose to step up to the plate and harness the potential of now and what’s next.
Keep scrolling to get the lowdown on the most important and influential autumn/winter 2021 fashion trends, decoded by our fashion team, our network of experts from data analysts through to buying directors, and yours truly.
Courtesy of Versace, Ferragamo, Raf Simons, Bottega Veneta, Prada
L-R: Super-brights from Versace, Ferragamo, Raf Simons, Bottega Veneta, Prada
“The benefits of dopamine dressing have been bandied around the fashion crowd for some time. In fact, colour psychologist Karen Haller told me at the beginning of 2020 that wearing certain colours can ‘lift our spirits and boost our moods,’ causing ‘physiological changes within us,'” explains social media and fashion editor Zoe Anastasiou. So it makes perfect sense then that you’d find dense, saturated shades everywhere from Versace to Prada—we’ve never needed colour therapy in our lives more. Sophie Adams, buyer at Harvey Nichols goes so far as to say that “colour has underpinned this season’s trends” with “positive palettes” being the prevailing theme. “It’s a much-needed reprieve from the black leggings and grey tracksuit pants we’ve undoubtedly lived in over the last year,” adds Anastasiou.
Courtesy of Roksanda
Highlighter orange from Roksanda
“Winter brights will inject a much-needed sense of energy and optimism,” WGSN’s Collection Review reads, continuing to explain that a surprising hue—purple—is in fact “one of the fastest-growing colours, increasing its small share +16% YoY.” Going forward the trend forecasting company foresees “uplifting juxtapositions between core colours and energetic brights,” which is a very translatable tactic for our own wardrobes. Basically, if head-to-toe turquoise, cerise or orange feels too much, simply temper it with easy neutrals.
Courtesy of Loewe
Blue, pink, yellow and purple combined at Loewe
“Blues, greens and pinks are currently the top-stocked brights, seeing increased investment YoY. Zara has 150% more blue apparel in stock today vs. last year,” says Aoife Byrne, retail analyst at retail market intelligence company, Edited, proving that this look is already accessible at every price point and worth investing in.
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Courtesy of Givenchy, Self-Portrait, Emilia Wickstead, Dion Lee, Eudon Choi
L-R: Cutout details from Givenchy, Self-Portrait, Emilia Wickstead, Dion Lee, Eudon Choi
It could be all too easy to write 2021’s social media-driven peekaboo trend off as exclusive to red carpets and the celebrities who walk them, or viral posts and wild influencer Instagram moments, but the reality is that there’s a want for sassy clothes again and the subtle slicing away of fabric from demure silhouettes is a considered, grown-up way of playing into the idea. See Emilia Wickstead’s otherwise austere grey dress with its cut-out ribcage detailing or Givenchy’s sporty red bomber with its crisscross waist for very brilliant examples.
Courtesy of Johnathan Simkhai
Waist ties at Johnathan Simkhai
While many of us may have reservations around going knickerless on the bus, there’s something to be said for a subtle keyhole neckline looking pretty fabulous over Zoom and feeling quite approachable. In fact, cut-out tops have filtered onto the high street over the past few months (Stories is a good go-to), while black dresses are particularly prevalent within this trend. In my humble opinion, a tweaked LBD offers one of the most classic, long-lasting options to buy into: Self Portrait offer a reserved take, while Dion Lee went full Dynasty with crystal-encrusted portholes—both will guarantee a head turning entrance to any event.
Courtesy of Cecilie Bahnsen
Peekaboo shoulders at Cecilie Bahnsen
“Dresses are currently the most-invested category for the detail, however, we’re seeing the bottoms category boast strong sell-outs—namely trousers and skirts with hip cut-out detailing,” explains Aoife Byrne. “Come autumn, peekaboo dressing will be a major trend for partywear, particularly mini dresses, but will also be equally important within casual and homewear ranges, adding subtle sex appeal to knitted tops and sweaters.” And therein lies the strength of this key trend–it ranges from buttoned-up to totally wanton.
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Courtesy of Loewe, Balmain, Max Mara, Gucci, Versace
L-R: Logos and monograms at Loewe, Balmain, Max Mara, Gucci, Versace
With all the charms of an heirloom piece you feel proud to own, major design houses are once again turning to their logos and monograms from decades past. Some are dreaming them up for the first time but still clearly referencing back to the classicism and success of the most recognisable symbols in the fashion world.
Sure, it’s a fast track to conspicuously pledging your allegiance to a favourite luxury brand, but this trend also serves that really retro look appealing to ’70s fashion lovers like me. From Gucci’s GG-covered skirt suit to Max Mara’s silk headscarves, I adore this aesthetic for the nostalgia it never fails to bring. Muted browns, beiges, blues, tans and greys ensure that the idea of wearing a glut of logos doesn’t look trashy or flashy.
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Courtesy of Ottolinger, Remain, Khaite, Jason Wu, Isabel Marant
L-R: Puffer coats from Ottolinger, Remain, Khaite, Jason Wu, Isabel Marant
Last winter padded coats took the nation by storm. Our daily walks (and let’s be honest—street cred) depended upon uniform hinged on puffers, and we saw astronomical amounts of them being snapped up by our readers. In particular, Arket’s puffer was a frontrunner, barely staying in stock long enough for us to keep up with demand.
Courtesy of Dodo Bar Or
Leather puffer at Dodo Bar Or
The message is clear for AW21: this practical piece is set to continue its trajectory into the realm of fashion staple. “The puffer was a key shape for outerwear this season—you’ll see it everywhere, in every iteration from oversized and cropped to full length. Highlights for me were a protective layer à la Rick Owens and a leather crop version from Khaite—I love summer but I must say I’m excited to be able to wear one of these for winter,” says Heather Gramston, head of womenswear buying at Browns.
Courtesy of Raf Simons
Oversized quilted coats at Raf Simons
Meanwhile, our resident quilted coat enthusiast, assistant editor Elinor Block is welcoming them back with open arms. “Look, I don’t want to be all ‘I liked them before they were cool’ but I liked puffer coats before they were cool. Unsurprisingly, this particular piece of outerwear was big news in 2020 when we spent lots of time outside, but ever since Balenciaga’s A/W 2016 collection, I’ve been convinced of its high-fashion status,” she says. “This season is just set to be a more refined way of looking at the padded coat, with muted chocolate, mustard and eggplant colours taking centre stage. I’ve got my eye on the cropped versions over at Isabel Marant and the dreamy oversized quilted coats from Raf Simons.” The options are almost endless. If a brand hasn’t created a puffer, they’ve missed a potentially lucrative opportunity.
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Courtesy of Yuhan Wang, Markarian, Rentrayage, Ulla Johnson, Acne Studios
L-R: Floral prints at Yuhan Wang, Markarian, Rentrayage, Ulla Johnson, Acne Studios
We all know that florals and spring/summer are intrinsically linked and hardly groundbreaking (as the famous The Devil Wears Prada line goes) but they florals aren’t always present for autumn, and certainly not in this antique-style chintzy form. This year’s wintry blooms follow on from a summer full of posies. There’s been a continuation of 2020’s #cottagecore movement, with ditsy, Laura Ashley-ready florals being smattered all over ruffled dresses and prim blouses. The tones will be just as muted going into AW21, but the vibe is slightly less parroquial and more to-the-manor-born, with grand flowers rendered in substantial weaves reminiscent of fine upholstery or archival Liberty prints.
Courtesy of Y/Project
Ditsy florals and drapery at Y/Project
Designers have used flower motifs in myriad ways. You’ll find basques and posh dresses at Markarian as their schtick is evening wear, but I also like the offbeat drapery seen at Y/Project and Acne Studios, and the kitsch, super-cute mix-and-match tailoring, dresses and layers at one of my favourite up-and-coming brands, Yuhan Wang.
Courtesy of Yuhan Wang
Florals and greenery at Yuhan Wang
Knowing just how popular this trend has been across the high street already, it’s highly likely the look will continue strongly into AW 21’s affordable line-up. But you’d be wise to consider searching around vintage stores (in person or online) to see if you can secure something that feels genuinely love-worn and special—chintzy florals have been popular at different points during the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, so there’s heaps to uncover out there.
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Courtesy of By Malene Birger, Marni, Jil Sander, Balenciaga, Maryam Nassir Zadeh
L-R: Huge handbags at By Malene Birger, Marni, Jil Sander, Balenciaga, Maryam Nassir Zadeh
Remember when we used to just travel around with the bare minimum shoved into teeny tiny, fairly impractical handbags? I recall being a fan of a clutch only a few seasons ago, which now feels preposterous outside of a special night out or black tie event (who am I kidding?), and those lovely pieces are gathering dust in the back of my wardrobe. Recent times have changed our habits and in parallel, the bags required for a daily outing. Between the masks, anti-bac gels, just-in-case layers, homemade lunchboxes, reusable coffee cups and laptop cases, we need serious bags to take the serious load.
Courtesy of Materiel
Big shoppers at Materiel
From Marni to Balenciaga, the call has been heard and gigantic leather-goods and fabric holdalls have been created to solve the problem. The silhouettes are fairly consistent across the board: supersize shoppers or big totes you can sling onto your shoulder are the two styles leading the pack. In general it’s all about classic colours that won’t compete for attention despite their proportions. It’s highly possible you already have a handbag like this, and you can buy great pre-loved versions, as this is a boomerang trend guaranteed to come back every year or so.
Courtesy of Maria Moscone
Chain-strapped bags at Maria Moscone
While cross-body bags are still a popular and easy choice for Brits, within the year’s lineup of most important designer bags thus far there are more XXL options than we’ve seen in some time. From Chloé’s Woody tote to the ongoing success Mulberry are seeing with their reissued Alexa bags, the trend has already started, with brands ensuring that they have key styles available in many different sizes and colourways to suit all tastes and needs.
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Courtesy of GCGS, Supriya Lele, House of Sunny, Ottolinger, La Quan Smith
L-R: Y2K ideas from GCGS, Supriya Lele, House of Sunny, Ottolinger, La Quan Smith
“I can’t lie and say I’m not terrified of embracing a trend I wore the first time around but this is fashion and I’m usually up for anything,” says Block, summing up my sentiments entirely. “I think the key thing to remember here is that this is a very fun trend; it’s all about going for bright colours and bold silhouettes. While I’ll be avoiding anything described as a ‘boob tube’, I do enjoy the bustier tops that were seen at LaQuan Smith–I can absolutely imagine wearing one with flared jeans. Hell, you might even find me in a diamanté necklace to finish the whole Y2K look off.”
Blame it on TikTok or just the cycle of trends, “the 00s are having a real moment, providing a nostalgic hit for millennials and trend-bait for Gen Z,” says Byrne. “From distressed denim to crop tops and playful beaded jewelry, the noughties nostalgia is only growing and will be a key trend for AW21.”
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Courtesy of Stella McCartney, Rejina Pyo, Victoria Beckham, Nina Ricci, Thebe Magugu
L-R: A tribe of perfect trouser suits from Stella McCartney, Rejina Pyo, Victoria Beckham, Nina Ricci, Thebe Magugu
Really, who’d have thought so many of us would be so desperate to get back to the normal daily grind and our “work” clothes? In the not-so-distant past many of us lived for the moment our day-job attire could be cast aside to make way for some party pieces or comfies, depending on the Friday night plans. But now the appeal and allure of smart tailoring is all too strong, and trouser suits take the prime spot. While a suit may still seem a little OTT in this very moment, I have seen fashion buyers and editors sharing on IG that they’re already investing in key blazer styles ahead of June 21st and the new season. Many more ultra-cool options are coming for autumn…
Courtesy of 3.1 Phillip Lim
A coat and matching trousers at 3.1 Phillip Lim
The vibe? Relaxed, slouchy and loose-fitting in general, which makes the whole idea a great deal more applicable to our newfound adoration of stretchy waistbands and extreme comfort. On the whole you’ll find that tones are relatively soft and safe—albeit not boring—creating pieces that whisper luxury and last season after season. So Rejina Pyo’s hazy cornflower blue or Nina Ricci’s vintage-look red herringbone may not be your average go-with-everything navy, greige or camel, but they also aren’t so daring as to not be a useful pillar in one’s closet.
Courtesy of Palmer//Harding
Tied-up blazer and wide-leg trousers at Palmer//Harding
What’s interesting is that there’s no single cut or era that dominates, and you’ll find flares and nipped-in jackets for that ’70s look, oversized grey checked suits for an ’80s mood and pared-back pieces for a more refined ’90s aesthetic. What does strike me is that a lot of designers—Victoria Beckham and Stella McCartney included—decided to pair these tailored pieces with knitted roll-necks. It’s a look I’ll certainly be copying and pasting.
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Courtesy of Erdem, Ashish, GCGS, Halpern, Dries Van Noten
L-R: Sparkly pieces from Erdem, Ashish, GCGS, Halpern, Dries Van Noten
“We loved the way that designers were re-introducing sequins and sparkle into the collections this season,” says Page, confirming my personal passion for the offering of sequins, crystals, metallics and diamanté coming in at every possible angle from designers across the globe for AW21. “Valentino did this in a genius way by keeping silhouettes smart and chic but adding large disc sequins to the classic monochrome looks, and Dries kept the silhouettes simple but added bright colours and sequins to establish the positive optimism towards us returning to the party spirit soon. Isabel Marant is the epitome of the cool party girl, and we loved her use of metallics, leather and embellishment in this collection.” And therein lies the crux of this joyful trend: If you want to tone things down and craft a fancy:casual ratio, the looks have already been assembled for you. However, if you’d like to put the pedal to the metal and go full throttle for glitz and glam, there are brands doing that too.
Courtesy of Area Couture
An embellished suit from Area Couture
So there are subtle ways to sparkle, like a Dries Van Noten pearlescent sequin skirt worn with a plain white shirt. But the looks that I couldn’t help bookmarking instantly were more look-at-me than that. Area Couture really stood out: this American brand has been owning the space for high-shine and crystals for many seasons now, with multiple brands following their lead, allowing sparkle to drip from every possible surface and seam. This season was no different, but the idea was pushed to the limit with shimmering ribbons, jumbo crystals and chainmail all in one outfit. It’s love.
Courtesy of Valentino
A golden knit and matching jacket at Valentino
“Metallic shades are becoming a cult favourite,” fashion shopping platform Lyst tells me, noting that “Pageviews for ‘gold’, ‘silver’ and ‘metallic’ pieces grew 37% since March [this year] and we expect to see the trend take off even further in the next season.” A desire to go out-out and dress for the occasion is undeniably wrapped up in these molten and sparkly items—even a pair of bejewelled earrings will separate you from your lockdown life.
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Courtesy of Etro, Miu Miu, Paco Rabanne, DSquared, Emilio Pucci
L-R: Apres ski looks from Etro, Miu Miu, Paco Rabanne, DSquared, Emilio Pucci
“Out of all the losses of 2020 and 2021, not going on a ski trip is rather trivial, however the autumn/winter 2021 collections definitely showed a craving for an Alpine adventure,” says editor Emma Spedding. “I loved the use of fair-isle knits with big hair and big earrings at Paco Rabanne—this is what I’d like to wear to tuck into a raclette after a day on the slopes. Miu Miu staged its show at an actual ski resort in northern Italy with models walking across the slopes in quilted jumpsuits and lots of layered knitwear. If you’re looking for five minutes of escapism, I’d recommend watching the show and marveling at those mountains.”
“Most high street retailers have dabbled in its own branded skiwear collection in recent years, however, we anticipate non-sports apres-ski looks to be the next major area of growth—think of it as the new athleisure,” says Byrne. So, is it time to consider salopettes as your new and upgraded alternative to leggings? Quite possibly.
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Courtesy of Fendi, Herve Leger, Altuzarra, Chloé, Proenza Schouler
L-R: Knitwear looks from Fendi, Herve Leger, Altuzarra, Chloé, Proenza Schouler
Luxury knitwear is gaining an ever-present and valued place in our cold-weather wardrobes. And we’re talking about so much more than your run-of-the-mill black roll-necks—think sumptuous, jumbo cable knit sweaters, head-to-toe cashmere co-ords or high-tech intarsia patterns, fringing, embellishment, the works… “Reflecting the growing demand for comfortable but dressier loungewear, demand for total knit outfits is steadily increasing in 2021. Since January, we’ve seen a rise in searches for knit dresses (+72%), knit co-ords (+33%) and knit vests (+61%), which is expected to continue in the coming months,” Lyst tells me, and the noticeable increase is in line with what designers are offering for AW21. From Chloé to Proenza Schouler, knits are arriving head-to-toe and with gusto.
Courtesy of Richard Malone
Draped and wrapped knitwear at Richard Malone
“We saw knitted dresses come through strongly in super-feminine modern silhouettes from brands such as Joos Tricot, Khaite, Valentino, Bottega Veneta, Gabriela Hearst and Chloé. We loved the range in colour palette too from soft tonal shades to bright colour pop,” says Liane Wiggins, head of womenswear at Matchesfashion, confirming that there is a covetable knitwear piece to suit every kind of personal style this coming autumn.
Courtesy of Khaite
Jumbo cable knits at Khaite
“Knitwear has been a beloved part of our wardrobes over the last year but for autumn we have switched neutral hues in wardrobe classics for artisanal designers in fashion forward silhouettes. From Chloé’s striped knitted dresses, to Gabriela Hearst’s beautiful appliqué—luxury brands brought us hand-crafted pieces that felt like wearable pieces of art.” says Page, highlighting a trend we cover a few slides down that centers around craftwork and homespun techniques. So if you find a knit that feels a little bit bohemian in its finish, you know you’re onto an AW21 winner.
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Courtesy of Petar Petrov, Peter Do, Acne Studios, Burberry, Stand
L-R: Furry pieces from Petar Petrov, Peter Do, Acne Studios, Burberry, Stand
Faux fur fabrications have become a part of the tried-and-true line up for any autumn/winter season now. The past few years have seen designers really experimenting with the one-gaff idea and turning it on its head. This season’s offering runs the gamut: you’ll find brands like Peter Do or Prada using it to a very chic, understated effect via elegant coats, but you’ll also see the other end of the spectrum with TikTok-friendly cow-print fuzzy hats to match cow-print fuzzy coats—Anna Sui and Stand both supported this cute matchy-matchy idea.
Courtesy of Prada
A faux fur-lined bomber coat from Prada
“Comfort remains key, even post-lockdown,” says Lyst. So it would make sense that your cosy coat options extend beyond puffers and padded styles. Fuzzy fabrics offer something different, for those who are perhaps not as into streetwear. Although, the clever juxtaposition of Prada’s extended bomber with a fuzzy interior might just keep both camps happy.
Courtesy of Anna Sui
Cow-print furry coat and hat from Anna Sui
“Searches for “furry boots” are up 13% year-on-year and we expect them to continue increasing throughout 2021,” says Lyst, although I have a prediction of my own: Fuzzy hats (as seen at Burberry, Acne Studios, Stand, Anna Sui and many more brands) will actually be the lead accessory when the temperatures plunge. We already know that bucket hats continue to hold their own in the trend stakes, so it’s a natural progression.
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Courtesy of Dolce & Gabbana, Jil Sander, Oscar De La Renta, Chloé, Gabriela Hearst
L-R: Crafty pieces from Dolce & Gabbana, Jil Sander, Oscar De La Renta, Chloé, Gabriela Hearst
“In the face of pandemic-induced uncertainty many people, quite understandably, reached for their comfiest jogging bottoms, however for some reason I have been increasingly drawn towards the nostalgic appeal of homespun fashion, be it bohemian crochet, patchwork denim or artisanal quilting,” says shopping editor Joy Montgomery, and she’s clearly not alone in this penchant per the AW21 collections. “It always helps that there has been a growing online market for small brands selling home-crafted wares, but I have also loved the designer interpretations for autumn. Chloé’s patchwork leather trench was a particular highlight, with its eclectic appeal and ’70s undertones. Chic and comforting all at the same time.”
Courtesy of Bottega Veneta
Beaded dress from Bottega Veneta
While the techniques may seem old-fashioned the final looks aren’t old hat. Yes, this Bottega Veneta macrame and beaded-trim dress has hints of eras gone by and maybe even those beaded door curtains, but the simplistic tank top and shift shape makes it entirely modern—pair it with simple sandals, a giant bag, It shades and you have yourself a very new and slick take on bohemia.
Patchwork detail at Marni
Courtesy of Gabriela Hearst
Floral knits at Gabriela Hearst
The designer leading this creative pack is Gabriela Hearst, whose eponymous line and debut at Chloé was ram-jam-packed with the kind of special, artisans pieces you’ll want to wear forever and then be sure to hand down to someone you love.
The movement towards this kind of slow fashion isn’t purely an aesthetic one. There is an increasing interaction between consumers and made-to-order brands offering homespun fashion goods, with Instagram-born labels taking off, indie designers finding success on Depop and Etsy, and limited edition pre-order drops becoming the norm for many start-ups. So I expect this trend to amplify even further within this conscious realm, and it’s a way you can be sure to own something unique with a story—wonderful.
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Courtesy of Celine, Rag & Bone, Ganni, Peter Do, Petar Petrov
L-R: Denim-centric looks at Celine, Rag & Bone, Ganni, Peter Do, Petar Petrov
Baggy, wide-leg and even low-rise jeans have been coming back into the mainstream since the beginning of year, when denim started to take its revenge on 2020’s jersey-fest. “Although searches for ‘slouchy’ and ‘baggy’ jeans increased 42% over the past three months, we expect to see further increases later in the year; historical data indicates demand for denim is at its highest in the autumn,” says Lyst. It’s a movement that many designers are fully supporting, with plenty of high-brow names turning to this humble blue fabric for inspiration on how to create the perfect day looks for AW21. From ultra-luxe names like Celine through to contemporary brands like Ganni, jeans are omnipresent.
“As boring as it may sound, jeans have long been an integral part of my personal capsule, and over the last few years I have particularly enjoyed harnessing the retro drama of flared jeans and the minimalist stylings of the ’90s straight leg. While there will always be a place in my heart for these classic silhouettes, AW21’s super wide-legged denim has really piqued my interest and, incidentally, perfectly lends itself to the oversized-blazer-and-slouchy-tee pairing that has been on constant rotation in my wardrobe this season. When autumn arrives I’ll be wearing the trend with heeled boots, a ribbed roll neck and leather coat for low-effort-maximum-impact dressing,” says Montgomery.
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Courtesy of Alberta Ferretti, Tory Burch, Jil Sander, Holzweiler, Lemaire
L-R: Complex layering at Alberta Ferretti, Tory Burch, Jil Sander, Holzweiler, Lemaire
As Brits we are no stranger to layers, and as such it’s always welcome when new ideas come our way—there are only so many thermal vests one can feel inspired by. Fortunately, designers and their stylists have many ideas for how we can mix things up this autumn. “One of my favourite looks for the season was at Tory Burch where a roll-neck, collared shirt, blazer, belt and collared necklace were all layered together to create a streamlined modern take on suiting,” says Spedding. “Layering can often be boring and repetitive come autumn, but designers offered clever solutions beyond a coat and jumper, playing with sheer fabrics, oversized proportions and accessories to tie separates together.”
Courtesy of Wales Bonner
Suiting, shirting and an overcoat at Wales Bonner
When it comes to layering like a pro this season the #1 rule is: there are no rules! So with that in mind I’d personally suggest keeping the colour palette strict in order for this to feel easy and not time-consuming of a morning. Wearing a suit under a coat is definitely becoming a “thing” and along with Lemaire it was this chic Wales Bonner look that really stood out within this microtrend.
Courtesy of Isabel Marant
A bright polo neck under a shirt at Isabel Marant
However, layered looks don’t have to be tonal and grey. “More is more this season, with exaggerated sleeves, playful collar detailing and new romantic frills. This trend offers inspiration to re-imagine our wardrobes and elevate our outfits to as we re-emerge into the world and adapt to our new social lives. Whether it be a cute collar detail on a zoom call or cleverly combined layers to get through a night of outdoor dining, the layering trend is becoming ever more relevant,” says Adams.
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Courtesy of Lanvin, Schiaparelli, Maximilian, Philsophy, Saint Laurent
L-R: Short hemlines at Lanvin, Schiaparelli, Maximilian, Philsophy, Saint Laurent
Punk or prim, sporty or party-ready, high-octane or super-casual, the memo is: minis are back and they mean business. Both on skirts and dresses, hemlines are looking short… really short! “This season, we’re excited to be dressing up and going out again. The micro mini is the perfect way to embrace this shift and we’ve seen great styles from designers such as Maximilian, Mowalola and Tom Ford, who all showed ultra-short shapes that we’re obsessed with,” says Browns head of womenswear buying Heather Gramston.
Courtesy of Coperni
The perfect LDB from Coperni
“Short hemlines are having a moment in 2021, searches for mini skirts and mini dresses jumped 43% over the past 6 months,” says Lyst. When Saint Laurent hosted a virtual FROW only a few days ago, almost all of the celebrities “in attendance” opted in for the micro-micro minis available as part of the autumn collection. Zoe Kravitz and Hailey Bieber caused our jaws to drop and persuaded us that perhaps now is the time to put the midis on hold…every so often, at least.
Off-White’s matching minidress and boots will be a celebrity favourite.
Courtesy of Chanel
A layered skirt suit ensemble at Chanel
The Saint Laurent girl may be rock ‘n’ roll through-and-through, but there are more grown-up iterations set to hit stores too—take Chanel’s creative director Virginie Viard’s many riffs on the classic little skirt suit.
“Perhaps I should have been born in the sixties but there’s something about a mini skirt that I’ve always been drawn to,” says Anatasiou. Although I have a feeling that even those of us who have previously been averse to baring our legs may be persuaded this season… even if I do opt in for the trend avec tights.
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Courtesy of Tom Ford, Sandy Liang, Simone Rocha, Osman, Molly Goddard
L-R: Low-key party looks from Tom Ford, Sandy Liang, Simone Rocha, Osman, Molly Goddard
Throughout lockdown (parts one, two, through to five thousand) many people have always been keenest to know: When are the pubs opening? Which is why I couldn’t help but notice these perfectly pitched looks for that ultimate reunion-at-the-pub moment. A grand gala or decadent ball will not be on the cards for the majority of us, but an opportunity to wow your friends and neighbours at your local? Entirely doable. So perhaps unsurprisingly these looks that combine the extravagant with the ordinary have predominantly been created by London-based designers. Molly Goddard and Simone Rocha are the gurus on this kind of hybrid look, and I for one will be fanatically following their lead.
Courtesy of Celine
Bomber jackets and bell skirts at Celine
So the concept works easily if you remember the golden formula of simply selecting one OTT item and pairing it with entirely low-key, grungy, sporty or otherwise minimal pieces. Celine’s anarchic ballgown-ready skirt with chunky, track-soled boots, flight jacket, hoodie and baseball cap looks so fun (and strangely comfortable) to wear.
Courtesy of Simone Rocha
A detail of a Simone Rocha look
On the other hand, you can offset the full-blown prettiness of a tulle dress and pearl jewellery with something as austere and business-like as a white shirt. This unexpected layering twist creates quite the talking point. I’m stating these looks as being pub-ready, but I realise that might seem a little daunting for some, so you could save these for a dinner or house party and stick to a nice-top-and-jeans combo instead—if Tom Ford’s doing it, you know it’s glam enough.
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Courtesy of Valentino Garavani, Givenchy, Simone Rocha, Sportmax, Stella McCartney
L-R: Chunky boots at Valentino Garavani, Givenchy, Simone Rocha, Sportmax, Stella McCartney
“Rubber boots and flat ankle boots continue to dominate the overall footwear offering—a few highlights were Bottega Veneta, Jil Sander, Ganni, Loewe and Dr Martens,” says Wiggins. “We saw a lot of styles which will work well for transitionally, styled with summer feeling dresses and skirts and also to toughen up the Hybrid dressing trend we saw from the likes of Alexander McQueen, Sacai, Simone Rocha and Maison Margiela.”
Not only are buyers placing their bets on this trend, the stats are also compelling enough to warrant their level of investment upfront. “Between January and March, rubber boots from the likes of Bottega Veneta, Ganni, Chloe and Balenciaga saw a 43% spike in searches. Comfortable, versatile and easy to clean, this trend will continue to resonate with shoppers, particularly as more time is spent outdoors,” says Lyst.
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Courtesy of Vivienne Westwood, Dior, Alessandra Rich, Longchamp, Charles Jeffrey Loverboy
L-R: Tartan and checked pieces from Vivienne Westwood, Dior, Alessandra Rich, Longchamp, Charles Jeffrey Loverboy
And last but by no means least we come to another pattern trend, a classic come the winter season: tartan. Plaids and checks were used across the fashion capitals, but it’s the punk twist London brands inherently bring to this fabric that I enjoyed the most. Charles Jeffrey, Vivienne Westwood and Alessandra Rich all served up the kind of looks that are only improved by attitude, smudged kohl and a pair of platforms—just the kind of look I love to see on the streets of Soho or Shoreditch.
Courtesy of Molly Goddard
A print clash tartan look at Molly Goddard
A classic tartan kilt styled in the most eccentric and brilliant way by Molly Goddard has inspired many of the Who What Wear team to go vintage shopping ahead of the new season. You can often find old checked skirts in secondhand stores and I have a vintage school version that I dig out every winter as it’s essentially quite a basic item despite the fact it’s louder than, say, a pair of jeans.
Courtesy of R13
Checked coat from R13
When analysing the data and forecasting for autumn, Lyst told me to “expect to see fashion lovers wearing more “tartan”, “plaid” and “checked” pieces later in the year.” And although tartan was the most spotted weave when I scoured through the collections, there were some cool plaid looks to note like this very Kurt Cobain-ish coat from R13.
And there you have it—the full lowdown on autumn/winter 2021’s fashion trends. Hope you enjoyed it!
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