The Fall 2021 season is shaping up to be a promising one. In the United States the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have dropped significantly, and many experts predict that by the fall, thanks to the vaccines, increased testing, masks, and social distancing, we should reach herd immunity. So, with the promise of normalcy on the horizon, designers are embracing a joyful and vibrant approach to their fall 2021 collections.
NEW YORK, THE CITY THAT NEVER SLEEPS
(Video credit: Jason Wu)
New York Fashion Week kicked off on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14th with Jason Wu’s live, in-person show, and ended on the 17th as per the American Collections Calendar released by the CFDA (formally known as the New York Fashion Week schedule). So, after all this time, why did CFDA chairman Tom Ford rename the official New York Fashion Week schedule to the “American Collections Calendar”? Ford stated it was to reflect the growing number of American designers showing later in the season or in locations outside of New York. Tom Ford was suppose to close out the New York season, but his digital show date was pushed back due to unforeseen circumstances related to the pandemic.
Like the spring 2021 season, many fashion designers are debuting their fall collections by means of livestreams, lookbooks, presentations and other digital methods including the CFDA’s digital platform Runway360; a stark contrast from the large-scale, in-person productions that had been the norm prior to the deadly pandemic. The designers who have opted to show this season are an array of young designers, contemporary brands, and high-end designers that included: Prabal Gurung, Veronica Beard, Alice + Olivia, Markarian, Tadashi Shoji, Badgley Mischka, Anna Sui, Monse, Adeam, Victor Glemaud, Rodarte, Tanya Taylor, Anne Klein, Dennis Basso, Cinq à Sept, Jonathan Simkhai, Bibhu Mohapatra, Nicole Miller, Rebecca Minkoff and Christian Cowan. As you can see, there were many established brands who decided not to participate in NYFW including: Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Marc Jacobs, Brandon Maxwell, Tommy Hilfiger, Christopher John Rogers, Pyer Moss and Tory Burch.
According to WWD, IMG is furthering its alliance with the Black in Fashion Council by supporting Black fashion designers during New York Fashion Week. The two organizations are setting up showrooms in New York City and Los Angeles to showcase designs from Black fashion designers, which can be viewed in person, by-appointment throughout fashion week. Brands featured in the showrooms include Beads Byaree, Chelsea Paris, Chuks Collins, EDAS, House of Aama, Kendra DuPlantier, Maris Wilson, Michel Men, Nicole Benefield, Third Crown, Theophilio and Whensmokeclears.
Even TikTok is getting in on Fashion Month as the social media platform teamed up with IMG Fashion and provided editorial content to the TikTok community. The initiative will run through New York, London, Milan and Paris Fashion Weeks, where TikTok users will be able to view live fashion shows and previously recorded videos on the TikTok accounts @FashionWeek, @NYFW and @MADE.
But the biggest news that came out of New York Fashion Week, was the emergence of Ella Emhoff, the stepdaughter of Vice President Kamala Harris, making her debut on the Proenza Schouler runway. Ella Emhoff, the curly-haired, bespectacled grad student/model made a bigger splash than any fall 2021 trend, though there were a few of those, most noteworthy chunky knitwear and slouchy suiting. According to a New York Times article, the designers behind the Proenza Schoular label, Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough, liked Ella’s look, they told her during a Zoom preview; but they also liked that Ella was a student at New York City’s Parsons, the duo were notable alumni of the fashion school. Ella is a crafty knitwear designer and just created several one-of-a-kind pieces which she introduced to the fashion world.
(Video credit: Proenza Schouler)
As for the Proenza Schouler collection, the design duo raised the bar as they combined their effortlessly cool tailoring in jersey, wool, and leather with tactile details such as macramé and crochet inserts, silk fringe, and dip-dyed hems. There was also a nod to effortless layering – so everything was off-centered and unexpected – such as layers of slip dresses that were actually a single garment. The collection also had plenty of terrific jackets that can be either uncinched or cinched to create a cocooning shape that was oh so chic.
As for the few high-profile designers who presented during New York Fashion Week there were plenty of young designers and brands who really stood out this season. Here are a few:
Coming up with innovative ways to digitally present your brand can be a challenging one. But Batsheva Hay, the designer behind her namesake label Batsheva, found a solution that her audience can relate to. The designer and her photographer husband, Alexei Hay, began to photograph people cooking their favorite meals in their kitchen wearing Batsheva’s designs. The concept is so simple yet it really connected and stands out in a sea of lookbook images. Muses included Ego Nwodim, Nicky Hilton, Amy Fine Collins, and Maude Apatow, each offering a distinct take on clothing and cooking.
Hay’s concept of allowing women to wear her creations in their own world is a perfect recipe for the brand. As for the clothes, there were plenty of looks that are appropriate for today’s reality – pretty, yet comfortable. Hay’s effortless prairie dresses have plenty of girlie options with sweet ruffles, rocker crushed velvet, and dainty bow motifs.
Hay also introduced denim for the first time, as she created two options with ruffled trim and elastic waists, perfect to pair back to her crafty knitwear collection.
Having a sense of humor definitely lifts spirits during troubling times, especially during a global pandemic. So props to Hillary Taymour, the designer behind the buzz-worthy label Collina Strada, as she presents one of the most playful and fun digital presentations to date. For her fall 2021 collection, Taymour had the idea of turning humans into animals to offer a sense of relief and joy. The young and creative designer partnered with the illustrator of the Animorphs book series, David Burroughs Mattingly, and collaborators Charlie Engman and Freeka Tet, to make graphics that transform her cast of star models like Aaron Philip, Ruby Aldridge, Jeremy O. Harris, and Kathleen McCain Engman into cats, peacocks, praying mantises, and even a balloon dog. The lightheartedness is hard earned; throughout the year-long pandemic, Taymour has not only continued to push herself to create environmentally-minded collections using leftover materials and recycled fabrics, but she was also one of the first to create masks for sale and for healthcare workers.
Every designer dreams of having their creations worn by a celebrity and gaining instant fame and sales along the way. Well on January 20, 2021, that dream became a reality for Alexandra O’Neill, as First Lady Dr. Jill Biden wore the young designer’s label Markarian on inauguration day. The First Lady of the United States wore a full look from Markarian: a custom cerulean tweed dress and matching coat trimmed with pearls and velvet cuffs. On a Zoom call with Vogue Runway, O’Neill said her social media following doubled instantly, and the e-tailer Moda Operandi reported a 570 percent spike in traffic to Markarian pieces within 24 hours. Overnight the label went from relative obscurity to international news. It was a reminder of how deeply women care about what First Ladies wear—and how influential their choices can be. Michelle Obama boosted the profile of many young American designers in her day.
The label Markarian is anything but casual. O’Neill is known to create beautiful wedding dresses and red-carpet worthy gowns. So the challenge for the creative young designer has been how to merge elegant clothing and work-from-home wear. For fall 2021, O’Neill struck the perfect balance of glamourous at home looks, case in point, a brocade robe dress. She also showcased recycled cashmere knits that were oh so glam with attached shawls that you can effortlessly toss over your shoulder, as well as a darling pointelle stitch midi-dress.
But O’Neill’s customers are feeling optimistic and are shopping on Moda for her more fanciful pieces such as an LBD with “firework” crystal embellishments and full skirts with built in corsets. Let the good times begin!
Aaron Potts, the designer behind his namesake label A. Potts, offers a chic, genderless collection that captures the essence of approachable elegance. Although Potts’s silhouettes veer towards couture —cocooning shapes, layered coats, and full-skirted gowns—they are joyous and fun. According to Potts, the secret has to do with the fabrics and colors he chose for the season: yellow and gray pieces rendered in tissue-weight jersey; wool; faux foil leather; and a fluffy ‘mauxhair,’ as he calls his faux mohair. In an interview with Vogue Runway, he described a need for optimism and creativity. “The light at the end of the tunnel isn’t cliché,” he said. “It’s necessary.”
To bring his vision to life, Potts cold-emailed Yannick Lebrun, a dancer at Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, who helped cast fellow dancers Khalia Campbell, Fana Tesfagiorgis, and James Gilmer in the lookbook and film. The performers are the perfect complement to the clothing, showing its brilliance without obscuring their own. Looks ranged from a horsehair-trimmed gown to ombré plaid outerwear. Overall, the collection was effortlessly chic and modern.
Svetlana Bevza is the Ukranian designer behind her namesake label Bevza. The indie label is known for its take of sexy ‘90s minimalism and has gained a celebrity fan base which include Emily Ratajkowski and Gigi Hadid. But for Fall 2021 the designer switched decades and was inspired by the ‘70s aesthetic. Beva worked her minimal aesthetic into fringed capes, flared jeans, and bohemian inspired headbands worn across the forehead; it’s a bit on a rebel spirit in the most polished way.
Bevza also paid homage to her native Ukraine as she looked to Olga of Kyiv, who ruled in the 10th century, for inspiration. The knit balaclavas were inspired by Olga, but the designer paired the traditional headwear with matching blazers and over the knee boots for a modern edge. Bevza also included an image of the ‘spikelet,’ a symbol of good harvest and an optimistic year, and let’s face it, after living through a global pandemic for a year now, we can all use some optimism.
London Fashion Week took place from Feb. 19th – 23rd. The Fall 2021 season was entirely digital as Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered a third national lockdown for England amid a surging Covid-19 outbreak driven by a U.K. variant in early January.
“This further lockdown is incredibly challenging for businesses, freelancers and individuals,” Caroline Rush, Chief Executive of the British Fashion Council, said in a statement. “Our industry is one of amazing creativity and this is more true in the U.K. than any other country. The majority of businesses and individuals we work with are independent businesses and creatives who contribute significantly to the cultural and creative reputation of our country.”
“The BFC continues to ask Government to engage in support of the fashion industry,” Rush said. “One of the main active requests is to allow key creative and model talent to travel to and from the U.K. with a phased introduction of quarantine exemptions for the fashion industry, in order to carry out essential business, to protect the competitiveness of the British fashion industry.”
London Fashion Week took place on www.londonfashionweek.com, a digital platform, where people could access not just the collections that would typically debut on a runway or at a presentation, but also additional multi-media content, including interviews with designers, podcasts and e-commerce.
The season was billed as the first “gender-neutral” digital fashion week, but it turned out to be more like a mixed-gender than gender-neutral.
THE NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
Kudos to London Fashion Week for always embracing young designers and Indie brands. Here are a few of our favorites.
For her digital premiere, Edeline Lee opened with an introduction in her own voice: “Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the meaning that lives in our clothes, the nostalgia and memories that we attach to our clothing,” she said, before sharing a short story and urging her listeners to put on their headphones and close their eyes. It was a great attempt at storytelling, but with so many digital presentations to view, the video ran on a tad too long.
The piece tells the story of Georgia, a woman downloading her memory bank to a ‘program’ without a name but a model number, and an option to name her—Georgia calls her Lynne after a friend who is a good listener. The story centers around a memory of her mother twirling in front of the mirror in her favorite malachite-colored dress, how it was intended to be worn to Georgia’s wedding, but instead her mother was buried in it, but she would have found it fun wearing ‘a great dress to a terrible party.’ “I wanted to explore how digitally we can touch people,” said Lee in an interview with Vogue Runway. “How do you give someone an experience online—a human experience? We are always separated by a screen, and it made me think about how clothes are on the surface, too, but what do they really mean… this storytelling touched that nerve at a deeper level… I don’t know, maybe lockdown is getting to me!” She laughed, but she had a point.
Lee built her brand on real clothes that women can live their lives in: drop off the kids, head to work, sit through a working lunch, and so on, but the best part is, nothing will wrinkle. Her best-selling piece is her flattering wrap dress that can be worn either loose or fitted. She had plenty of these effortless dresses, but she also added a series of separates for our new Work-from-Home lifestyle. Lee created tapered track pants, brush stroked jacquard tops, and a short sleeve dressing gown coat in piqué GOTS certified organic cotton (to that end, Lee has been working on more sustainable practices; all of her linings, trims, and packaging are sustainably sourced). “My pattern cutting is loosening up, I’m needing that comfort more and more,” she says. “My customers still need that great top for Zoom, but many of them are working from home, so they’re asking for this too.”
Molly Molloy and Lucinda Chambers, the duo behind the Colville label, were inspired by vases for their fall 2021 collection. But not just any vase, more specifically Murano glass vases that appeared in their lookbook, each one handmade by glassblowers in Italy. Molloy and Chambers launched their label in 2018. They stated that they work with feelings rather than strategy. Maybe this is why they instantly became insider favorites, with their sculptural earrings and handwoven wayuu bags.
The organic swirls of the Murano glass vases were echoed in the psychedelic marble print that emerged on silk sculpted dresses and matching leggings. Key looks ranged from a color-block piqué twinset to a hoodie spliced together from Nike sports gear. The duo also created wonderful vests patchworked from upcycled down puffer jackets. Molloy and Chambers also gave a nod to romance with a dress that was nipped and ruched at the waist in a style that was both sexy and forgiving. The duo also created plenty of ruffled detail tops and, for the first time, they introduced a lace top that was worn under a peplum bustier.
The collection had some neutrals but overall, there were plenty of bursts of color and prints, which will surely have their customers stand out during their next Zoom call.
Bridgerton has become an extremely popular Netflix series especially among the fashion crowd, which is no surprise given the beautiful costumes and setting of the show. The costume designer, Ellen Mirojnick, has done a phenomenal job recreating 18th century looks that are so regal and rich they are fit for a princess. So it should come as no surprise that many designers found themselves creating looks that would be perfect for the series, most noteworthy, Yuhan Wang. The designer created a pastel-hued, romantic, floral collection that you can picture in a Regency drawing room.
Before graduating from Central Saint Martins in 2018, Wang studied art in her homeland China. “I paint landscapes,” she said on a Zoom call from her studio in London in an interview with Vogue Runway. “The painters created these fantasy-nature landscapes for noblemen to escape from the ordinary world. It was always done by men for men. So this season I wanted to make my own, for women and girls.”
Wang created charming watercolor landscape prints and embroideries for her collections, such as sika deer, pine trees, and delicate florals. These delightful patterns made their way onto her signature fluid draped dresses, as well as flared trousers and some peplum jackets trimmed with raw-edge fringe. Beautiful pieces for when we can all emerge back into normalcy. Soon, soon soon.