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Vulnerability, Symphony, Reverence and Pleasure: Four key trends driving SS21 fashion

By Huw Hughes


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Image: Loewe, Jonathan Simkhai, Balenciaga SS20, Catwalkpictures.com

Amsterdam - Biannual trend seminar Appletizer was back in Amsterdam last week for the first time in 2020. During the first half of the day-long event, Jenna Guarascio, director of content strategy at New York-based trend forecasting company Fashion Snoops, shared the latest insights into key consumer trends driving SS21 style. Here is a rundown of the four major trends:


“We’re seeing a shift which is empowering sensitivity, in terms of gender exploration, female empowerment - all of which are ultimately encouraging us to reflect, embrace and connect back to our true sensitive and highly vulnerable selves,” said Guarascio. The first trend, Vulnerability, is about seeing sensitivity and our raw identities as a strength and not a weakness. The trend is characterised by body liberation, diversity and, in a time of record-high burnouts, it is about slowing down, stepping back and connecting with ourselves, both mentally and physically.

In womenswear, expect volume and length, with items such as bra tops and long floral items, details such as lace trim, ruffles and puffy sleeves, and materials such as pleated sheer chiffon, vintage cotton eyelet, and patchwork denim chambray. In menswear expect to see convertible sleeves, monastic asymmetry, performance cut-outs and materials such as luminescent knits, ripstop and quilted nylon. The colour palette radiates “soft energy”, with perennial pastels and everyday neutrals infused with newness.

Image: Alice Archer SS20, courtesy of the brand


Symphony is about bringing together niche subcultures to create something new and fresh, often blending old traditions with new technology. “As consumers, we are craving connections, richer meaning and a story that bridges boundaries in bold ways,” said Guarascio. The trend sees a fusion of “African craft, American casual and European precision” with an emphasis on texture and ethnically ambiguous yet very elevated designs - it’s hard to identify where exactly the story takes place and when.

In womenswear, expect midi skirts and slouchy pants, with details such as embroidery and mixed media, and materials such as wool blended suiting, printed chiffon and fine gauge jersey. In menswear, expect to see fancy camp shirts and printed pants, cuff and hemline detailing and patterned panels, and materials such as sporty mesh, woven leather, and global intarsias.

This theme of mixing is also apparent in the colour palette, with the trend characterised by a blending of in-between-colours, such as pink-reds, violets-blues, purples-magentas, scotch browns and a lot of not-quite-black blacks.

Image: Vivetta and Stella McCartney SS20, Catwalkpictures.com


Reverence is born from the sustainability movement, as consumers become increasingly aware of the effect they are having - and their fashion choices are having - on the planet. It comes as people increasingly appreciate the way we are all connected with the planet and with each other; it’s about healing, self-care and reconnecting with nature. “There is a fixation on upcycling, craft and sustainability but done through a slightly quirky lense,” said Guarascio. The need to find more sustainable alternatives to fast-fashion sees this trend focus on biomimicry, with textures designed to model nature and minimise waste; eco-luxury and nature-inspired designs, botanical lushness and ethereal textures and patterns.

In womenswear, expect fluid ceremonial dresses, culottes and tunics, with knotted, drawstring and draped details and materials such as gauzy woven and silken knit. In menswear, expect items such as cropped chinos, eco-cardigans and greenhouses trenches, with details such as detachable pants or sleeves, and eco-embroidery, with materials such as fancy knits, backed chambray, and the use of dye effects and bacteria pigments.

In terms of colours, we see a shift towards natural dyes and vibrancy, influenced by organic ingredients like spices, beetroot, walnut shells, and grounded turmeric which “provide a saturated depth that we almost want to melt into.”

Image: Dior SS20, courtesy of the brand


The final trend, Pleasure, accompanies the sexual liberation and sexual awareness movement, as we see the 'pleasure revolution' seek to expel the guilt complex we have around our own enjoyment. “It’s all about stripping the term ‘guilty pleasure’ from your vocabulary and really trying to pursue what satisfies you, freely,” said Guarascio. The trend comes with an increased focus on our own desire, amusement and gratification and is decadent, playful and fun.

In womenswear, expect voluminous shapes and exaggerated details with lingerie styling and dramatic decadence, with items such as puff sleeve tops, pleated skirts and strong shoulder blazers, details such as mixed media, exaggerated sleeves and ruffles, and materials such as French Alencon lace, faux patent leather, and satin back crepe. In menswear, expect to see items such as high-shine bombers, denim pants updated in leather and graphic button-downs, with details such as translucent layers and micro cut-outs, and materials like glossy PVCs mixed with sheer layers and sporty mesh. The colour palette is bold, bright and passionate.

Main article image: Loewe, Jonathan Simkhai, Balenciaga SS20, Catwalkpictures.com