In-depth: the SS21 trends retailers are backing to get the fashion lovers shopping again

Net-A-Porter's "Lift me up" campaign

Fashion trends, remember those? A collection of styled fashion ideas and images to push product onto consumers and allow buyers to focus and buy deeper on particular SKUs and styles.

Fashion trends help fashion brands and retailers to focus and also speak to and give stories to media or directly on to consumers, driving sales. It breaks down the season, makes fashion bite-sized and therefore easier to understand and digest. It basically tells people what they “need”.

New trends are great as they get the kids out to the shops, but, on the other hand, if you are stuck with a load of old stock that you are hoping to shift now, it might look a bit stale. Many retailers were left with mountains of stock and styles from SS20 which they hoped to roll over to this year, but is the stuff that will get fashion lovers shopping again?

Trends, arguably, were growing weaker and weaker as the level of choice and product grew over recent years and consumers became less willing to be dictated to. They became fully redundant last year with the pandemic.

Without many industry trade and fashion shows and the street style that goes with it to picture and collate the new trends, just how did retailers and buyers know what direction to take?

The tentative signs of a recovery in fashion are beginning to show and there is just enough time to stop SS21 becoming a wasted season. So, what did the buyers and stores bet on for SS21 in both men’s and womenswear and are they still relevant?

Summer event dressing at Net-A-Porter

Libby Page, Senior Fashion Market Editor at luxury online womenswear retailer NET-A-PORTER

“For SS21 at NET-A-PORTER, we predict that the ‘All Dressed Down’ trend – think versatile pieces that can be dressed up or down, ‘Optimism and Opulence’ such as bright colours and unexpected prints, which embrace a positive attitude for the new season and ‘Buy Now, Wear Forever’ – luxurious and season-less pieces, will be the trends that will stand out.

“We are communicating these trend feelings via our dedicated campaigns, such as NET-A-PORTER’s SS21 ‘Ready to Wear’ Campaign which celebrates the uplifting and transformative power of fashion.

“The pace at which fashion trends used to change and were consumed is no longer sustainable from an environmental standpoint”

“The pace at which fashion trends used to change and were consumed is no longer sustainable from an environmental standpoint, but also from a consumption point of view. Absorbing so much information on the ways in which we should dress is not conducive to the slower pace we have adopted and we need to work towards maintaining.

“Over the course of last year, we noticed that our customer habits have changed dramatically. They are shopping with a purpose and showing their interest in brands and projects which are more inclusive, sustainable and charitable – as well as in more luxury and timeless products, shifting away from trend driven items. We’ve seen huge success with our NET SUSTAIN offering which now has over 120 brands, as well as with our International Women’s Day exclusive capsule collection, of which 100% of the profits have been donated to Women for Women International.

“Consumers will always be drawn towards amazing, seasonal newness but it is clear that conscious shopping, with a season-less and sustainable approach, is here to stay. The global pandemic, for example, resulted in a tremendous change in our consumption habits and our approach to getting dressed, that lasted for over a year. Customers were focusing on clothing that felt comfortable, practical and that had a sense of longevity – such as investment pieces, but also wellness and beauty products to help them focus on themselves.” says Page. 

Damien Paul, Head of Menswear at luxury multi-channel retailer matchesfashion.com 

“At-home and outdoor workouts have become the norm, and our active and loungewear pieces have become integrated with our everyday wardrobes. The result is a new, relaxed uniform, interspersed with sporty, high-performance pieces by brands including lululemon, The North Face, Soar and 7 Days Active. Within menswear, we have shifted our focus towards specific fitness disciplines that one can practise at home, like yoga, or outdoors, such as golf and tennis.”

7 Days Active at Matchesfashion.com

Eleanor Higgs, Head of Buying, Robert Goddard, an independent retailer which sells designer men’s and womenswear

“At the higher end, trends inspire and elevate brands, making them aspirational, always moving forward, but looking back to reinvent a way of dressing and staying relevant by engaging the younger consumers and adopting new social technologies and keeping one step ahead. The whole 80s and 90s has recaptured the Gen. X and reignited a lot interest through Tick Tok and Instagram

“[In the absence of fashion shows] I will review my sales history and gather feedback from our stores and customers requests.

“We work so closely with brands and build a relationship, so they advise what’s sold well and deter you from buying something that’s not been popular.”

“We work so closely with brands and build a relationship, so they advise what’s sold well and deter you from buying something that’s not been popular. I, of course, keep up with fashion trends through social media for high end brands, but also follow other independents we admire, and some online majors who do fast fashion so well.

“I think the pandemic has turned fashion on its head, for many reasons; cancellations, manufacturing issues, retail closures, it’s been really hard and the consumer has become more demanding, expecting a wide range and selection in store or online at their fingertips.

“I believe people will be more open to trends and less conforming to ‘workwear’. The WFH culture has exploded and people want comfort. The demand for colour, interest and ‘fun’ items to cheer people on through COVID 19 has been apparent and I think this will continue. ‘Retail therapy’ is key and people are looking for something that talks to them and makes then feel good.

“Tailoring will make something of a come back for the events everyone has saved up. Two years forecasted of bumper weddings will help.

“Younger consumers expect brands to be sustainable and work in an ethical way. It’s becoming the standard with higher end brands, from organic fabrics to using recycled plastics in the materials and then using the right packaging.” 

90s inspiration at ASOS in the form of a bright bucket hat

A spokesperson for online young fashion giant ASOS

“We’re looking back to the 90s and 00s for inspiration with a feeling of fun and a hint of nostalgia reflected in vivid colour palettes and playful prints. While neutral tones are still prevalent, we’re excited to inject some much-needed optimism into our wardrobes with bright accents. We’re loving yellows and greens for SS21.”

Key trends and items that will drive SS21 sales

While many consumers may have switched off from trends over the past year, retailers and media need them to re-engage and buy into the trends they are pushing for SS21. While specific trends will come and go, the over-arching themes or mega trends are comfort and sustainability. All trends will need to link in some way to either or both of these major demands moving forward.

Fashion trends rely on selling you an idea of the best you; you on holiday, you going to a party, you at work, you at home. It now needs to convince and somehow balance this new need for things to not be disposable which is the opposite of what trend fashion is. Trends sell clothes, it makes hype, gets people excited and it bring designers and retailers together. They all have the common aim to sell.

That being said there are some very clear SS21 trends and key items (see list below) that will drive much-needed sales this season. If you haven’t got any of these in your offer, you might want to think about what you can get on short order.

The Pangaia: bright pastels, comfort, sustainable and gender neutral
  • Prairie dresses
  • Gingham
  • Low-rise denim
  • Clogs & Crocs
  • Tie-dye
  • Bright saturated pastels (pinks, yellows, greens)
  • Gender-crossover clothing
  • Anything with a comfort and/or sustainable message

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