Optimism makes a comeback in the Spring/Summer 2021 fashion collections


Retailers are claiming that shoppers are now looking for feel-good fashion to help forget the past year. Photo: Asos

After a year of nesting in pastel-coloured loungewear, shoppers are opting for styles with floral prints, feel-good slogans and statement jewellery to jazz up working-from-home outfits as optimism makes a comeback in the Spring/Summer 2021 collections.

While neutral, comfortable clothing remains more popular than in a normal spring, retailers from Neiman Marcus to Walmart and Macy’s Inc reported growing sales of bright, optimistic colour, flowy fabrics or dresses for the first time since the start of the pandemic as shoppers prepared for a return to normal life.

"We’re seeing a return to occasion dresses and even bras with wires," Marie Ivanoff-Smith, fashion director at department store Nordstrom, said.

"As it gets warmer and more people go outside, we thought people would really want to showcase optimism and joy with prints and vibrant colours.”  

So far, ditzy floral prints are up 31% in Europe and 16% in the US from last year, according to Heuritech, a data firm analyzing millions of pictures a day on social media and runways.

Colours seen on runways for Spring/Summer 2021 were vibrant pinks and bold blues – "an energising source of inspiration to help carry us through", the company described in a February report.

Read more: After a year of indoor living, fashion finds freedom in the boho-chic trend

While vibrant colours and floral motifs are typical of spring styles, the difference this year is that fashion lines also include nude T-shirts and what Walmart’s head of fashion editorial, Alison Hilzer, called "slouchy cardigans".

British online fashion retailer Asos said in an email that it noticed in recent weeks its customers were "into feel-good slogans, brighter colours and floral accessories as the weather has started to improve and they start to get ready for the summer ahead”.

"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 (spring)," an Asos spokesperson said in an email interview.

"Bold colours, draping, and light fabrics created a perfect complement to spring with collections from Dior, Loewe, and Dries van Noten," said Lana Todorovich, president and chief merchandising officer at luxury retailer Neiman Marcus.

"It's clear that the trend is also about coming out of this, although it's still a lot about comfortable garments," H&M CEO Helena Helmersson said on Wednesday after the Swedish retailer reported earnings.

A 'nerve-racking' planning process

Still, planning has never been harder than this year, as designers used to finishing designs months and sometimes years ahead were forced to adjust collections and marketing in line with the fluctuating circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic. 

In general, fashion trend forecasting will look two years out, according to consumer product director at fashion trend analysis company Stylus, Emily Gordon-Smith.

But amid the uncertainty of the pandemic, the company advised its clients to play it safe with "seasonless" clothing. "We tend to plan six months ahead, which is nerve-racking when you think about it," Nordstrom’s Ivanoff-Smith said.

"How are you feeling in New York? LA? Seattle? We realised we needed to cater to all the scenarios," Ivanoff-Smith added.

The Seattle-based department store "eased into the spring season” by starting with casual clothes and then moving into special fashions like jewellery and colourful dresses.

Still, convincing consumers spoiled by comfy clothing seven days a week to go back to heels and suits may not be easy, Gordon-Smith said.

"Once consumers are embedded in a comfort-based wardrobe, it’s a very tough mindset to shift," Gordon-Smith explained. "It’ll be underpinned by a desire to dress up again, but by our predictions that’s not going to happen on a large-scale until 2022."

‘Get out of sweatsuits’

But as the return of spring and progressing vaccination campaigns brought some cheer, Neiman Marcus, Walmart and Macy’s said they have already begun to see people starting to tire of cozy and comfy clothes.

"We’ve begun to see many of our iconic designers show looks and pieces that reflect a return to customers attending special occasions," said Neiman Marcus' Todorovich.

Brands like The Row, Brunello Cucinelli and Victoria Beckham have embraced "optic whites that symbolise a sense of refresh, rebirth, and a natural reset", she added.

Read more: How Harry Styles made feather boas trendy by wearing one to the Grammys

"The customer mentality is wanting to get out of sweatsuits and sweatshirt pajamas and put on something that makes them feel pretty and excited to go out," Walmart’s Hilzer said.

At Macy’s, Durand Guion, vice president of the department store’s fashion office, said he is even starting to see a return to formal clothes and wedding gowns as states open up. 

"Weddings can happen again, gatherings can happen again," he said. "I think a lot of that momentum will just sort of continue as vaccinations take place.” – Reuters

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fashion , trends , Spring/Summer 2021 , WFH , Covid-19


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