Men’s FW 2021 Trend Report: Dressing for an Uncertain Future in the ‘New Normal’
During Men’s F/W 2021 fashion week, all I could think of was the cinematic potential of TikTok. It’s not that the collections were especially trendy, reflecting an era of hyperspeed videos; it’s simply that, nowadays, the only space I see head-to-toe outfits are online. If you’ve ever watched a runway show and thought who would ever wear that? I invite you to visit the outfits strutted casually on the video platform. So when the rest of the internet was rejoicing in the ludicrous nature of a Louis Vuitton Jules Verne jacket, I thought: yes, I can’t wait to see how this is styled in real life.
The rest of Virgil Abloh’s collection at Louis Vuitton looked like a version of 1970s Americana, as imagined by Ghana ten years later (by all means, a stylish upgrade). “When I grew up, my father wore Kente cloth, with nothing beneath it, to family weddings, funerals, graduations,” Abloh said in an interview with Vogue. “When he went to an American wedding, he wore a suit. I merged those two together, celebrating my Ghanaian culture,” he continued. The diaspora elements of the styling in this collection reflect the realities of dressing, elevating the everyday to high fashion.
The “Tourist vs Purist,” theme can also be read as street style vs old school. Abloh refuses to let the old vanguard win out completely, keeping the oversized silhouettes (and narratives) that are associated with 21st century style. The aerospace mongrammed LV bag is sure to be a statement piece for collectors. While the repetition of pinstripes and plaid, on suits and coats guide the eye and create an introduction for more dense textile designs, will sure to trickle down into everyday fashion choices.
On the two ends of the fashion spectrum are Rick Owens, who presented a collection inspired by the angry, dystopian tech bro, and Loewe, the lovechild of hippie and punk. The rest of the shows fell neatly in between, offering every level of refinement and casualness, with Wales Bonner’s crisp prep balancing the equation. Fashion! There’s something for everyone!
A common thread was the dreamscape quality of the shows’ settings. The empty and vast art deco, fun house, or James Turrel-esque backdrops, distinctly void of an audience, made it feel as if they were existing in another dimension. And in a way, they were. With nowhere to wear head-to-toe outfits in the present day, the possibility of wearing the runway clothes were projected onto a future life—and what else would feel more like a dream come to life? The layered geometric knits at Prada felt like a butterfly leaving the cocoon—but in this case, after months of lockdown, emerging from the house in bizarre and loud knitwear, blending wilding home dressing with public presentation. The formality of Dior’s collection also represented an optimistic vision of the future, one where we can, once again, dress ambitiously.
Over at Dior the question was: what does it mean to dress like a painting? Kim Jones moved away from wearable art towards looking like you’re IN a painting (ditto the brand’s couture collection). With neon colour fields and spotty jumpers, Jones paid ode to the painter Peter Doig, whose wet-paintings feature figures in the distance, always in action. Canadian’s can rejoice in this vague nod to Canadian culture (Doig grew up in Canada). These bright paintings, knit to appear spray painted with droopy lines and unpredictable patterns (ditto Doig’s artistic style), would be perfect to wear while hunting to ensure you aren’t mistaken for wildlife. A more quotidian option would be to simply wear them to an art gallery, and blend in with the walls.
Raf Simons and Miuccia Prada made fashion history at Prada with their first men’s effort as co-creative directors, a groundbreaking partnership in the industry. As always, Prada had the best knits (and coats, with large gum drop buttons). The knitwear, close to the body, jackets that looked like peach fuzz, paired with a staple black turtleneck, offered a tak on tactility. Simply looking at the show I could imagine what each piece felt like, offering respite in a time when touch is lacking.
Taking knits to the apex, Prada offered a take on long johns. This feels firmly in line with a plethora of brands, including many fast fashion providers, pivot to selling pastel knitwear sets, seemingly a response to people spending all of their time indoors. Likewise at Fendi, a pajama-like silhouette repeated on the runway. “The conventions of ribbed and cable knitting are reimagined as long johns, cardigan scarves, mitten cuffs, and a wrapped ‘sleeve’ neck sweater for a weird and wonderful take on the ‘new normal’,” read the show-notes.
But I don’t want fashion to reflect our new normal, I want it to guide it. And right now, what’s better than dressing for the moment is dressing for the future. A future full of over the top fits, clashing, accessorized and bold, that look best when caught on camera—I want to dress like a tourist or a painting, like something that is touchable, rather than a reflection of the isolation of the moment.