While local retreats and weekend jaunts to nature have satiated the travel bug for many during COVID-19, far-flung vacations more or less halted. The mini getaway provided much-needed relief and a feeling of peace for city dwellers and hot spot residents alike, but not necessarily an urge to spend on a new holiday wardrobe. For resort wear designers, this meant re-thinking vacation styles, pivoting to stay relevant, with a viewpoint that stretched beyond current events. However, some were already ahead of the curve.
“Not very much has changed as we always kept the focus on hybrid clothing that can be multi-occasional,” Marina Cortbawi, founder and designer of the Brooklyn-based line, Merlette, tells TZR of her design process since the pandemic’s onset. By lessening the number of evening options in her collection, Cortbawi shifted her focus to pieces that could be worn both day and night, dressed up or dressed down, including cotton silk and linen silk jacquard dresses made from washable fabric.
For Newport Beach-based label, Mikoh, swimwear and coverups are the brand’s DNA. Yet, ready-to-wear has become a recent focus. Particularly, loungewear made from soft, cloud-like gauzes and relaxed cotton separates in a refreshing, resort-ready palette. “I have always designed the pieces in our collections to evoke the notion and feeling of being on vacation, like an escape, no matter where you are,” creative director and cofounder Oleema Miller explains. “In today’s world where travel looks different, it’s even more important for me to daydream about uniquely beautiful places. I always want to ensure that when someone puts on Mikoh, they get whisked away on a warm mental escape,” she says. “What you wear should always make you feel a certain way, even if worn from the comfort of home.”
While current times can indeed call for the occasional “holiday” piece, like a breezy cotton dress or breathable linen suit — amid a lockdown, anything truly goes — the concept of vacation style still might feel futile. But it isn’t entirely. Instead, acclimating to the current climate and dressing in ways that make sense for a different reality is key. This could mean tossing on a loose-fitting kaftan for virtual meetings. Or, slipping into a bikini and shorts for some backyard sunbathing. “Because resort [wear] is typically destination wear for people fleeing the cold or going on a retreat, we needed to rethink our approach,” Josh Shaub, cofounder of the Los Angeles-based Anemos, tells TZR. “Comfort and the idea of ‘staycation’ was definitely our central focus.”
By leaning into their already-established aesthetic of elevated and comfortable attire for relaxing getaways, the brand worked with softer fabrics than before for the resort 2021 collection, designing pieces that felt equally perfect for lounging at home and taking on a trip, whenever that may be. “We are designing more effortless apparel made for every day as well as destination dressing,” cofounder Lauren Arapage explains of the lightweight button-downs and wear-anywhere trousers that anchor Anemos’ laidback California aesthetic. “Our collections focus on wearability,” she says. Adding, “we wanted to create a modern uniform perfect for this season and beyond.”
Moreover, realizing that exotic travel will eventually resume is crucial when longing for wanderlust. Thus, shopping for gauzy, billowing, carefree attire that would have otherwise made up your holiday wardrobe wouldn’t be ridiculous if such pieces call to you. “Feeling [like] you have something special, getting out of loungewear for a moment, having a change of scene, and something fun to wear is important and brings some joy in this time for yourself and also others,” says Cortbawi.
Damie Idowu, founder and designer of the Lagos-based brand Míe, echoes this notion. “2020 made us look within our geographical boundaries for the adventures we usually travel far and wide to experience.” Adding, “while resort wear is heavily connected to traveling, it is not limited to it,” pointing out year-round summer climates in some countries and the versatility that comes with layering resort wear in other areas.
“Functionality is a big deal for us at Míe,” Idowu explains. From everyday living to future travel endeavors, the designer says, “you will find that you can wear our clothes frequently and differently,” adding, “elegance and functionality will always be at the core of our styles.”
Hannah Grossberg of the Sydney-based label Hannah Artwear says, “As we shift our lifestyles to long periods at home and local travel, I have come to appreciate the beauty and simplicity in everyday rituals.” Discovering newfound pleasure in dressing for daily moments, the designer has come to lean on pieces like silk wrap dresses and mini shirt dresses from her collection when sipping morning coffee and preparing home-cooked meals with her husband.
Though she’s adjusted her routine, Grossberg’s commitment to working with local artisans to create effortless clothing remains the same. “My renewed focus is on the purpose and end-use of the garment,” she says. “I ask myself where and how this or that can be worn to elevate everyday moments.” Adding, “My aim is always to make women feel beautiful, valued, and appreciated.”
Ahead, scroll on to discover resort wear by all five labels and shop your favorites for effortless at-home style, future travel, and everywhere in between. Plus, take in of-the-moment style tips from the designers, regardless of where you choose to wear vacation pieces this year.
“The pieces I feel are most relevant for local getaways are the Paradis Dress — our best seller in 2020 as I think it’s the most versatile,” Cortbawi tells TZR. “This style is perfect both for upstate New York getaways to the lake or trips to the desert in California. Keeping it easy and thinking about that one piece that can easily be washed, packed in an overnight bag, and worn on repeat is the key to effortless local getaways.”
For exploration days, The Merlette founder likes ankle-length shirt dresses with sneakers or flats and tunic dresses as cover-ups over swimwear near water. “If you want to go outdoor dining, later on, you can layer over denim or pants for the evening,” she suggests. For cooler climates, she favors her Majorelle smocked blouse. “The high neckline can be paired back and tucked into denim, and if it’s really cold, can be layered over a thin thermal.”
For days spent lounging by a pool or beach, Mie recommends a breezy, coordinating set, like The Rio Top and Mallorca Skirt from her collection. “They cover your swimsuit nicely, and you can wrap them to show or cover as much skin as you like.”
When escaping the city, the designer says, “Nothing sheds the hectic feeling of city life than a beautiful full flowing dress. For nights spent sipping cocktails on a balcony or dancing around your living room, she adds, “The Tahiti Dress is a great float-around style.”
Shaub and Arapage referenced Luis Barragan’s architecture, mid-century pools in Southern California, ’90s Herb Ritts photography, and old pictures of personal vacations when designing the neutral, loose-fitting pieces that make up their current collection. Each piece they favor for everyday living and future travels alike. “The Phillips Shirt is a staple in my daily wardrobe and is basically my second skin,” Arapage tells TZR. “Our Flutter Crop Top is designed in a boxy silhouette with a square neckline and sweet flutter sleeves and is great with high-waisted jeans adding a feminine twist,” she says. Adding, “we live in LA, and I basically wear all of our shirts and tops with jeans every day.”
For day-to-night style — be it at home or on vacation — Arapage favors the brand’s Ritts Strapless Top, especially in tandem with the Keaton Trouser and a sneaker or a loafer. “[It’s] a true day-to-night style,” she says of the top. “It gives every ensemble a refined finish and is airy enough to wear all summer long.” Her ultimate one-and-done piece that’s versatile enough for work, beach days, and dinner with friends? The D.K. Midi Wrap Dress. “[It’s] so versatile,” Arapage reveals.
One of Miller’s favorite new-season designs? The brand’s swimwear, which you can style with everyday attire. “Our sleek silhouetted one-pieces can be worn as bodysuits paired with black denim, a wide leg trouser, or tailored shorts,” she says.
For a luxurious upgrade to at-home rituals like morning coffee or date nights, Grossman recommends silk wrap dresses and breezy silhouettes that might otherwise be considered a vacation-only piece. “Hannah Artwear is a collection that hopes to elevate the spirit and the senses as we indulge in small daily pleasures, like my morning coffee when I luxuriate in a soft printed cotton throw-on piece. Or a romantic evening with my husband as we share a homemade meal, and I dress to elevate this moment in the silk Luna.”