Examples of popular prints you might have worn in the last year include tie-dye, politically-minded motifs, or sweet flowery designs that splashed across prairie dresses, nightgowns, or some hybrid of the two. But summer 2021’s maximalist print trends are delivering a bit of jolt with an unabashedly playful and bold approach, more so than the fashion trends that precede it.
“After seasons of minimalism, we’re beginning to see the pendulum swing back to a more maximalist mentality,” says Hannah Watkins, Senior Strategist, Prints and Graphics at trend forecasting agency WGSN. “We’re expecting consumers to gravitate towards feel-good prints that put the fun back into fashion after several seasons of plain basics and loungewear.”
The most prominent themes — seen below from indie designers, mass brands, and across social media — include nods to the ‘60s, fruits, and literal expressions of joy. While they might feel a bit on-the-nose for the warmest season of the year, maximalist prints could have much longer staying power beyond the summer, too, as Watkins suggests.
“With consumers more considerate of spending, they'll look to invest in that one hero piece to make a statement,” she says. “Vibrant energetic prints will achieve this, helping to lift their spirits and inject energy back into their wardrobes.” The bottom line: clothes are meant to be fun and uplifting — offering more service than being something to cover up with. This said, if such dynamic prints are your kind of thoughtful investment purchase, there are many options to consider. Read on for the top six maximalist prints.
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“Psychedelic prints, particularly marbling and psychedelic swirls, help to evolve last summer’s tie-dye obsession,” says Watkins. The new version is rich with color and evokes feelings of ease and movement in the fluid shapes. It’s the kind of print that can be worn as an accenting piece to an ensemble, but also head-to-toe, too. Among the many brands behind this trend, there’s Ganni with soft pastel swirls, the hypnotizing shapes by Tyler McGillivary, and ripples of color across a pair of wide-leg Hosbjerg pants.
Lisa Bühler is the CEO and founder of Lisa Says Gah, a retail destination that doesn’t merely offer tons of print options but helps set the trends, as well. “Our ethos of bringing fun and joy to our community through the product is reflected in playful prints,” shares Bühler. “Our customers flock to the bold and nostalgic prints.” Among them this season is the whimsical fruit pattern. For Lisa Says Gah, this includes a bounty of fruits (some veggies, too) in its own collection's “farmer’s market” print. You can also find juicy citrus prints in swimwear for Andrea Iyamah and an overflowing basket of nature’s candy within Tory Burch’s collection.
While bright fruits feel like a cheeky alternative to a standard floral or stripe, this motif also comes packed with symbolism, too. Across culture, including European paintings from the 15th Century and traditional Feng Shui principles, fruit represents life, desire, abundance, or fertility — just a few things which may or may not be front of mind this summer.
“There are always perennial themes for summer,” says Watkins, referencing nautical stripes and tropical flowers, “however we’re beginning to see brands shift to a more seasonless approach to designing prints.” With this in mind, the florals of the season are leaning away from the hot climate and toward a more mod appearance. Like the psychedelic swirls, floral prints used in the collections of Gimaguas and Rosetta Getty are reminiscent of ‘60s textiles which feature larger blooms and lots of color.
It should come as no surprise that checkers continue to be a leading print trend since they’ve had a head start last year. Watkins says “Instagram and TikTok influencers have already given their stamp of approval on bold graphic print trends,” mentioning both checkerboard and psychedelic patterns that have a strong presence on social media, which has translated to IRL.
Bühler adds that the classic check, namely by Holiday The Label, continues to perform well across e-commerce as it offers a cooler alternative to more traditional prints. “Check print has been a growing customer fave as it seems easiest to wear. [It’s] more pattern than specific print, and a bit bolder, more of an edge, than the gingham we've been seeing.”
Bringing Back The Bandana
As Bühler sees it, the emergence of powerful prints is timely. “Coming out of dark times, the bright, bold, and colorful prints are refreshing and reflecting our uplifting (post-vaccinated) moods,” she shares on the landscape of vibrant print options. She notes that among Lisa Says Gah’s selection is also a new bandana print. It’s featured in the line’s collaboration with Ookioh swimwear, but a look at the market confirms nostalgic paisley print is gaining momentum. New interpretations are found among accessories by Staud and summery dresses from Farm Rio.
Exuberant style doesn’t need to be quite so literal, but the last trend of the summer is one that does opt for a more explicit approach. “Joyful and expressive prints are tapping into Gen Z’s demand for feel-good fashion,” says Watkins. She references the styles popular among the pieces in the Lazy Oaf and Kina & Tam collections, two brands that design with humor.
Within this trend you find meaningful drawings, cartoon figures, and smiley faces — an especially ‘90s nostalgic touch. Here, there’s less questioning whether or not fashion is a tool for sharing a more optimistic outlook. It’s spelled out for the world to read.