Predicting Spring 2021’s Fashion Trends Over Zoom: How Buyers Are Doing This Season Differently

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Shopping through the convenience of a computer screen is hardly a new concept. You can log on for a virtual collaboration drop or place an order for weekly groceries online. However, this format is novel to fashion buyers, who usually travel around the world to meet designers, inspect garments up-close, and make informed financial decisions about how their boutiques will be stocked. Now, predicting Spring/Summer 2021's fashion trends means new routines, but the same responsibilities. Buyers are currently in the middle of determining what the best investments of Spring/Summer 2021 will be. And despite the physical distance obstacle, many are enjoying the pace, challenge, and the new trend predictions for next year.

The good thing about it is that [my schedule] is so spaced out,” says Telsha Anderson, founder of New York-based boutique t.a., of her buying appointments. “It’s two weeks instead of two or three days.” Anderson’s initial plan was to travel to Europe for Fashion Month, but instead she’s met with designers and showrooms over Zoom and FaceTime for some of the international brands she carries. For Anderson, whose business launched earlier this year, she’s finding positivity in the new process. “My best experience so far [was a showroom that] created an entire e-commerce platform that is so beyond its time. You go on and they have all the brands they represent and then you click into the brand and you’re able to view the item front to back, up-close, in different lighting [...] They have a video of a model going up and down the runway, moving and dancing, like really giving the feel and body of the clothing.”

Photo: t.a.

Sherri McMullen of the McMullen boutique in Oakland, CA is also finding that there’s an upside to this new way to “attend” Fashion Week. “I do like that I’m able to have strong conversations with designers and actually get to know them over Zoom. Even though it’s technology, there is some intimacy with it because we are actually spending time talking about things. Sometimes, when you’re traveling for market, you’re in such a time crunch,” she says. McMullen adds that with Spring/Summer 2021 discussions, there's also a leveled playing field, with smaller designers no longer struggling for a global stage. “There are designers in different parts of the world that don’t necessarily [travel for Paris Fashion Week.] Maybe they can’t afford to travel to market two to four times a year. So, I’m able to discover those smaller brands [on Zoom] that I would not normally be able to see in Paris.”

Like these smaller, local boutiques, major international retailers are in the same boat when it comes to viewing Spring/Summer 2021 collections. Tiffany Hsu, Fashion Buying Director at MyTheresa, would typically be traveling for a month and a half straight this time of year. In 2020, her face-to-face schedule dwindled down to a few meetings in London, where she’s based, and she attended a handful of shows during Milan Fashion Week. Otherwise, she’s putting her trust in the digital process, too. “We ask for as much details as needed and some brands even send fabric samples,” she explains of her virtual meetings. “We have mostly Zoom sessions with the brands where they also have models trying things on and presenting the pieces in front of the camera. We do not buy differently in general, but we buy what’s right for our customer and make sure we translate the brand’s vision well and keep the excitement.”

However, like any seemingly amazing e-commerce purchase gone awry, making trend predictions and deciding how to stock a sales floor when you’re not in the same room as the garments you’re buying, does present a greater margin of error.

“So much of my buying is intuition,” explains Pauline Montupet of San Francisco boutique Le Point. “You just get a feeling about it. It’s a little harder virtually. Some brands have really excelled at translating the experience virtually," she says, specifically calling out Copenhagen-based Ganni who created an advanced virtual hub for buyers to peruse, "and some are definitely struggling a bit more to translate that.”

Geraldine Chung of LCD in Los Angeles echoes a similar sentiment. “I’m definitely being a lot more careful,” says Chung of her selections for Spring/Summer 2021. While she enjoys the ability to stay close to her store and avoid stress that can come with attending Fashion Week — “The hierarchy. Are you front row, are you not front row?” — she still finds in-person meetings to be critical to understanding what she's buying. “You can tell how [a garment] flows but not really what the fabric looks like or feels like,” she says. “There may be multiple photos of the garment but the color looks different. So there’s definitely a lot of double checking and a lot of fingers crossed.”

That said, the women above are better equipped than most to understand and select the best pieces from the many collections they’ll view on a screen. What’s more, they understand their customers, as well. So despite the obstacles 2020’s put in place, they’re still focused on their professional missions. For McMullen, that’s bringing in even more Black designers, designers of color, and artisans to its sales floor. For Le Point, that’s selecting unique pieces to delight customers rather than selecting anything too safe. For LCD, that’s signing the 15 Percent Pledge. And across the board, that's also expertly predicting a carefully curated list of Spring/Summer 2021 trends that speak to shoppers' desires to dress with ease, originality, and — goodness knows, 2021 could use it — optimism. See their predictions below.

Spring/Summer 2021 Trend: Easy Dresses

Sandy Liang Spring/Summer 2021. Photo: Sandy Liang

"I just had my Sandy Liang appointment and am really feeling all the easy dresses and some of the easy knits,” says Montupet. “Things have to be really easy. [Shoppers are] not looking to wear things just once to a specific event. For us, what does really well are big comfortable dresses. Something where you look really cool. It’s one piece, [but] you can wear it in the park drinking your wine out of the can or picking your kid up from daycare. It’s not these really event-specific pieces.”

Spring/Summer 2021 Trend: Elevated Comfort

Rodarte Spring/Summer 2021. Photo: Rodarte

“Dresses previously were our favorite category but nobody is going anywhere so we’re focusing on our seconds biggest category,” says Chung, referring to sweatpants, sweatshirts, and comfortable clothing of all sorts. “Collina Strada is one of our top brands. [Hillary Taymour] does a ton of really great tie-dye sweatpants and hoodies that have a ton of embellishments on them,” Chung explains, while also calling out Batsheva for its track pants and the luxe pajamas of the Rodarte collection. “I think people are very savvy, they have their finger on the pulse. The lifestyle of people buying fashion and luxury is changing somewhat. Obviously, there are some people who are going out and partying … but especially in the United States, I think we’re planning very cautiously.”

Spring/Summer 2021 Trend: Bright Colors

Mozh Mozh Spring/Summer 2021. Photo: Mozh Mozh

“People have really started to play more with color and with patterns,” says Anderson. “You can tell the liveliness from the collections have really come from the designers. They’ve really had a chance to reset during this time, as well, and get a sense of how they want to approach to next spring.” Anderson says some of the strongest, brightest color themes are coming from labels such as Paloma Wool, Mozh Mozh, and Christopher Esber.

Spring/Summer 2021 Trend: Hand Crochet

Ulla Johnson Spring/Summer 2021. Photo: Ulla Johnson

For McMullen, the biggest trends for the season are a mix of easy pieces such as separates and knits, as well as bolder statement pieces. “It’s one extreme or the other,” says the store’s founder. However, there’s a standout texture seen across several designer collections that’s sure to be popular. “I’m definitely seeing a lot of hand crocheted knits,” says McMullen. The intricate and detail-rich designs were seen in collections from Kenneth Nicholson, Marina Moscone, and Ulla Johnson, she explains.

(Bonus) Resort 2021 Trend: Retro Florals

Erdem Spring/Summer 2021. Photo: Erdem

With Paris Fashion Week recently finished, Hsu's still evaluating the full scope of the collections she normally would during Fashion Month. However, as she's already selected her buy for Resort 2021, she predicts that retro florals, such as the ones seen at Erdem, Gucci, and Marni, will be prominent. She also adds, "when it comes to shoes, a big trend will be Birkenstock-inspired sandals."