The autumn/winter 2021 menswear shows were audience-free virtual experiences. Milan hosted the first Prada menswear collection from Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons followed by a virtual Q&A with students from around the world. Jonathan Anderson presented a Show in a Book and a Show on a Shirt for Loewe. Hermès employed a multiple camera angle livestream to recreate the real thing, while Virgil Abloh challenged the unconscious biases of dress codes with his collection for Louis Vuitton. Bold colour was everywhere, shorts and technical outdoor gear are on the rise and, while the robe reigns supreme, the tracksuit’s dominance seemed to be coming to an end. In a post-planning world we might not know much else about life this autumn, but here’s what designers think we will be wearing.
The autumn/winter presentations saw bold shots of colour scattered throughout the collections, but the standout hue of the season was green, not one particular tone, but the full spectrum of shades from matcha to khaki. Whether it was a natural thought process by designers or the trend forecasters predicting that green stood for new beginnings, the colour associated with new shoots echoed the potential for a fresh start next season. At Louis Vuitton, Virgil Abloh explored his African heritage, one look saw an African draped wrap layered over a green LV patterned shirt, followed by a punchy grass-green leather motorcross jacket (inspired by the wax-print fabric his mother had at home) and a voluminous trench. Rick Owens’s moss-coloured quilted bombers came with built-in face masks, while Etudes, Botter and MSGM injected citrus twists of lime into their collections.
Breaking! Normal clothes are back! Paris fashion week has packed up the trackpants. Trench coats, bomber jackets and even suits were present in collections. Dries Van Noten and Paul Smith played to their strengths went back to basics. “A fresh, new-fashioned take on the familiar,” Van Noten called it, turning his focus to construction and volume – shirts were elongated into dress length and trousers were wide and puddled on the floor. Paul Smith may have sneaked in some luxe pyjamas under a coat, but suiting was well represented. At Hermès Véronique Nichanian showed workwear jackets and outerwear that hinted at the possibility we might one day return to working outside our homes, she hedged her bets with drawstring-waist trousers.
At Y/Project, Glenn Marten continued to rework the classics – twisting a trench and scrunching its form with the aid of a wired hem. Jeans (remember those) came with a cowboy boot turn-up detail and an overcoat had one front panel on backwards, revealing the beauty of the lining details. Vetements printed their take on positive-thinking mantras on suit pockets, and Tods styled their wardrobe staples with a commuter favourite: leather bags with built in umbrella holders.
The winter wardrobe hero to put the spring back in your step is a bright block-colour coat, add to this the stroke of a tactile fabric for a double dose of sartorial dopamine. Bright splashes of colourful coats littered the collections. At Ermenegildo Zegna, creative director Alessandro Sartori introduced a single flash of tangerine among a collection of neutral tones. Jil Sander and Casablanca chose blue hues from pale blue to vivid turquoise. Kim Jones layered a yellow trench over a lemon, sequin-edged coat at Dior, and Silvia Venturini Fendi showed a rainbow of colours, the symbol of hope, at Fendi. Designers elevated the mood further with an upbeat soundtrack and set. Dance was another mood enhancer at Muiccia Prada and Raf Simons’s first joint menswear collection for Prada. Models wearing pink and yellow coats danced to Ritchie Hawtin’s soundtrack, the backdrop a brilliantly hued tactile set by Rem Koolhaas, which will later be repurposed for pop-ups and then donated to Meta, a circular economy project based in Milan.
It’s no surprise that the statement knit has had a resurgence, it’s the one item that’s on show from the waist up in a virtual meeting now, and for the foreseeable future. Jumpers played a recurring starring role, appearing in a multitude of shades, motifs, and comfy-soft – fine gauged or mohair textured. At Loewe, triple-layered jumpers were inspired by the artwork of Joe Brainard, and Scottish-born painter Peter Doig’s work featured heavily at Dior. Creative director Kim Jones was introduced to Doig by Dior’s resident milliner Stephen Jones, the artist worked closely as part of the studio team, his most notable artwork and brushwork re-rendered on knitwear. The surprise collaboration of the season was artist and comedian Noel Fielding, whose distinct, childlike sketches appeared on knitwear at Fendi.
Isabel Marant, Hermès and Jil Sander all received the comfy-core memo, with roomy knitwear crafted with graphic intarsia and abstract patterns in contrasting colours. That 70s style stalwart, the sweater vest, is back, spotted at Etro, Fendi, Hermès and MSGM, while Wales Bonner offered her stripy style with a matching scarf.
While black is a permanent fixture on the menswear runway, for AW21 it is the star of the show in many foreboding collections. It’s a colour that reflects our turbulent times but, as confirmed in the Comme des Garçons show notes: “Creation, development and progress, we believe, come out of darkness.” Rick Owens brought aggression and rage to life in his show, with black skin-tight leather, slashed-arm overcoats and bondage-inspired PPE. This balance was reflected at Yohji Yamamoto where his signature black and bondage looks, featuring muzzle-like masks and leather gloves, were complimented with the femininity of corseting details, sparkling neoprene and subtle floral prints. GmbH designers Benjamin Huseby and Serhat Isik played with the idea that our lives are a computer simulation. Their collection of couture-referencing outfits offered “an escape from the banality of our realities”, and suggested “a life anywhere, but inside our homes”. Designers were looking for the chink of light in the darkness.
If Paris was looking ahead, then Milan was thinking about the current “cosy” mindset with a slew of dressing-gown coats in collections. Belted duvet coats came in a branded logo print at Fendi, with some snazzy silk PJs and a knitted all-in-one, that had nap time written all over it thrown in for good measure. At Etro, a Paisley robe coat was pure Noël Coward. Elsewhere designers riffed on the look. Ermenegildo Zegna embraced the belted coat look in several lengths. Even in Paris, Virgil Abloh added two robe coats, complete with newspaper and takeaway coffee to his Louis Vuitton collection, and every look at Prada came with knitted long johns underneath -don’t ditch those WFH Heattech thermals yet!
Paging the year-round-shorts-wearer, your time has come – shorts are officially “in” for next winter. The silhouette is a wide Bermuda, often worn with a welly/Chelsea boot hybrid and a substantial sock. The vibe is outdoorsy, MSGM’s snow scene came with tweedy cargo shorts with roomy pockets, at Eye/Loewe/Nature Jonathan Anderson showed the kind of utility camping short a Wes Anderson scout master might don and Dries Van Noten used a sort of quilted sleeping bag fabric for a wide pair styled chicly with a striped shirt and cardigan. (He also offered shorts in a soft ribbed knit for the ultimate in home comfort.) Fendi went wild for winter shorts, in tailored wool, leather and quilted satin. Looks were bundled up on top, with jumpers, windcheaters and quilted gilets to balance the bare shins.
From water-repellent outerwear to integrated face masks and hardware fastenings, designers had practicality and the demand for weatherproof clothing in mind. From Isabel Marant’s 90s inspired oversized coats, A Cold Wall’s utilitarian short and padded jackets, to Botter’s windbreakers made using upcycled umbrellas. The now-necessary face mask is an essential that’s not going anywhere. It was integrated into puffer jackets at A Cold Wall, while Y-Project repurposed a padded scarf as a face covering. Matthew Williams used his trademark hardware at 1017 Alyx 9SM with his signature rollercoaster belt used as backpack straps. Reese Cooper’s use of straps and buckles on bomber jackets, fleeces and windbreakers was inspired by firefighter uniforms in order to raise awareness of last year’s wildfires in California.
At 1017 Alyx 9SM and K-Way there was a mix and match of the codes of traditional wardrobes with the use of technical fabrics alongside leather, wool and velvet, meaning this isn’t a trend that has to be worn exclusively. Utilitarian dressing is here to stay.