Updated: Jan 18
As the new year approaches, we look back at an eventful year that saw the fashion industry evolve like never before. With sustainability remaining central to conversations, we saw a growing interest in circular fashion, conscious fabric choices and manufacturing processes as brands vowed to take their environmental responsibilities to new levels. Digital fashion became a primary focus with major game players trialling virtual platforms and preparing for the metaverse. Unexpected collaborations brought a refreshed excitement to the industry, with partnerships becoming increasingly unconventional. On the back of Black Lives Matter, we saw a rise in brands representing a more diverse audience. Meanwhile, pop-ups took centre stage in the physical retail space, providing consumers with Instagrammable immersive experiences. See the key concepts of 2021 and strategies that made waves in the industry below.
The past year saw the resale and rental markets surge, while mindful consumerism spurred a new wave of services implementing circular strategies, including brands taking ownership of their product lifecycle.
M&S Trial Rental Service
M&S paired with clothing rental website Hirestreet as they trialled their rental service ahead of the Christmas season. The initial offering included 40 womenswear pieces starting from £13 for four days for an accessible scheme that gives consumers an alternative to traditional consumption.
Dotte Resale Collective
Peer-to-peer marketplace Dotte unveiled the Dotte Resale Collective, a platform aiming to reduce the impact of fast fashion. The platform encourages parents to buy well and resell, promoting a more circular approach to the short lifespan of kids’ fashion. More and more brands are embracing resale opportunities, creating their own platforms to minimise environmental damage while forming a community of like-minded, brand-loyal consumers.
Farfetch x The Restory
Farfetch teamed up with The Restory to launch Farfetch Fix, an aftercare system to promote a circular product lifecycle. Customers book a collection that they want to restore through the marketplace, then the products are transported to the London based atelier to be assessed for a quote. Once approved by the customer, the team will begin the restoration.
The ongoing pandemic proved to be a point of reflection as consumers demanded more eco-friendly commitments from brands as the climate crisis grows increasingly urgent. A surge of climate activism saw brands being called out for green-washing, encouraging companies to take action and set ambitious goals.
Pangaia's Denim Collection
Sustainable fashion label Pangaia introduced a denim range incorporating regenerative natural wild Himalayan nettle dubbed PANettle™. The bio-based innovation is mixed with organic cotton and treated with anti-odour PPRMINT™ oil to keep the denim fresh. The material is dyed using water and dye-saving processes and uses stainless-steel buttons that can be recycled at the end of the product’s life.
Shopping By Values
Berlin-based online fashion retailer Zalando launched a new shop-by-values service allowing customers to browse assortments in line with their top priorities. Some of these filters include water conservation, animal welfare credentials, worker wellbeing, reuse of materials and reduced emissions. Zalando is working to close the fashion gap between customer’s shopping initiatives and their ability to put them into practice.
Levi's Buy Better, Wear Longer
Levi’s Spring campaign highlighted the message 'buy better, wear longer' as it raised awareness about the environmental impacts of the fashion apparel industry. Emma Chamberlain and Jaden Smith are amongst other inspiring change-makers discussing the importance of buying second-hand and reducing carbon footprint. The campaign follows Levi’s ongoing sustainability efforts towards more eco-friendly production.
Brands continued to blur the line between physical and digital, creating seamless immersive virtual experiences with likeness to the real world. Digital fashion lines allowed brands to fully embrace experimental design without real world physical restrictions. Cross-overs into the gaming world saw immense collaborations with some of the worlds most popular games and top luxury fashion houses as both industries brought exciting new digital fashion lines to the home over lockdown periods.
Buffalo London x The Fabricant
Digital fashion continues to engross consumers as brands experiment with the potential of the virtual fashion world. Buffalo London and The Fabricant collaborated to offer consumers a virtual version of the Classic Low platform shoe, which can be worn on platform DressX. The shoes are lit on fire and are only available online or to be worn on social media posts.
H&M's Virtual Fitting Rooms
H&M announced the launch of virtual fitting rooms across selected German stores in collaboration with NeXR Technologies SE and its innovation lab H&Mbeyond. A body scanner allows customers to create a free avatar with their exact body measurements and try on items with a touch of a button. The tech analyses the relationship between consumers and technology and help to pave the way for a more sustainable industry.
Moncler & Alyx Enter Fornite
In collaboration with 1017 Alyx 9SM, Moncler dropped a collection on Fortnite, which players purchased on a specialised loading screen for their avatars. The range comprised down outerwear, knit caps and sunglasses and a range of branded in-game weapons. The pieces were available in reactive styles, changing colour from dark to night, with the digital fabric world allowing for greater experimentation.
Towards the end of 2021, NFTs and cryptocurrency became key trending topics as brands prepared for the metaverse. Following Facebook’s Meta re-brand, we predict the metaverse will trickle across into mainstream audiences in 2022 as social media platforms make the virtual realm more accessible.
L'Officiel Unveils Virtual Museum Metaverse
L’Officiel launched a virtual museum experience named House of Dreams in celebration of its 100th anniversary. The multimedia space displayed works from the magazine’s archives across 18 virtual galleries. The immersive digital experience showcased the artworks as NFTs highlight the company’s commitment to an innovative future.
Nike Prepares For The Metaverse
Following Facebook’s Meta rebrand, Nike prepared to follow suit as it filed several trademarks to sell virtual Nike-branded sneakers and apparel. Additionally, recent job listings show that the company has opened up virtual designer positions, suggesting that the brand is adapting to embrace the metaverse with virtual collections to come.
Zara Enters The Metaverse With Ader Error
Zara and Ader Error partnered on a metaverse collaboration, forming a new generation, Generation AZ, brought together by uniqueness and individualism enhanced through personal experiences across real and virtual worlds. The genderless collection featured winter-based casual and tailored apparel and footwear alongside a range of statement accessories. The capsule was released physically and digitally through social media platform Zepeto.
An unpredictable year saw a range of unexpected collaborations drawing pop-cultural hype with nostalgia at the forefront.
The Simpsons x Balenciaga
In celebration of its Spring/Summer 2022 collection, Balenciaga partnered with The Simpsons to produce a one-off 10-minute episode set at Paris Fashion Week. The animation starred the show’s renowned characters as well as an appearance from Vogue’s Anna Wintour. The pop-cultural hype surrounding the parodied episode suggests that the industry is embracing the digital world more than ever.
Kith x Barbie
Kith unveiled an unexpected collaboration with Barbie, launching its own doll complete with Kith sweatsuits, sneakers and statement accessories. Kith has released life-size versions of the apparel, giving people the chance to match their doll.
Harrods x Palace
Palace and Harrods partnered on a collaborative festive capsule comprising co-branded apparel, accessories and gifts with noticeable signature designs, silhouettes and details appearing from both brands. The skate brand hosted a takeover of the famous London department store, exclusively dropping the collaboration in-store and on the Harrods website.
YEAR OF ACTIVEWEAR
Spurred on by the pandemic, health became even more of a priority as consumers took to exercise in support of their wellbeing. Home fitness gear and workout clothes worn as daywear provided convenience and comfort, drawing out the activewear boom seen in 2020.
Dior's Home Gym
Dior explored the wellness market with the release of fitness equipment in partnership with sports brand Technogym. The line incorporated Dior’s elegance with a range of high-end products from a gym ball to treadmill to dumbbells, all embellished with the Christian Dior logo and sporty striping.
Allbirds Debuts Activewear
Allbirds entered the activewear market, unveiling its Allbirds Natural Run Apparel. Following the brand’s sustainable values, the collection is produced from Eucalyptus Tree fibre and Merino Wool. The range incorporated tank tops, leggings and running shorts, offering key pieces to suit new work-from-home lifestyles.
Marimekko x Adidas
Adidas and Marimekko partnered on a limited-edition collection, making it the first sports apparel range for the Finnish design house. The designs merged Marimekko’s artistic style with Adidas’ functional expertise comprising a performancewear line consisting of pieces that embrace outdoor pursuits in PRIMEBLUE and PRIMEGREEN recycled yarns, meeting the collaborator’s sustainability initiatives.
Greater representation and considered design surged throughout the year, with many launches and collaborations passing the mic to marginalised groups
Naomi Osaka's Skincare Line
Naomi Osaka ventured into the beauty industry with skincare line dubbed Kinló, which focuses on the needs of darker-skinned individuals. Osaka believes this is a public health need, with around 33% of Black Americans dying from melanoma in the United States. The tennis star’s range includes SPF-tinted lotions as she believes in the importance of skincare protection, with formulas tailored to those with more melanin in their skin.
Chella Man x Private Policy
Model, actor, and activist Chella Man and Private Policy collaborated to launch jewellery that celebrates the deaf and hard of hearing community during National Deaf History Month. The gold-plated earpiece is an educational statement, with 50% of profits going towards the nonprofit Deaf Queer Resource Center. Man and the Private Policy plan to make this new line a recurring partnership going forward, to encourage people to better understand the deaf community.
I Support Black Women By Off-White
Off-White™ partnered with Black queer feminist organiser Trinice McNally and a collective
of activists to raise awareness and funds for the Black Women Radicals’ School for Black Feminist Politics, founded by Jaime Swift. Swift, Juju Bae, Aja Taylor, Keri Gray, OnRaé LaTeal, Brianna Gibson, Toni-Michelle Williams, Paris Hatcher, and Tiara Gendi collaborated with Off-White™ and platform Black Discourse to create a series of webinars and roundtables grounded in education.
Pop-ups made a big impact, making use of empty storefronts triggered by the pandemic. Immersive pop-ups allowed brands to showcase ranges, try out phygital concepts and draw consumers back to physical locations.
Rotaro x Airbnb
Airbnb paired with clothing rental platform Rotaro on a series about sustainable fashion in a pop-up store in Carnaby Street, London. The Social Impact Experiences aimed to tackle single-wear throwaway fashion that Brits often buy into during the summer months. The pop-up offered sustainable styling sessions, panel talks from fashion experts and donated profits to Project Earth.
Hermès Gym Pop-Up
Hermès unveiled a pop-up in Brooklyn called HèrmesFit, where visitors could book exercise classes to immerse themselves in the Hèrmes brand. The store featured contemporary gym-inspired aesthetics adorned with Hèrmes accessories as well as climbing walls, photobooths and a juice bar to provide a rounded fitness experience.
Burberry Sculptural Pop-Up
Burberry unveiled a reflective pop-up in South Korea merging nature and technology as the building reflects the surrounding Sanbangsan mountain landscapes. The mirrored sculptural space spotlights immersive art installations that blur digital and physical realms as Burberry creates an interactive environment to celebrate the brand’s latest outerwear collection.