Fashion Reverie’s 2021 Fashion and Retail Predictions

Images courtesy of pinterest.com

Fashion Reverie checked-in with a select panel of fashion industry experts, all operating in the high-end side of fashion, and with Morgan Stanley to explore their respective forecasts for 2021. They generously shared their thoughts about what they envision for the fashion industry going forward into 2021, on a micro and macro level. Together, Fashion Reverie and our experts arrived at the following five trends. Read on to find out what our panel predicts for 2021.

THE FIVE TRENDS

  1. The digital format of NYFW continues
  2. Color Trends: “Ultimate Gray,” “Illuminating” yellow, and “Orchid”
  3. A studied mix of clothing for 2021– cozy clothes and special occasion clothes
  4. Sustainability as an important element at the designer fashion level
  5. Will Wall Street Embrace Fashion & Retail in 2021?

MEET OUR PANEL

Images clockwise: Frederick Anderson, Deborah Sawaf, Demi Schimenti, Peter Arnold, Leslie Ghize, Marco Miliotti, Christina Neault

Deborah Sawaf is Thale Blanc’s founder and creative director, who works and resides in Los Angeles. She is known for her Thale Blanc handbag and jewelry collection. Recently, she has successfully expanded to include Thale Blanc’s ready-to-wear Statements Collection.

Frederick Anderson is founder, creative director, and CEO of the Frederick Anderson Collection. Frederick was formerly the half of the creative team of Douglas Hannant, a darling of the Park Avenue fashion crowd from 1996 until the brand closed its doors in 2014.

Demi Schimenti is an interior stylist and owner of Melbourne Interiors, whose focus is on unique projects in New York’s East Village, Soho, Brooklyn, the Berkshires, and Connecticut’s Gold Coast.

Christina Neault is one of New York City’s foremost fashion show producers. She has launched fashion weeks for IMG Worldwide, Pier 59 Studios, and the Swimwear Association of Florida.

Peter Arnold is the executive director of the Fashion Scholarship Fund. Previously, Peter was a Wall Street attorney who worked in the fashion space for years. His experience includes five years as executive director of the CFDA, eight years as CEO of Cynthia Rowley and three as CEO of Cushnie et Ochs.

Leslie Ghize is the executive vice president of the forecasting firm, TOBE TDG (The Doneger Group). She cites one of her group’s best calls as their May 2017 forecast of “the increase in anxiety and how that would affect product, presentation, and new business opportunities.”

Marco Miliotti is the managing director of Milior, S.A.S. Milior is one of Italy’s preeminent textile companies that has been in business since 1895. Milior works with the foremost fashion companies in the world.

TREND 1: THE DIGITAL FORMAT OF NYFW CONTINUES

Panelists: Christiana Neault, Peter Arnold, and Leslie Ghize

Christina Neault and Peter Arnold are well-versed in addressing this topic coming from the production and financial sides of fashion, respectively.

Christina says that the February/March 2021 fashion shows will be digital, no question, and that there will be far less travel than pre-2020. The second half of 2021 will be a hybrid in which the top editors of the city or country will attend physical shows, but only in their country, bringing about a new geography-based fashion editor. She credits the digital fashion weeks as being more sustainable than the old-school, in-person shows with venues in which the bigger shows were at capacity with close to 1,000 people in attendance.

Christina acknowledges that “every designer prefers to show their clothing on real people because there’s not a better way to show collections than in-person, so eventually some designers will show again in person.  While the shows might get a little smaller; however, that digital part is always going to exist.” She refers to Frederick Anderson’s digital spring 2021 show as an example of an engaging presentation that was outside of the box, which he produced with only a tiny team.

Peter Arnold approves of the digital format of New York Fashion Week (NYFW), and one that he says Donna Karan and Tom Ford talked about fifteen years ago. He continues, “We’re not going to go back, and the editors and buyers don’t want to go back. It (digital) democratizes the tradition (of the fashion show).” According to him, the ship has already sailed and that a digital approach to NYFW is here to stay.

New traditions present challenges going forward though, such as coming up with photogenic content, and as Christina says, the challenge of replicating the excitement that’s in the room at a live show. Peter cites Jeremy Scott ‘s much talked-about spring 2021 puppet show as “a win.” The digital model he states, “is a boon for smaller brands who can be nimble and pivot to the new, more efficient model, but time is of the essence. Smaller brands that want to participate must buy into it, ASAP.” He concludes, “it’s a much more efficient model, I’m kind of loving that the old model has been thrown out.”

Analyst Leslie Ghize agrees with Christina and Peter’s other call of a shift towards showing to season, enabling consumers to buy what they see then and there.  Says Leslie, “We are projecting a shift in the trend, merchandising, and fashion cadence that is in sync with the consumer, rather than the production calendar, allowing for more responsiveness to the customer and demanding more creativity in curation and presentation.”

TREND 2: COLOR: “Ultimate Gray” and “Illuminating” yellow from Pantone, and “Orchid” from Coloro/WGSN

Panelists: Frederick Anderson, Deborah Sawaf, Demi Schimenti, Marco Miliotti, and Christina Neault

Images courtesy of revolve.com and minimanimoo.com

After sifting through and analyzing our panel’s responses on this topic, several things became clear. While creatives who operate in the high-end realm don’t ignore color trend forecasts, they use themselves as their own internal barometers when it comes to determining which direction they will take in their work. They intuitively translate how they interpret what is happening, socially and politically, and work from that departure point. Frederick, Deborah, and Demi were on the same page when it comes to color preferences for 2021.

Says Frederick Anderson, “I don’t use color agencies as they actually follow high-end collections like mine to derive predictions that filter to the general public.”  He was months ahead of the Coloro/WGSN forecast of gray and yellow. He showed his spring 2021 collection featuring a segment of clothes in soft gray and yellow tweeds.

Deborah Sawaf is of the same mind. “We like to think of our Thale Blanc Statements RTW collection as setting a trend rather than just following ones prescribed by others. I like to reinvent our base palette and update it as a way of moving forward.” 

Images courtesy of WGSN/James Volpe and wwd.com

In her arena of home décor, Demi Schimenti is partial to gray “as a base to layer upon.”  She also likes Pantone’s “Orchid” color prediction. “It evokes innocence, vulnerability, and is inviting, open and feminine.”  Deborah Sawaf loves the color too and says it “signifies people moving towards a unique and special place. The color, like the flower is a symbol of the times we find ourselves in and the way we are living our lives going forward.”

Producer Christina Neault and Trend Analyst Leslie Ghize both skip ahead to the second two quarters of 2021. Christina believes we will move towards bright colors in a quest to put 2020 behind us. “Special occasion clothes will be a factor in the latter part of 2021; we’re going to want to brush our hair, put on lipstick and a pretty sundress on in summer of 2021. We will feel celebratory come summer, and color will play a factor. We’re going to see more color, bright color.”

Leslie shares that Doneger is expecting soft, neutral, relaxing tones, and bright, celebratory, and techno-inspired tones. Both ranges, Leslie says, “can be merchandised to capture the different directions the consumer is going in, from comfort and cocooning, to optimistic and out-and-about.”

Images courtesy of verynewyork.com, nailandmanicuretrends.com, and topazdetailing.com, respectively

Marco Miliotti relies on a variety of sources to determine what his fabric mills will produce.  Milior begins their process by researching specialized books of trends and information from the textile fair offices in Paris and Milan, and they also consider the Pantone color inspirations. While the design world is working on fall 2021, the textile world, is ahead of that, working on spring 2022.  Marco stresses that what the designers say in terms of color direction is incredibly important. His mills interpret their designer clients’ messages with the purpose of making the company’s fabric collections address the trends of the season in order to remain at the forefront of market.

Deborah Sawaf opines that strong jewel tones work year-round, when it comes to bags. “Red … Ferrari red (“Rosso Corsa” in Ferrari’s color swatch catalogue, which translates, to “Racing Red”) in both bags and fashion adds an element of surprise to any wardrobe. I tell women all the time to not think too hard about matching a bag color to their outfit.  Allow the bag to make the statement.”

 TREND 3: A studied mix of clothing for 2021:Cozy clothes and special-occasion clothes

Panelists: Frederick Anderson, Deborah Sawaf, Leslie Ghize, Christina Neault, and Demi Schimenti

Image courtesy of buzzfeed.com

Deborah Sawaf only designs timeless and classic pieces with a focus on special and unique pieces of a high-quality that possess a timeless quality.

Demi’s sees minimalism as the future of style. “By [the end] of 2021, the shift will favor more spending and ornamentation in fashion and [fashion] will continue to foster bolder expressions. Fashion consumers crave real expression in and bold monochromatic statements.” She feels that comfortable fashion will continue to remain a source of well-being amidst the tumultuous social and economic times we are immersed in.

Frederick Anderson and Christina Neualt agree that comfort will continue to be key in 2021. Frederick is working with soft knits for the coming year, and Christina likes loose wide-legged pants in colors and interesting patterns for the second half of 2021 when people will see us from the waist down again, post-COVID-19 vaccine. She splits 2021 into two parts, pre, and post pandemic. “In the first half, there will still be a focus on zoom, so statement earrings, crossbody bags for hands free and statement masks will continue to be important.”

Christina concurs with Deborah and Demi that timeless investment pieces will be top of mind. Many people will only be going back to the office one or two days a week, so why not invest in a pair of fabulous black cashmere pants, dress, and a coat that will last you ten years?

TREND 4: The Shift in High-end Fashion Design to a Greater Focus on Sustainability

Panelists: Deborah Sawaf, Christina Neualt, and Frederick Anderson

Image courtesy of wgsn.com

Sustainability has evolved from a fringe movement to the trend of the moment in 2008, to something consumers are increasingly demanding. Until very recently, sustainability was something most brands only paid lip service to. Smaller high fashion brands such as

Frederick Anderson and Thale Blanc are actively embracing sustainability. Frederick has always been aware of what he considers to be eco-friendly design and production, and recently added hand crochet knits, made by an artist in Argentina, to his collections. He calls-out fast fashion as culprits in the glut of clothes that only last for a few wears and are disposed of at an alarming rate.  He and Christina Neault point out that well-made, high-end clothing have a second life in the booming designer resale market, making them an eco-friendly choice.

Christina adds that thrifting and shopping our closet again will be an attractive option. Deborah Sawaf embraces eco-consciousness by using a reduced carbon footprint in her design and delivery process. She buys her fabrics from around the world, and everything is made in Los Angeles and shipped directly from Los Angeles to the customer to minimize the carbon footprint.

Trend 5: Will Wall Street Embrace Fashion and Retail in 2021?

Image courtesy of Morgan Stanley

Lastly, we turned to Morgan Stanley for their evaluation of the early part of 2021. Wall Street is known for its lack of sentimentality and its laser sharp focus on the bottom line. As Wall Street tends to do, Morgan Stanley hedged their bets, looking at a major department store, a trendy mobile shopping app, and the US retail leader of off-price home fashions and apparel to see how they were each pivoting to handle the disruption the global health pandemic has caused in their respective businesses. Morgan’s’ latest retail report focused on Macy’s, RVLV, and TJX Companies, with information gleaned from fireside chats with each company’s leadership team.

Their first fireside chat was with Macy’s CEO, Jeff Gennette. He shared that the Polaris plan —a strategic store closure of neighborhood smaller doors initiated in February 2020—was helping his bottom line, as was curbside pickup and digital sales and a conservative buying plan. Additionally, a $4.5 billion refinancing initiative has enabled Macy’s to invest in the business and retire some debt. Jeff’s prediction is that digital will be at the forefront of their omnichannel strategy.  In light of the COVID-19 health pandemic, Gennette instituted Klama, the buy-now-pay-later installment plan, to make buying decisions easier for his customers.  The Macy’s mandate is to have the best curated content from the big brands they buy from as well as exclusive content. The private brand collection is anticipated to grow 5%, up from the 20% they’ve seen historically.

Morgan’s next pick was in the digital space. Revolve is a popular shopping app that trades as RVLV (the Revolve Group) on the NASDAQ. Morgan’s fireside chat was with Co-CEOs Mike Karanikolas and Michael Mente. Throughout the crisis, the CEOs’ strategy has been to keep inventory lean and to act nimbly responding to data provided by their fans on social media throughout the COVID-19 crisis. They listened to their clients’ changing needs and pivoted their focus from dresses to loungewear and separates, especially tops, as many of their clients are now working at home and are only seen from the waist up on zoom meetings. Revolve has committed to continuing to rely on their data-driven approach to inventory management and to adjusting inventory for changing consumer demand as needed.

Morgan’s last pick was in the discount sales space. TJX (the TJX Companies Inc) also trades on the NASDAQ and includes the wildly popular national TJ Maxx and Home Goods chains. Morgan hosted a fireside chat and investor meeting with Scott Goldenberg, SEVP & CFO Jon Klinger and two other members of the upper management team.  Management is optimistic for 2021 and expects it will benefit from a period of “revenge buying” when consumers finally refresh their wardrobes and go back to the entertainment value of the treasure hunt TJX is so popular for.

According to our team of panelists, the coming year will be a positive one for fashion. Color and a sense of consumer positivity will manifest in an ombre pattern, with soft colors in the first half of the year. As life opens-up again, we will transition to stronger, more celebratory colors and soft clothes will continue to be popular.

Small brands will lead the way towards working in a more eco-friendly, sustainable way. Fashion Weeks will not go away. Rather, they will become more localized events and digital presentations will continue to improve and evolve. Despite the long-standing perception that department stores are slowly sinking, the news from Morgan Stanley’s analysis paints a cautiously optimistic story for retail overall in 2021.

Author Fritz Knapp may have said it best, “In fact, hope is best gained after defeat and failure, because then inner strength and toughness are produced.”

—Vivian Kelly

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