The 13 Fashion News Stories That Defined 2021
It’s time for a stroll down memory lane! Here are the moments that shocked, saddened, delighted, and excited us in 2021:
Jill Biden and Kamala Harris spotlight young designers on Inauguration Day
With all eyes on the incoming administration, First Lady Jill Biden and history-making Vice President Kamala Harris both opted to shine a global spotlight on next-gen American designers. The First Lady wore a teal embroidered coat and dress set by New York-based Markarian, helmed by Ali O’Neill. Ahead of Inauguration Day, Vice President Harris chose a custom camel coat by Louisiana-native Christopher John Rogers, followed by a regal purple two-piece coat and dress by Sergio Hudson—both Black designers. Brava!
Kim Jones calls in the help of Demi Moore et al for his Fendi debut
As he took the reigns at Fendi—stepping into the permanent role left vacant since Karl Lagerfeld’s passing—Kim Jones was tasked with not only putting his mark on the historic house, but proving to the industry that he could handle womenswear with the same mastery as he does menswear. His first outing for the house was Haute Couture Spring Summer ’21; a Bloomsbury set-inspired offering with oil slick metallic gowns and marbled silks, mosaic fur, cascading sheer capes, and a star-studded cast to boot.
Alber Elbaz dies & the industry mourns an icon
On April 24, the sudden death of Alber Elbaz over complications related to COVID sent shockwaves through the world. The beloved Moroccan-born Israeli designer, who held creative director roles at Yves Saint Laurent and Lanvin before beginning to launch AZ Factory, was just 59-years-old. Several months later, AZ Factory hosted an emotive tribute to Elbaz to close out Paris Fashion Week, with the world’s leading fashion labels all taking part to pay their respects.
Gucci and Balenciaga ‘hack’ each other
Celebrating the house’s centenary, Gucci’s Alessandro Michele marked the milestone moment by a megalithic meeting of brands during his Aria collection debut. Before we realized that 2021 would truly be the year of fashion collaborations, Gucci and Balenciaga took part in what they called a ‘hacking lab’—subverting and swapping each other’s most instantly-recognizable brand codes. Read the Aria show review here.
Halston hits screens
For a minute in May, the fashion world was once again transported to the heyday of Studio 54, as Ryan Murphy put his lens on iconic late American designer, Roy Halston. In the limited series for Netflix, viewers got a fly-on-the-wall view of the troubled talent and his relationships with muses Elsa Peretti (who sadly passed away in March), Liza Minnelli, and his turbulent on-again/off-again boyfriend Victor Hugo. It’s no coincidence that disco-ready pieces and ’70s beauty trends started to trend once the show dropped, in time with the world’s gradual return to normality as vaccines became readily available.
Pyer Moss’ Kerby Jean-Raymond is the first Black designer invited to show a couture collection
It might have taken two attempts, as an unimaginable downpour made the first outing impossible, but Haitian American Kerby Jean-Raymond was eventually blessed with sunshine on a July Saturday in the grounds of the historic Villa Lewaro in Irvington to showcase his inaugural couture collection. Jean-Raymond is the first Black American designer to be officially invited to show Haute Couture by the Parisian body, Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode. The show was kicked off by a rousing speech from Elaine Brown, the only woman leader of the Black Panthers, as a crowd of editors and those who won tickets online gathered to witness the collection inspired by creations of Black inventors. Read the full review here.
Victoria’s Secret turns its back on the past with new rebrand
In June, the artist formerly known as Victoria’s Secret rebranded into what’s now known as VS Collective. No longer would the brand endorse models as ‘Angels’—rather, a diverse cast of thought leaders, entertainment figures, advocates, and activists would serve as spokespeople and campaign stars. To cement its new identity, the VS Collective podcast was introduced, hosted by Amanda De Cadenet, featuring a member with a purposeful mission in each episode. The change was enough to entice Bella Hadid back to the fold, and supermodel Hailey Bieber also jumped on board.
As September rolled around, the inimitable buzz of NYFW finally returned after two predominantly virtual seasons. The excitement was heightened by the likes of Thom Browne, Rodarte, Tom Ford, and Peter Dundas showcasing their wares in the Big Apple. The event also coincided with the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks—giving designers the welcome opportunity to present their odes and love letters to the resilience of New York City. Our other major takeaways? TikTok stars have made their way to the front row and diversity and inclusivity is at an all-time high on the NY runways. In fact, a report found that plus size representation at NYFW was up 366%. We love to see it!
Chloé becomes the first major luxury brand to receive B Corp certification
Under Gabriela Hearst, Chloé began its journey towards a purpose-driven model in June 2020, and in October 2021, it was recognized with a B Corp Certification—making it the first luxury brand to achieve the status. Thanks to Hearst, the house has implemented a sustainability board, developed a transparent roadmap to sustainability, transitioned to lower impact materials, increased partnerships with Fair Trade-certified social enterprises, and launched a volunteer program, among other initiatives. Conscious and chic!
Skims x Fendi
Gone are the days when the only fashion collaboration on the tip of everyone’s tongues were the regular H&M x designer capsules! This year, it seemed like everyone from Crocs to Tiffany’s was getting in on the collab game, but no rumor broke the internet as much as Skims x Fendi. Coming hot on the heels of Fendi and Versace’s ‘design off’ outing during Milan Fashion Week, Kim Jones and Kim Kardashian West put their heads together to create a capsule of co-branded shapewear, underwear, and body-conscious silhouettes retailing from budget friendly options to $4,000 leather dresses. It was reported that the launch made $1 million in sales in the first minute alone. Who knows what collaborations 2022 will bring, but our prediction is: a lot of them!
Gucci Love Parade
It was a case of ‘Once Upon A Time In Hollywood…’ as Alessando Michele shut down Hollywood Boulevard for an all-out extravaganza. Presenting his film-themed Love Parade collection, the designer not only welcomed a star-studded audience (including Gwyneth Paltrow in the updated version of her infamous Tom Ford-designed red velvet tux), but also to the runway too. Among those storming the street were Jared Leto, Jodie Turner Smith, and, umm, Macaulay Culkin! Read the full review here.
Daniel Lee leaves Bottega Veneta
Mere weeks after taking Bottega Veneta on the road to Detroit for Salon 03, Daniel Lee exited the brand. His successor, Matthieu Blazy, will present his first collection in Milan during the upcoming show schedule. In the meantime, here are some CliffsNotes on the incoming designer: a graduate of La Cambre in Brussels, he’s an alum of Ghesquière-era Balenciga, Galliano-era Margiela, and Simons-era Dior. Oh, and his life partner is Alaia’s Pieter Mulier. Watch this space!
Virgil Abloh loses cancer battle aged 41
Undoubtedly the biggest shock headline of the year came with the announcement of Virgil Abloh’s untimely passing on November 28. The Louis Vuitton menswear designer and Off-White founder had opted to keep his cancer battle private. The trailblazing and barrier-breaking talent—the first African American man to be named artistic director at a French luxury house—is fondly remembered for putting streetwear and zeitgeisty collaborations on the map, as well as his innate ability to mirror pop culture moments in his genre-defining work. A week after his death, his last menswear collection for Louis Vuitton was showcased in Miami during Art Basel. At the finale, the sky lit up with the emotive words, Virgil Was Here. RIP.