Now that we are all thoroughly aware of our planet’s fragility, sustainability’s time has to be now — we’re steaming towards a future where fast fashion indulgences will be rationed. With consumers more anxiety-stricken than ever before, hygiene and space plays into how goods are presented, and even impacts the type of products we will want to buy in the year ahead. Products that incorporate pandemic functionality will do well.
On the brand side, we have all seen the critical importance of tighter inventory control in the past year. A tight, well-targeted assortment carries less risk. Brands are going to need to get hyper-smart at listening to their customers and analysing the data behind what sells. From there, brands need the ability to go direct to consumer, safeguarding against lockdowns and reduced foot traffic. To do this, in 2021, we’ll see more brands leveraging the new platforms, embracing TikTok and experimenting with augmented and virtual reality.
Here are six brands that showcase timely, consumer-aware behaviours, the sorts of characteristics that will be red hot in 2021. Some were born of the past 12 months; others will capitalise on the consumer climate.
This California-based brand is making sunglasses with a difference by enlisting lens manufacturer Zeiss to create a mood-altering halochrome lens. They come in four colours, each with a different property: green for relaxing, yellow for focus, red for energy and blue for a refresh. Founded by a former Airbnb marketer, the beauty is in the details. Each pair of glasses comes packaged with incense, a mood-enhancing Spotify playlist and a Tarot-esque card detailing the glasses’ properties. As the brand’s trippily designed website attests, this really is the first frontier for the ‘wearable drugs’ market. It’s a hugely exciting and very cool space.
Canadian brand Scruncheroo sells a microfiber hair scrunchie that doubles as a screen/glass cleaner. The brand’s tagline “We make products for productive people” is on-the-money and proof that they understand their target gen Z market well. At US$32 for two scrunchies, the product is simple and the range small, but the brand’s aesthetic perfectly taps into the zeitgeist. Its website is colourful, emoji-laden and the brand tone is youthful. Although the brand is yet to tackle TikTok, they’re ripe for it.
This accessories brand, founded in 2018 by Italian twin sisters, has been on every European influencer’s hit list since 2019, but this year will see Medea strike global popularity. According to Lyst’s Fashion Brand Index, searches for the brand are up 40 per cent. The product offering focuses on leather versions of the classic shopping bag, run across colourways and sold in sizes micro through to XXL, tapping into social trends. Collaborations with photographer Nan Goldin, artist Judith Bernstein and singer-songwriter Dev Hynes (aka Blood Orange) create buzzy content opportunities.
Another lifestyle brand with a big mission statement, but one that is more akin to a tech startup ethos: “We make tools for exploration.” That currently translates as heritage footwear for a new generation. And who is that generation according to Season Three? There are visual cues aplenty here: hiking boots are styled on a desk in front of an Apple computer, a millennial-esque cactus and a reusable drink bottle.
The brand will be a success because at the core are 2021-proofed values. It talks about gender and racial equality, LGBTQIA+ rights, climate change and fair labour. There is just one shoe style on offer across all colourways and fabrications at the moment, alongside totes, tees and notebooks, but stay tuned. And look out for other brands emerging this year that take timeless products and repackage them for the next wave of consumers. Maybe there is even a gap in your market?
Stockholm-based Rave Review launched its first collection in 2017, and three short years later was chosen to be a part of the Gucci Film Fest. The brand’s maximalist aesthetic utilises sustainable materials and upcycling techniques, splicing haphazard prints in shirt dresses, shackets and oversized coats.
Rave Review joins a host of new designers embracing deadstock fabrics and upcycled materials in high-end remakes. London-based LVMH prize winner Chopova Lowena, who fuses Bulgarian crafts with a punk vibe, and Priya Ahluwalia, the founder of Ahluwalia, looks to her Indian-Nigerian roots in her ethically manufactured, deadstock mash-up menswear.
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This South Korean menswear brand specialises in high-concept deconstructed garments at the cutting edge of cool. Highly technical, often asymmetric and futuristic in fabrication, this is the new streetwear. The brand divides its offering up into garment series, with the more conservative ‘RIGHT’ series, ‘CENTER’ and the more avant-garde ‘LEFT’. Following PAF’s first time showing at Paris Fashion Week in 2019, global eyeballs are now firmly on this brand. In 2021, the brand will introduce womenswear, and hopes to extend its offering into tools and furniture, too. Look out, world.
We’re not out of the woods, but the innovation happening across the fashion industry gives great hope for better times ahead. Keep tabs on these six through the year: look out for the ways they’re talking to their customers, the types of new products they introduce and how they launch them.