It’s that time of year again, people. Next season’s clothes have strutted their way down the fashion world’s newly digitised runways and we’re here, like an unerringly stylish friend, to guide you through the stuff you should be wearing when it eventually hits the shops.
It’s been a strange year, to say the least, and it’s a state of affairs that has had a direct impact on the clothes designers are choosing to show and, in turn, the pieces customers are buying. The result? A newly casual focus at brands such as Prada, Fendi and Zegna, and collections that – as a consequence – are more intriguing than ever before.
The truth remains, however, that whatever happens in the months to come, buying beautifully made clothes that you’ll want to wear forever (we’re looking at you, knitted jacquard one-piece from Prada) will always make you feel better about the world.
1. Red alert
From left: Casablanca, Isabel Marant, ERL, Canali, Alyx, Louis Vuitton, Wooyoungmi, Etudes, Jil Sander, Wales Bonner, Ermenegildo Zegna
Flashes of red have been making a splash on the runways of London, Paris and Milan for some time now, but for AW21 the trend has gone full tilt. Perhaps it was due to the fact that designers were desperate to catch our attention as we watched the season’s shows through our laptop screens or maybe it’s because we’re all in need of some colour right now. Either way, next winter is very much about making a sartorial splash with shades of scarlet, vermillion and cherry. The key to getting the look right is to pick one bright item and keep everything else neutral. At Alyx, designer Matthew Williams showed lipstick red bomber jackets; at Louis Vuitton and ERL, it was all about shocking red greatcoats; while at Jil Sander and Casablanca, coral red tailoring was the thing.
2. Skirts and tunics and kilts, oh my!
From left: Dries Van Noten, Homme Plissé Issey Miyake, Louis Vuitton, JW Anderson, Wales Bonner
This season, the world’s most prominent menswear designers have put skirts, kilts, tunics and tubular tabards at the centre of their AW21 collections. At Louis Vuitton, Virgil Abloh sent out a series of models wearing A-line kilted skirts over trousers, while at JW Anderson, pleated frocks for men rubbed hems with oversized jodhpurs. At Dries Van Noten and Wales Bonner, oversized smock shirts were worn in the style of column tunics and at Homme Plissé Issey Miyake, trousers were cut so wide they did the job of maxi dresses.
When it comes to wearing your own skirt, kilt or tunic, we recommend opting for something that sits just below the knee, finished with a pleat for added texture. And, given it’s winter, you’re probably best opting for a style cut from wool, cashmere or tweed. Things are liable to get a bit breezy down there, after all.
3. Knitted polos a-go-go
From left: Ermenegildo Zegna, Hermès, Jil Sander, Isabel Marant, Prada
There was barely a designer who chose to show a classic poplin shirt this season, for the fairly obvious reason that we’re unlikely to have anywhere to wear anything so starchy any time soon. The solution, as alighted on by a wide array of the biggest brands that showed, came in the form of spongy knitted polo shirts. Featuring all the requisite elements of a classic shirt (point collars, plackets, buttons) with none of the crinkly discomfort, the best could be found in heavy gauge cashmeres and bright shades at Jil Sander and Prada, and in softer lighter constructions (but with no less colour and verve) at Fendi and Hermès.
4. The rise of day spa chic
From left: Ermenegildo Zegna, Louis Vuitton, Jil Sander, Fendi, Ermenegildo Zegna, Louis Vuitton
It should perhaps come as little surprise that some of the smarter designers chose to lean in fully to our current collective living and working at home situation this season, with many highlighting wraparound takes on traditional tailored items. At Ermenegildo Zegna, creative director Alessandro Sartori dedicated his entire collection to the elegance of the dressing gown, showing belted coats and blazers cut lining-free, from soft knitted fabrics; at Fendi, Maria Grazia Chiuri presented dressing gown-esque coats cut from quilted materials; and at Louis Vuitton, Abloh showed what looked like actual dressing gowns worn out onto the runway by models holding cups of coffee and LV-branded newspapers. Our kingdom for a spa weekend.
5. Posh wellies just got posher
From left: MSGM, GMBH, Dior, Wooyoungmi, Dries Van Noten, Loewe, Jil Sander, Tod’s
Expensive takes on classic wellington boots were big news for Autumn/Winter 2020 and they’ll be back with a splash next season too. At Tod’s, nascent(ish) creative director Walter Chiapponi showed a very literal take on a classic gumboot, which looked like something Princess Anne would have fun stomping around Gatcombe Park in, while elsewhere – at Jil Sander and Dior, specifically – the look was altogether sleeker, with lace-up styles at the former and boots finished with military-slim shafts at the former. The key to wearing this new breed of wellington boot is to keep your silhouette slim at the bottom and voluminous on top. That means tucking your trousers in and going all out in the overcoat department. Which brings us neatly onto…
6. The return of the trench coat
From left: Ermenegildo Zegna, Dries Van Noten, Fendi, Louis Vuitton
Of course, trench coats are nothing new – indeed the Spring/Summer 2021 collections featured a proliferation of souped-up takes on the classic outerwear shape. For Autumn/Winter 2021, however, it’s about going back to basics. Think voluminous rain coats cut from classic gabardine lined with jazzy prints and finished with all the requisite flaps and buckles – as per the original trench coats worn by military officers. The best of next season’s trenches can be found at Louis Vuitton, where Virgil Abloh showed his extra-oversized, Dries Van Noten and Fendi. Though if in doubt, head to Burberry and be done with it.
7. The 1990s called. It wants its sweater vests back
From left: Etro, Fendi, MSGM, Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Wales Bonner, A-Cold-Wall*, Homme Plissé Issey Miyake
Part-latter seasons Ross from Friends, part-Wallace of Wallace & Gromit fame, knitted sweater vests with a clunky wartime appeal (think lockdown-chic circa the flu pandemic of 1918) are massive news for Autumn/Winter 2021. From the natty Fair Isle-inspired pieces worn with contrasting sweaters and polo shirts at Hermès and Wales Bonner to the more modern takes at A-Cold-Wall*, Jil Sander and Prada (where, in our opinion, the best could be found), when it comes to wearing your own sweater vest next winter, our advice is to lean in to the grandad vibes, because the likelihood is we’re going to be equally as housebound then as we are now (sobs) and comfort will still be key.
8. Suits, but not as you know them
From left: Homme Plissé Issey Miyake, Louis Vuitton, Ermenegildo Zegna, GMBH, Wooyoungmi, Dior, OAMC, Prada, Paul Smith, Casablanca
Most designers forewent classic tailoring this season (no one needs a double-breasted work suit when working from the sofa), but many did decide to show one form of two-piece or another better suited to lockdown life. Enter the non-suit. Defined by a matching top and bottom cut from tailoring fabrics and devoid of restrictive padding, canvasing and traditional lapels (there was, in fact, a Maoist charm to many of them), the best could be found cut from sharkskin at Prada and Paul Smith, in spongy double-faced wool at Jil Sander and, of course, in deliciously pleated poly-blend at the brand that mastered the non-suit long before anyone else, Homme Plissé Issey Miyake.
9. Tough-ass leather
From left: Loewe, Casablanca, Prada, Fendi, GMBH
A hard world requires hard outerwear, which is perhaps why the vast majority of the biggest menswear designers chose to cut their most tautly tailored overcoats this season from heavy-duty leather. From the oversized options at GMBH and Loewe, to the 1970s-inspired styles at Casablanca and Paul Smith – not forgetting the delicious lacquered number, with requisite statement buttons, at Prada – next season, if you’re not wearing leather, you’re not coming in (which is fine really, as all that animal hide will keep you warm well into the wee hours).
10. Salopettes in the city
From left: ERL, Dries Van Noten, Fendi, MSGM, Wooyoungmi
It’s unlikely many of us will be able to go skiing this spring (fingers crossed for next), but that doesn’t mean you can’t still dress like you’re out on the slopes when you’re in the city, particularly if you’re indulging in a little faux après over Zoom this lockdown – virtual fondue party, anyone? Enter the new breed of ultra-padded, down-filled worker trousers, designed specifically with extra-cold weather in mind. The best in show could be found at Fendi, Dries Van Noten and ERL.
11. Party pyjamas
From left: ERL, Dior, Dries Van Noten, Études, Fendi, A-Cold-Wall*, Prada
Just as some of the cleverer brands have introduced People’s Republic-inspired non-suits for Autumn/Winter 2021 – ready and waiting for those more formal Zoom meetings – a host of other brands have reimagined the humble pyjama in sexed-up hues and slinky fabrics. At Dior, the piped military suits in mohair had a sleepwear-infused appeal, while at A-Cold-Wall*, ERL and Prada, knitted two-pieces, onesies and long johns looked like just the thing to hunker down in until lockdown is done.
12. Teeny tiny man bags
From left: Etro, A-Cold-Wall*, Fendi, Wooyoungmi, OAMC, Homme Plissé Issey Miyake
Sure, massive suitcases and trendy briefcases were great when the world was open for business, but these days, when the most exciting trip we’re likely to make all week is to the local corner shop, we’re far more in need of practical accessories designed for carrying only the basic essentials. It’s a point that the world’s menswear designers have noted for AW21, with most brands sending out at least one or two models adorned with teeny-tiny bags worn around their necks and across their bodies. From the cross-body pillboxes at OAMC and Wooyoungmi to phone carriers worn like necklaces at Italian brands Etro and Fendi, it’s a new breed of high-function life gear that’s perfectly proportioned to hold not only our essential electronics, but our face masks and hand sanitisers too.
13. Rollnecks. For winter. Groundbreaking
From left: Dior, Brunello Cucinelli, Dior, Wooyoungmi, Fendi, Etro, Hermès, Canali, Jil Sander, OAMC
Sure, rollnecks are nothing new, but for Autumn/Winter 2021 it’s less about the garment itself and more about how you wear it. The key to getting the look right is to layer with abandon, as demonstrated at Jil Sander, where chunky turtlenecks were worn beneath tonal knitted shirts and bonded overcoats in contrasted patterns, at Prada, where neutral rollnecks were worn beneath chunky polo shirts and jacquard body stockings, and at Korean label Wooyoungmi, where slouchy fine-gauge funnelneck sweaters, in shades of periwinkle and plum, were worn with overcoats and jackets in just-complementary hues.
14. Statement sweaters FTW
From left: Etro, Casablanca, Dior, Hermès, Loewe, Tod’s, Prada, Canali
We’re all wearing daggy sweatshirts and roomy jumpers with perhaps more regularity than we would like right now. It’s a state of affairs that means we need to start imbuing said garments with a new sense of brightness, boldness and fun, in order to keep our spirits (and, importantly, the spirits of those around us) up. Introducing the new breed of statement sweater. From the Matisse-style primary colour prints on cashmere sweaters at Hermès, to the mohair crewnecks that feature Peter Doig prints at Dior, the options are many and the mood is upbeat, so don’t get left out in the cold.
15. Cold out, legs out
From left: Dries Van Noten, A-Cold-Wall*, Etro, Loewe, Fendi, MSGM
Usually the preserve of summer collections and, well, summer collections only, a wide array of Bermuda-style shorts cut in wintry fabrics made surprise appearances on the AW21 runways. Less designed to be worn with sandals and a tan, however, many of the aforementioned shorts had a plus fours vibe about them and looked as ready for a day out stalking as they did a day on the beach. From the rich leather shorts at Fendi that looked like something the Queen might wear to Balmoral if she was feeling particularly fancy, to the grey cashmere house shorts shown at Dries Van Noten, next winter is all about getting your legs out, yes, but keeping the rest of yourself warm while doing so. If in doubt think 1990s rugby dad on the sidelines.
16. Dressing like a Werther’s Original
From left: Etro, Etudes, Fendi, Wooyoungmi, Louis Vuitton, Loewe, Officine Générale, Tod’s
Part inspired by the 1970s-infused mood that has been circling the world’s menswear runways for the past few seasons, part influenced – it would seem – by an old-fashioned confectionary favourite, many of the best looks from the AW21 runways came imbued with a head-to-toe caramel hue. The key look to note for this particular trend is the honeycomb-coloured corduroy worker suit shown by Walter Chiapponi at Tod’s. It’s a thing of septuagenarian-inspired beauty.
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