In a few days, the entire world will mark the first year of lockdowns, work-from-home, travel restrictions and life in sweatpants. After almost 365 days of trying to figure out how to live with quarantines, face masks, and swab tests, I imagine that stepping out without the requisite PPE would feel alien. Just the same, getting on a plane for the first real Spring holiday will probably feel a lot like a dream. Or rather, walking up from a nightmare.
While trusty sweatpants and workout gear have truly served us well, many of us wait in great anticipation for the day when we can all dress up again. Sure, we’ve all made the effort to put on a pair of heels on the few times we dined al fresco. There might have even been a time when we bling-ed out for sunset cocktails via Zoom. Among colleagues, I’ve been known to hop onto a virtual meeting in full battle gear—jewelry, dress and makeup. The bag lady that I am, I even switch up purses for the occasion. “You need to take the babies out for a spin,” said suggested accessory enthusiast whose prized Bottega boots have been sitting in the closet for over a year now.
As soon as vaccines began rolling out in early 2021, fashion girls have been slowly reorganizing their wardrobes for better days. For me, it’s not so much of a Spring clean since I like to keep a compact edit of garments that I can build on and use for years. With dressing up and sustainability in mind, this round up of style essentials are all you need for a wardrobe update. You’ll also want to start making reservations to your dream destination next.
1. THE SCARF
Individuals who know how to wear scarves have always struck me as polished, chic and eternally elegant. Think Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly. Throughout most of my life, I’ve struggled with scarves, which always made me feel that I lacked real style. In the winter, thick layers of wool or even cashmere felt overpowering especially for a girl of barely 5-feet tall. My winter scarves were worn draped awkwardly across the neck, but without the elegance we often see in editorials. I’d also often leave them in a café or restaurant along with my gloves. Warmer months always held the promise of sultry sea hair tied in a silk bandana. But even that, I couldn’t quite wing. Scarves I packed for most of my trips have always ended up stuck inside luggage or tied to handles of my purse.
A large silk scarf with art work by Alina Zamanova from LESSLESS ROBES sat in the drawer for months before I decided it should be worn. The initial plan was to frame it, seeing as the featured print is one of the most coveted in the modern art world today. “It’s probably the closest I can get to owning an Alina Zamanova artwork,” I said. On a day when none of the dresses hanging in the closet seemed to fall right, the green silk twill fabric presented itself as the chic alternative. Twisted across the bodice and tied behind the nape, it worked beautifully as dress for a day of lounging. You can also cinch it on the waist with a thin belt and pair with strappy heels and gold chains for a night out on town. I wont be framing my green scarf any day soon.
Scarf tops never fail to leave an impression. They are fun, sexy and easy while remaining classic. JUAN DE DIOS’ foulards and sarongs feature vibrant prints that are ideal for tropical escapes. Tied as an asymmetric blouse or a haltered top, it is a piece that can work well with a pair of white linen trousers or micro mini shorts. I also love how the light fabric makes it easy to twist and tie this fabric into various pieces.
2. A FEW SILK SHIRTS
You don’t need a closet full of trendy shirts to dress for the season. All you need are a few good fitting, quality shirts that will take you from day to night. This year, we’re seeing a lot of prints on trend reports, which MICU has elevated through its stunning collection of handmade satin silk tops. This Israel-based brand founded by Michal Stern and Inbar Ben Shabat, introduces a modest yet refined approach to luxury dressing, ideal not only for Spring but as transitional pieces. I love how MICU’s tops can be pared down with a pair of khakis and glammed up with jewelry and a pair of heels. They are not fashion acquisitions; they are lifestyle investments.
Having lived most of my life in a sea of black, white and gray shirts, committing to color, even on a bright, post-pandemic day may feel like a betrayal. It can also be the most liberating thing where fashion choices are concerned. Consider taking baby steps by exploring other hues within the neutral palette. A timeless earth- toned silk top from Seoul’s brand-to-know-now, DRAE, is a style staple that will empower you through the seasons. As a resort piece, wear over a maillot and cinch at the waist just in time for sunset. It is also ideal for power dressing in the city, adding sense of balance or movement to a pair of tailored pants or a pencil skirt. For a look that’s part eclectic, part nostalgic, consider pairing with f pearls, cuffed army pants and and heels.
HANNAH FIELDER’s iconic Leo Top, made of hand woven strips of silk is an investment piece to have for years on end. It looks stunning with a pair of wide leg trousers a pencil skirt or just any classic. More than just a garment, the Leo is a tribute to craft expression. Hannah explains: “For this top, over 30 strips of silk satin are torn, folded and woven into the chessboard pattern by hand. A laborious task, but worth the effort. The Leo top is cut from one single piece of fabric wrapping seamlessly around the body. With the only seams being the shoulder seams, the pattern of the weave is in its most continuous and undisturbed form.”
3. TOTES GALORE
Throughout most of 2020, tote or basket bags were the most practical choices. They are sized so that you can stuff all your essentials with ease. Unlike other designer handbags that are made of leather or exotic skins, you can disinfect your summer tote without having to worry about damage. Where aesthetics is concerned, totes give off a more nonchalant, effortless vibe, fit for resort or spring season. MEHRY MU, a Turkish brand with global cult following (that includes Busy Philips, Olivia Palermo, Suri Cruise, and Jennifer Lawrence to name a few,) super sizes the multifunctional carryall with its Terra-phy Black Raffia. It is sized so that you can pack in items for a quick weekend escape. There is also option to customize it with your name just in time for a Spring picnic. In an era of working from wherever there’s good WIFI, the Terra tote doubles as a chic mobile office for storing and transporting your laptop, tablet and files.
Inspired by Moorish architecture, bags from SANAUI’s latest collection highlight laser cut details on circle bags and totes. This beige and black tote from the Nawra series pays tribute to ancient hand carving craft, using unexpected materials and time-tested techniques. It is a wearable piece of Moroccan art in your hands.
4. FRINGE BAGS AND THE LADIES WHO LUNCH
Lunch with the girls, sans face mask and fear of the virus, is the one thing I look forward to the most in 2021. Apart from the good cheer and company, long lunches are also opportunities for taking the season’s statement bag out for a spin. This year, virtual defiles paid homage to the 70s with particular focus on flirty fringe trimming. KEENTU is a purposeful retail concept that handpicks sustainable lifestyle finds from across Africa. The brand carries an exquisite edit of handbags including leather fringe bags in soothing shades of blue, olive and red. Each bag is made of by-product cow leather witch every fringe hand cut by artisans from Nairobi, Kenya. Handles are made of recycled brass in a workshop where only five sets are made each day.
Seoul-based sustainable accessory brand, OSOI, also presents a streamlined take on the fringe bag via boxy body, adjustable straps and matte hardware. It’s what I would call Korean minimalist design with fringe benefits.
5. WALK ON WIDE SIDE
Contrary to what most believe, wide leg pants do wonders to create the illusion of long leg. When worn in with the right shoes (we’ll get to that later) and top, it can make add an easy five inches to height. Unlike skinny pants or bootleg trousers, a wide leg silhouette effects a sense of fluid movement, almost as if you were dancing with every step. A special collaboration between leading African e-comm platform INDUSTRIE AFRICA and Senegal-based label TONGORO birthed the most coveted collection wide leg trousers, jumpsuits and set for 2021.
Wide leg trousers are also every bit reminiscent of the 70s. Ukranian based sustainable denim brand KSENIA SCHNAIDER takes this up a notch by infusing patchwork details on the voluminous silhouette. The design duo behind the brand explains, “No matter your style, these reworked and refaced looks with have you ready for Spring.”
6. STRAPPED FOR STYLE
Most of us also lived in sneakers and slides as much as we did in sweats for most of 2021. If there was one key accessory that was truly missed, it would be the stiletto heel. After a long hiatus, it is finally back, but this time reincarnated into life via sexy straps. ATP ATELIER’s Manacorra in Almond is every shoe lover’s dream. Its height and wrap ankle detail work well for both trousers and dresses. What makes this a staple is that you can always rely on the Manacorra to create the illusion of long, shapely legs regardless of what palette you might be wearing.
NEOUS is perhaps the mother of barely-there sandals. Since it was launched 2015, its founder, Vanissa Antonious, has consistently been integrating a love for minimalism with shoe designs. She explains, “When I launched NEOUS, it was very much about creating something that didn’t exist. Shoes which were versatile, minimalist but with a subtle yet strong point of difference, a point of intrigue.” For 2021, new iterations of the strappy sandal like the Silka are adding spring to your step with delicious color ways like buttery Banana and Cream.
7. ICONS WEAR ROBES
The addition of a beautiful robe in your wardrobe can make a huge difference to your style repertoire. As garments typically only ever wear in the bedroom, the robe is often the last thing we think about when updating our closets. But let’s take our queue from icons of style. Maye Musk, for instance, makes a strong case for intimate wear turned sartorial with LESSLESS ROBES’s Linen Robe. It is a versatile piece that you can top over an all-white outfit or wear as a day dress for mimosas and pancakes.
Kimono robes from NILUU are striking style choices that add effortless sophistication to your Spring look. The Monroe, for instance, features vibrant prints inspired by jungle life in the most joyous color ways. All pieces from the brand are sustainably made using biodegradable, PETA-approved vegan silk. Style with a thick waist belt and strappy heels for a night of dancing or wear as a light coat over a pair of wide leg pants to channel your inner style icon. The options, really, are limitless.
In a season the celebrates all things bold and boheme, I love to find accent pieces that celebrate adventure and wanderlust. One such discovery is the TOAST. The UK-based brand that began by creating nightwear in a farmhouse in Wales has recently expanded its mindful product mix to include home wear and accessories. The brand also carries garments that celebrate craft cultures across oceans. The Katha Gown is hand embroidered by an Indian cooperative and made of repurposed saris. There are various prints to choose from, all of which are sure to illuminate your days.
8. RETURN TO RETRO
Hit shows like The Crown and Queen’s Gambit have inspired a bold and unapologetic return to retro. Since the release season 4 of The Crown launched on Netflix, we’ve been seeing polka dots, Liberty prints, large collars and tailored jackets on the runways. SIMPLE RETRO is a current favorite for ethically-made, vintage-inspired finds . The team details, “Our mission is to make every piece in our collection timeless and beyond seasonal trends. Our inspiration ranges from 1950s Christian Dior New Look to 1980s boxy jackets.”
For a chic edit of puffed sleeves, bold shoulder and outsized collars ala Princess Di, ET TIGRE’s Faithe Tops are chic options. They are utterly adorable when worn with a pair of cigarette pants or for something more true to era, a mid length pleated skirt.
Queen’s Gambit is one of those shows were the clothes are just as much a lead as the actors. It’s the kind that I’ve watched several times over just so I can review which outfits I liked best on Anya Taylor-Joy. Pieces from the most recent CINQ A SEPT presentation waxed nostalgia on power dresses and suits that I’d love to don for a fashion checkmate. SOCIAL WORK, a New York-based ethical fashion brand, interpreted retro redux with a collection of patchwork pieces that were equal parts country club and Ivy League.
9. MINIMALISM IS STILL MAJOR
Although the show stopping presentations for Spring were all about color and print, minimalism remains a constant. Sure, could all use a pop of color and print, but the well-dressed will never forgo the basics. It’s come to my attention just recently that Korea is not only amazing at skincare, producing pop stars and hit movies. It appears, they also know how to create pristinely tailored clothes. By this I am talking about seams that are impeccable inside and out, you can barely tell one from the other. Fit and sizing is flawless to a point where it can easily be compared to a tailor-made piece.
A white coat from BLOSSOM was the first key piece recently added to my Spring wardrobe. It is something that I can style in a variety of ways—dressed up with jewelry and heels, or casual over a pair of jeans. Garments that serve as the wearer’s own canvas capture the very essence of the beloved Korean brand. This season, the label presents a collection of “desk-to-seaside looks, designed to embrace a woman’s individual style.”
10. HAUTE FOR HATS
Despite its many shapes, sizes and form, fashion is, at its core, fun. If you can’t find the enjoyment in getting dressed each day, then you are not experiencing fashion. Unexpected accessories are additions that tell volumes about the wearer. Hats, for instance are time-honored pieces that have rightfully earned its place in this season’s wardrobe. WALLAROO Founder Stephanie Carter explains, “Wide brimmed hats with a fedora shaped crown have been very popular and continue to gain traction. We have also seen a movement towards packable straw hats with wide brims.”
Not everyone is confident enough to step out in a hat. I am, admittedly, one of those gals who struggle with wearing hats especially when it’s not at the beach or up in the mountains. Stephanie advises, “If you’re just beginning to wear hats, focus on key styles like wide brim floppy hats, bucket hats or fedoras—all of which are easy to wear and can fit seamlessly into any wardrobe.”