Trends 2021 - Fashion

Trends 2021 - Fashion

At the end of 2020, together with our Culture + Trends team, we looked at how the exceptionally bizarre 2020 would affect consumers in 2021. Based on our model of 7 universal human drivers to maximize happiness, we conducted qualitative and quantitative research with leading-edge and everyday consumers in 16 markets worldwide. In this series of articles, I will deep-dive into a selection of sectors to showcase which trends are strongly manifesting and how to leverage these for your brand. This week, the Fashion industry.

Generation Z combines style, creativity and craft with a frugal and sustainable appreciation of all things second-hand. This quickly led to a very strong growth of so-called ‘re-commerce’ platforms such as Vinted, Depop and ThredUp.

The creation culture

With the increasing desire for individuality and the growing importance of sustainability, DIY formats are booming. Gen Z often gets its inspiration in both style and creation on TikTok or Instagram. There’s the #cardiganchallenge, a DIY challenge which quickly became mega-popular. During his much appreciated appearance on The Tonight Show, youth icon Harry Styles wore a colorful block-pattern cardigan. As the garment prompted more than 40 million TikTok users to ‘talk’ about it, getting many of them to start knitting one themselves, Jonathan Anderson, the designer of the original £1,250 item, decided to simply share the knitting instructions online. This is a great example of how even fashion brands are no longer dictating collections but have to increasingly leave the control in the consumers’ hands.

Jewelry brand WALD offers a wide range of pearls, beads and threads for customers to make their own unique creations. Together with Depop, sustainable fashion brand Raeburn shared free materials and patterns of a reversible hat in exchange for a social media post. While battling with burnout, Dutchman Tijs Van Impe discovered a new talent; his personalized hand-painted Nike Airs are now selling at some €500 a pair.

Go with the (virtual) flow

Consumers are craving a slowness that allows them to achieve ‘flow‘, to escape the daily grind. Brands can offer both online and offline experiences that help consumers connect in new ways, allowing them to focus entirely on ‘the now‘. The unique designs by virtual fashion house The Fabricant exist digitally only; they use 3D modeling software to create outfits for customers’ avatars, which they can ‘wear’ in digital environments (social media, games…). Gucci designed an exclusive virtual tennis collection for avatars in the mobile game Tennis Clash.


Brands can play an important role by identifying social stigmas, explaining them, and tackling them. Social norms and the status quo are challenged, with real-life storytelling and visually raw and strong campaigns.

Chinese premium lingerie brand Neiwai celebrates the diversity of the female body in all its shapes and sizes to combat the narrow-minded cultural expectations. The Nike Go FlyEase is the first shoe that you can put on completely hands-free by using the other foot to apply pressure on the heel – mimicking the unconscious movement made by many when taking off their shoes. The sneaker was designed initially for people with disabilities, but Nike quickly realized that the same technology could also help heavily pregnant women and, by extension, anyone that wants to put on shoes easily and quickly.

Underground activism

Patagonia – sustainable brand, aiming to counter the climate crisis – used the back of its clothing labels to spread the unmistakable ‘underground’ message ‘Vote the Assholes Out’ in the run-up to the US presidential election. Although they didn’t broadcast it themselves, CNN and Vogue quickly picked up on the photos shared by customers on their social media.

And finally, skate brand Vans created a strong idea during the pandemic that capitalized on activism, local support and the culture of creation. Their ‘Foot the Bill’ campaign let their fans create and sell their own designs online, to then donate the proceeds (a total of $4 million) to the local skate shop, store or restaurant of their choice.

Wish to learn more about these and other consumer trends? Get your free download of our 2021 global trend report!

2022 Consumer Trends Report

2022 Consumer Trends report

As experts in people-centric future thinking, we identified 10 consumer trends for 2022, and we validated these with 15,000 consumers in 17 markets around the globe. This report shows the emerging trends that are shaping the 2022 consumer.

More info

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