To put it plainly, last season’s collections were cautiously optimistic. Designers stuck to basic silhouettes and a serene color palette of soothing powder blues, sage greens, and mellow corals for the most part. The result was like the Calm app in clothing form: a comforting sartorial message of hope amid a (very) turbulent year.
And for the fall/winter 2021 season, that hope remains a constant with classic, muted shades like soft grays (as chic suiting at Vetements) and frosty pale pinks (as a bejeweled dress at Erdem). But the most startling difference this go-around is the blatant, unadulterated joy in the pieces, which manifested in bolts of brilliant yellows, fiery reds, and fuchsia — colors so fiercely bold and feminine, they could almost be seen as an affront to the sweats we’ve been living in for the past year. Perhaps that’s the point: to remind us of clothes from the Before Times, like a trio of hot pink gowns from Prabal Gurung or a delicate pleated dress by Victoria Beckham in siren red.
Still, we’re not out of the woods just yet. In an act of restraint, designers, including Kim Jones of Fendi, Gabriela Hearst, and Collina Strada, chose to firmly root their collections in reality via monochromatic looks in colors that literally remind us of the ground: rich dark browns that look like soil (Pantone cleverly coined this shade “root beer” brown) and reddish-browns that resemble adobe clay. The delicate balance between practical hues and lively brights can be best summed up by Leatrice Eisemen, the executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, when the colors of 2021 were chosen: “The union of an enduring Ultimate Gray with the vibrant yellow Illuminating expresses a message of positivity supported by fortitude. Practical and rock-solid but at the same time warming and optimistic, this is a color combination that gives us resilience and hope.”
Read on to see the top colors for fall/winter 2021.