Another year is coming to an end, and 2021 really made its mark on the industry. From farewells to new beginnings, from launches to anniversaries, here’s a look at the highlights of the year.
Goodbye to the greats
2021 was a year in which we lost some of the greatest minds of the fashion industry. At the beginning of the year, the world learned that Fred Segal, one of the most important players in the retail industry, passed away at the age of 83. Then, in March, we said goodbye to the iconic Elsa Peretti, Halston’s muse, who became a jewelry designer for Tiffany & Co. The celebrated couturier Alber Elbaz, who positioned Lanvin as one of the most chic and jovial brands in the world, passed away on April 25. On November 28, the world was shocked when LVMH announced that Virgil Abloh, Artistic Director of Louis Vuitton’s menswear line and founder of Off-White, had passed away after a long battle with cancer. And finally, last Thursday, December 23, the iconoclast and writer Joan Didion died at the age of 86. Yes, this was a year in which we lost great men and women, and the names on this list are just a few. They all leave behind a legacy and their special mark on the world, in which they showed us their talent, broke the rules, and marched to the beat of their own drum.
A year for collaboration
Every year brands come together to launch capsule collections that combine the DNA of two brands in a single product. But 2021 was marked by collaborations that came out of nowhere—the kind you didn’t know you needed until you saw them. There were projects that really surprised us, like the “Hacker Project” from Balenciaga and Gucci, in which the logos of each brand were intertwined in pieces that are sure to become collectibles. Then, there was the “Fendace” runway, in which Donatella Versace and Kim Jones swapped places and reinterpreted Versace and Fendi, respectively, under their own vision. Jewelry giants also engaged in conversations with urban brands thanks to Tiffany & Co. and its collaboration with Supreme, cementing, once again, the place of streetwear in the world of luxury. Then, there were some wacky, creative collaborations like Gucci with Xbox, Fendi X Skims, Yeezy GAP, Crocs for Balenciaga, and Simone Rocha x H&M, to name a few. Love it or hate it, one thing is for sure: 2021 was the year of collaborations.
Two great brands turned 100. First, let’s talk about Gucci. The Italian brand celebrated 100 years with the launch of the “Gucci Aria” collection and an exhibition entitled “Gucci Garden Archetypes” in Florence, which explored the history of the Italian brand through the different creative visions of the designers who’ve led it. Then, there was the capsule collection, “Gucci 100th Anniversary,” with garments, bags, shoes, and accessories that paid homage to the past and present of the Italian company, and finally, they wrapped things up with a Hollywood-glamour-inspired show in Los Angeles full of celebrities. Chanel also celebrated 100 years since the launch of its legendary perfume No. 5. As part of the celebration, various events were held around the world such as dinners, parties, and exhibitions. One of the most memorable was in New York City, where Rockefeller Center was transformed to represent the iconic shape of the No. 5 bottle, and the perfume logo was on the ice rink. Another of the most impressive events for this 100-year celebration took place at Art Basel Miami, in the form of a drone light show that displayed famous elements of the French brand and its famous perfume. Both Chanel and Gucci showed us that when you reach a milestone like a centennial, you need to celebrate in a big way.
This year, after many months of confinement and virtual shows, the catwalks made their triumphant return. From New York to Paris and Milan and London, Fashion Week was held in person again. First, we saw a return to “normal” with the Fall 22 Haute Couture catwalks in July in the City of Light. Then events, shows, catwalks, and parties marked the triumphant return of Fashion Week internationally in September. With health restrictions and safety measures in place, fashionistas traveled during the month of October to see the designers’ Spring 22 collections. Of course, pre-pandemic and post-pandemic Fashion Week are two different things–the guest-lists are tighter, for example–but the shows themselves were as great as ever. Some brands continued to opt for digital formats, showing that the future of Fashion Week is hybrid.
New players and unexpected departures–2021 also surprised us with some changes at the helms of fashion and luxury brands. At the beginning of the year, Paul Andrew stepped down as the Creative Director of Salvatore Ferragamo after two years in which he managed to shake up and modernize the DNA of the legendary Italian fashion house. A few months later, in July–to the pleasant surprise of many fashionistas–Phoebe Philo announced her plan to launch a collection under a new brand, a project she has been working on since 2006. After a long wait, Balenciaga, under the creative direction of Demna, returned to the Haute Couture calendar with a collection that won over the world and paid tribute to the famous fashion house. After a successful show in Detroit, Bottega Veneta announced the departure of Daniel Lee, despite the fact that the Italian brand became one of the most successful in recent years under his vision. Days later, they confirmed that French designer Mattieu Blazy would take the reins of the brand. Finally, in December the co-founder and CEO of Vetements, Guram Gvasalia, would assume the position of Creative Director. The forecast for the luxury industry? Winds of change. There are still some empty seats (Louis Vuitton and Ferragamo) but the future promises to be one full of creative collections.