Innovations That Matter

2021 Forecast: 7 Fashion and Beauty Trends to Look For

We expect to see a mix of trends that have manifested in response to COVID and brand new approaches that were already emerging as technology evolves.

The pandemic has created changes in almost every industry, with fashion and beauty being no exception as consumers turn to online ordering in unprecedented numbers. 

The fashion and beauty trends we expect to see in 2021 are a mix of trends that have manifested as the world responds to COVID-19 and brand new approaches that were already accelerating as technology evolved – such as live streaming sales, social e-commerce and the use of virtual and augmented reality.

In parallel, as CO2 emissions have gone up again after going down during lockdown, we have seen how brands have already started to respond with greater incentives to reduce our impact on the environment. 

With this in mind, here are the top seven fashion and beauty trends set to gain momentum in 2021’s post-covid world.

1. Live-streamed shows and influencers

Live-streaming has allowed brands to shift sales online but also design new product concepts. In Spain, bridal company Pronovias launched the first digital showroom in the industry and in Paris, Lanvin utilised virtual reality and streaming technologies to put on a cloud fashion show. The brand also invited fashion bloggers and boyband UNINE’s Jiayi (嘉羿) to live stream the show’s behind-the-scenes action under the hashtag #lanvin云秀场 (#lanvinCloudBasedRunway), resulting in over 5 million views.

As more people eschew physical stores for online shopping, live-streaming is also merging with another trend – preprogrammed, 3D computer-generated models that use motion graphics to live-stream. A growing number of eCommerce platforms and brands are using virtual anime idols to attract a younger generation of shoppers. In April, popular virtual singer Luo Tianyi, who has almost 4.6 million followers on Weibo, co-hosted a live-streaming campaign on Taobao, alongside one of China’s most influential live-streamers, Li Jiaqi. 

Credit: Katrina Lane

2. Virtual shopping and ‘try-ons’

Whilst already gaining momentum pre-COVID, the pandemic has shown to be a catalyst for Virtual Reality (VR). 

The French fashion house, Balmain, launched a digital showroom featuring virtual muses and giant projectors, with a 3D avatar of Olivier Rousteing, the brand’s artistic director, acting as a host and guide for customers during their shopping experience. 

In the world of beauty, augmented reality developer Perfect is offering cosmetics brands free subscription to their browser plug-in YouCam for Web, to help brands integrate virtual makeup “try-ons” into their websites. Likewise, the Chinese beauty tech company Meitu launched a free augmented reality (AR) makeup trial system to help cosmetic companies overcome difficulties caused by COVID-19. 

3. Cross-border collaborations

A lot of attention has been devoted to changes in shopper behaviour during the pandemic. However, one area less well-documented is what those changes mean for collaboration between brands.  The pandemic has driven brands to display the same fundamental need for collectivism that we as individuals are all turning to.

And rightly so, recent market analysis by AdNews revealed that collaborations in any industry were up to 30 times less expensive than digital advertising. These are designed to allow brands to both tap into already existing audiences and reach a wider market than those familiar with the brand’s core products.

For example, ethical fashion brand Everlane is collaborating with a Chinese boutique coffee company and an on-demand delivery platform to offer an environmentally friendly gift box. Trendy Seesaw helps to boost Everlane with young consumers who spend heavily on fashion and lifestyle goods, while Everlane’s presence bolsters Seesaw’s ethical credentials. 

Another interesting cross-border collaboration took place between Mobile Marketer and E.l.f. Cosmetics, who together remixed the song “Eyes. Lips. Face.”, which appeared as a branded video on TikTok last autumn and was written by Grammy-Award winning songwriter iLL Wayno. The video had over 4.7 billion views.

4. Fashion from upcycled plastic

Buying from companies that recycle fabric or are completely vegan has gained popularity in recent years amongst eco-conscious consumers. However, the next big trend in sustainable fashion are brands that make clothing out of recycled plastic.

A plastic bottle in a landfill will outlive us for generations to come, they also end up polluting the oceans and harming marine life. With over eight million tons of plastic reaching oceans every year, finding new ways to use plastic waste could be an abundant resource for the industry. From the sea, back into the sea – sustainable swimwear company Marda will debut with a collection of men’s swimwear that is made from plastics recovered from oceans and landfills, a vast collection of around 79,000 tonnes of plastic.

US shoe brand Rothy’s has also released the first bag collection to use ocean-bound plastics. In the Netherlands, nonprofit organisation Ocean Cleanup has just released its first product — a pair of sunglasses designed by Yves Béhar, made from plastic collected from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Moreover, after a surge in plastic pollution from disposable personal protective equipment, Petit Pli has designed a washable fabric face mask made from recycled plastic bottles. Likewise Colombian clothes brand Maaji is selling fashionable, virus-protective clothing knitted with premium post-consumer recycled yarn, from plastic recovered bottles. 

Credit: Katrina Lane

5. Compostable couture

Non-biodegradable clothes made from fabrics like polyester, spandex and nylon can take anywhere between 20 to 200 years to biodegrade. To counter this negative impact, “compostable couture” has emerged as the new wave of optimism that has the power to unclog the landfills and reduce global waste produced by the fashion industry. 

Spanish PYRATEX® are high-end, knit fabrics which are made in Europe from either vegetable, upcycled or biodegradable fibres.  New Zealand designer Rik Olthuis, has created a 100 per cent biodegradable running trainer that can be composted at home, and in the UK, a designer has made biodegradable face shields from local food waste. 

6. Touchless beauty

The pandemic has massively challenged what retailers are able to offer in terms of the “shopping experience”. A big challenge facing companies is how to allow customers to test products. Beauty company Meiyume is prototyping a touchless sampling tester in order to maintain its high-level shopping experience while ensuring a safe and hygienic in-store environment. The series of touchless testers are motion activated and can dispense any type of liquid skincare products and fragrances. 

7. Social e-commerce

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a huge growth in social eCommerce, led by Chinese apps like Panduoduo. This platform allows people to group up, and shop at a discount. Now, a browser extension called Squadded Shopping Party hopes to bring this lucrative concept to western countries. Squadded works by allowing users to connect with groups of friends and go online shopping together, chatting through the extension as they virtually try on different outfits or discuss items. 

Burberry’s new Shenzhen store utilises WeChat to feature exclusive content and access that is unlocked via social media interaction. The store uses QR codes on in-store products to connect with shoppers’ digital lives.

Written By: Katrina Lane