Without outfits to plan, schedules to coordinate, and portable phone chargers to buy in the days leading up to the first show, New York Fashion Week ended as quickly as it came. No street style, very few in-person runways, and no after-parties — digital NYFW was an entirely new experience. One thing about this week that didn’t change, though, was what it left behind: a variety of spring ’21 trends to contemplate from now until the season actually begins. 

As expected, masks were everywhere during the shortened NYFW, starting with those showcased during sustainable brand Zero + Maria Cornejo’s video presentation. More appeared later at Collina Strada, Oak & Acorn, Libertine, and Imitation of Christ, to name a few. Staying true to the pandemic theme, gloves also made an appearance, though none that we’d consider wearing for anything other than aesthetics. At Theophilio, gloves were adorned on one hand only, whereas the ones at Rodarte were fanciful, dainty, and made of chiffon. From there, it was comfort that reigned supreme — another genre that we expected given the number of hours we continue to spend indoors and away from judging fashion eyes. Simon Miller and LRS used ribbing in their loungewear, while Collina Strada and PH5 went the sweatsuit route.

Some designers took chances that we weren’t expecting. At Social Work, C+ Plus Series, Snow Xue Gao, and Maisie Wilen, among others, designers broke fashion’s long-running rule by clashing varying prints. Snow Xue Gao included micro florals paired with plaid — thus making us happy we bought Kate Middleton’s floral mask before it sold out, just so we can now pair it with a plaid mini skirt — while metallic stripes sparred (in the best way possible) with quilt-like patchwork at Maisie Wilen. 

This NYFW was about more than just clothes, though. Many designers, including Oak & Acorn, Collina Strada, Studio 189, PH5, Tanya Taylor, and Chromat, used their spots on the NYFW calendar to spread meaningful messages regarding social injustices, climate change, politics, and more. 

Ahead, see all the trends that stood out at the first-ever digital NYFW. 

Face Masks

After the first face mask appeared on Jason Wu, they just kept on coming. Some masks were rooted in style, with bows and gemstones attached to them, while others were used to send a message, like the mask presented at Oak & Acorn, which had the word “FREE” written across the front in white paint, and one at Studio 189 that read “Vote.” Either way, the sheer number of designers that used their spring collections as a way to spread the “wear a mask” message was something to be hopeful about. Which, these days, isn’t always easy. 

Collina StradaPhoto: Courtesy of Collina Strada SS21 ‘Change Is Cute’.

ChromatPhoto: Lia Clay.
Studio 189Photo Courtesy of Studio 189.

Fashion Gloves

The CDC might only recommend wearing gloves when cleaning or caring for the sick, but that hasn’t stopped designers from making fashion-forward versions of the protective equipment. Given that Theophilio had models wearing a single glove rather than two and Rodarte’s gloves were made of chiffon rather than latex, we wouldn’t take this possibly COVID-19-inspired trend for any more than it is: a fashion statement — and a fun one at that.


TheophilioPhoto Courtesy of Theophilio.
C+Plus Series


Surprise, surprise: Leisurewear made it to the big leagues at NYFW. After seven months of unprecedented success due to lockdown, designers had no choice but to embrace comfort for spring ‘21. Of course, they did so in high-fashion ways. At PH5 and LRS, ribbing was the answer, as was the case at Simon Miller, but designer Chelsea Hansford didn’t stop there — she also introduced terrycloth and stretch options. Luxe pajamas were big this week, with standout styles at Zero + Maria Cornejo, Richfresh, and Faith Connexion, as were traditional sweatsuits, which appeared at Rodarte and Collina Strada.

Simon MillerPhoto Courtesy of Simon Miller.

RichfreshPhoto: Ashley Sky Walker.
Collina StradaPhoto: Courtesy of Collina Strada SS21 ‘Change Is Cute’.

Zoom Jewelry

The lockdown trends continued in the jewelry department, with maximalist jewelry continuing to rise in popularity. Given that many of us now spend whole days on Zoom calls — occasions that call for some jazzing up in the bauble department — it makes sense that extravagant jewelry would show up on runways, too. Dangling chain earrings made appearances at Faith Connexion and Social Work. Jason Wu teamed up with Miami-based jewelry brand éliou for an uplifting and beachy jewelry alternative for his Tulum-inspired collection. Whichever style you choose, know that you’ll never get lost in gallery view again. 

Faith Connexion

Jason Wu x éliou

Shine On

It wasn’t all low-key trends at NYFW this season. Shine, in the form of crystal embellishments, sequins, reflective patent leather, was at an all-time high. Which, if we are to believe Tom Ford, who opened up in a video that accompanied his spring ‘21 lookbook, is because designers — himself included — are creating “clothes that make [people] feel good.” Ford’s spring ‘21 collection was all about holding onto “hope of a happier time” and creating something, anything, that could make people smile right now. And apparently, that means shimmering, sparkling, iridescent fashion. And lots of it. 

Faith ConnexionPhoto: Julien Bernard.

Claudia LiPhoto:Kristen Taylor White & Annis Kamara.

Clashing Prints

Florals and plaid, stripes with patchwork, leopard prints with, well, everything — clashing prints were ever-present at NYFW, despite fashion rules that try to tell us to not mix colors like black and navy blue, let alone different patterns. But after being out of control in so many ways for so long, it’s natural for us to grasp onto what control we do have, that is, control over our wardrobes. So screw the rules — we’re pairing what we want with what we want, and no one can tell us otherwise — especially when the fashion is this good. 

Snow Xue GaoPhoto Courtesy of Snow Xue Gao.

Maisie WilenPhoto: Clare Gillen.
TheophilioPhoto Courtesy of Theophilio.

Strong Shoulders

Starting in the 1940s, designers began adding an exaggerated shoulder to women’s suits in an effort to make them feel more powerful and take up more space as they joined work industries dominated by men. And given that trends are cyclical, and the year we are having, it’s no wonder that big, padded shoulders are back.

LRSPhoto: Parker Woods.

Ulla Johnson
R13Photo Courtesy of R13.


In addition to baking bread and learning dances on TikTok, one of the most popular hobbies from lockdown was knitting. Most notably: the #HarryStylesCardigan challenge. Cottagecore — a simpler, more hands-on approach to life, which often involves handmade clothing — was trending, as was the crochet crop top Styles wore in the music video for “Watermelon Sugar,” thus solidifying craftcore as the trend to watch moving forward. From Ulla Johnson to Anna Sui, designers at NYFW were apparently just as interested in entertaining their hands as we were in quarantine. They just happened to be better with knitting needles

Ulla JohnsonPhoto Courtesy of Ulla Johnson.

Frederick Anderson Photo Courtesy of Frederick Anderson.
Anna SuiPhoto: Jackie Kursel.

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