Sustainable fashion trends for 2021 don’t get more stunning than these!
By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
You might be wondering why you should care about sustainable fashion trends for 2021. After all, you’ve likely been stuck inside for months, thanks to government lockdowns. You’ve probably worn nothing but PJs and slippers for days on end.
But my friends, have hope! This simply cannot last forever. And there’s lots of fun clothing just waiting to raise your spirits.
Who wouldn’t feel a bit elated dressing up in pretty floral patterns, donning stunning, dramatic sleeves, or wearing comfy, 70s inspired jeans? Joie de vivre, calls for vibrant colours, too – and we will be seeing loads of them!
Of course, we aim to be fashionable – but sustainable, too! Ecological consciousness demands a major use of upcycled and sustainable fabrics – including those used for sweaters. The trend for patchwork also allows for better use of scrap materials And tech comes into the picture too, with 3D printing being more readily available to the masses.
Check out some of the best sustainable fashion trends for 2021, below!
Main image: Stella McCartney. Image credit below Shopbop.
12 Sustainable Fashion Trends For 2021
Patchwork was groovy in the 70s and it’s booming again this year! It’s going to be everywhere and in everything, from dresses and jeans to bags and even on shoes.
As expected, you’ll find this trend expressed through denim. But you’ll also see it done with other scrap fabrics, including everything from leather to lace.
How to wear it: You can go soft or bold with this trend. If you’re really into patchwork, you could do a double patchwork denim look, like the one by Stella McCartney, below, which upcycles old fabric. Otherwise, try patchwork accessories, like the patchwork bags made from old fire hoses by Elvis and Kresse.
2. Bright Colours
If you thought neon hues were just a passing 90s fad – they’re back! Big time, in fact, along with a bombastic feast of other colourful shades. Whether it’s monochrome designs or polychrome patterns, this year calls out for an explosion of bright nuances. Much needed to cheer us all up, right?
How to wear it: One of the best ways to wear brights is via African prints! Yevu clothing’s traditional West African wax print fabrics, shown below, are sourced from female wholesale vendors at Makola Market in Central Accra. Their prints are done on 100% cottons that will soften with wear and wash.
Alternatively, our favourite veggie designer, Stella McCartney, shows how it’s done through monochrome brights, below.
3. Recycled/Sustainable Knits
This was a trend we had already announced in the autumn of 2020: the rise of recycled wool for knitwear. The touch on the skin is luscious, and the practices used to source the material are more humane.
There are lots of brands using these fibres to make their sweaters these days, but Everlane, pictured below, is making some of the best recycled wool knits around.
How to wear it: This is one of the most versatile sustainable fashion trends for 2021. It defines both posh or casual attire. Add some jewellery and heels if you want to make your look more glamorous for a night out. Or pair an ethical, recycled knit with leggings and trainers to make it more low profile. Either way, be prepared for a cosy, warm and ethical embrace!
4. A Strong Shoulder
Those who grew in the 80s and 90s will recall one of the hottest fads of that decade: the power shoulder! And this is another sustainable fashion trend for this year.
A strong shoulder can take many forms. It could refer to oversized shoulder pad boyfriend jackets, triangular forms, or exaggerated puffs, as seen in this top by AMUR, below.
How to wear it: A strong shoulder requires something slimming on the bottom. This will give your body a fierce triangular shape!
5. Cactus Leather
Yep, we know that vegan leathers can be kinda crap. They’re often made from pure plastics, or natural fibres blended with loads of plastics. But cactus leather is different.
These fibres are so strong, they barely need any polymers at all. Plus, the cactus grown for these vegan leather accessories is almost always organic, takes very little water indeed, and is sun-dried.
We love how it’s being used for everything from belts and trainers to high heels and handbags, like this one below by Miomojo.
How to wear it: Cactus leather is super strong, so accessories made from the stuff can be sported in even the harshest, wettest conditions.
6. Luxe Sportswear
Some people may mistakenly confuse sportswear with activewear. But no, my friends! This term refers to “separates,” i.e. women’s garments that are worn in combination with other bits, usually unmatching. It’s pretty basic, really: it just means skirts, blouses, jackets and trousers. But this year, this category is getting an incredibly luxurious upgrade!
Just look at this sweet outfit by Gabriela Hearst, below. It features a luxe tie dye sweater with a sporty blazer and matching pants.You can mix and match the blazer and bottom with practically anything in your closet.
How to wear it: Sportswear is the easiest kind of clothing to wear. It’s basically just about everything on this page! But that being said, it can be dressed up or down, depending on the accessories you choose.
7. Beautiful Sleeves
Sleeves continue to define outfits this year. They can be elaborate and delicate, such as the ruffled sleeves on the stunning mini dress by Ulla Johnson, in pic 2, below. Or, they can be full on dramatic, as seen in the voluminous pair on this blouse by another of our favourite sustainable fashion brands, AMUR.
You could say that to some extent, this trend is a consequence of Zoom meetings, where the upper parts of our bodies are the protagonists, and where body language is focused on the arms.
How to wear it: Since the sleeves are really the stars of the show, keep the bottom a bit more subtle. Either pair a dramatically sleeved blouse with jeans or a plain skirt, for example.
8. 70s Inspired Jeans
High waisted, boot cut, and super cool. What they all have in common is that these 70s inspired jeans flatter the female silhouette providing a timeless charm through this casual item of clothing. They also all look awesome with several of our sustainable fashion trends for 2021.
Be sure to shop the brands who use eco-friendly denim in combination with fabrics that are kind to nature such as hemp or Tencel (see more on this below).
One of our favourite brands totally rocking 70s styles? Reformation, pictured below, of course!
How to wear it: Pair these with a blouse with incredible sleeves, or a tee with a pop of bright colour.
9. Petite Floral Prints
Tiny floral patterns are another of our favourite sustainable fashion trends for 2021. They’re the protagonists of a variety of collections, and lend a touch of biophilia to your wardrobe!
How to wear it: Remember Little House on the Prairie? Well, that look is back in a big way, and it features tiny florals. Look for oversized dresses or Victorian-style blouses with tiny floral prints. Pair the dress with some knee-high boots, or the blouse with some 70’s inspired jeans.
Image credit below: Reformation
10. 3D Printed Clothes & Accessories
How to wear it: The reality is that it’s most likely you’re going to find 3D fashion in the form of accessories, like shoes and bags. We think Rothy’s ankle booties, which are 3D knitted, will go with anything in your closet!
11. Tie Dye Sweats
We predicted this sustainable fashion trend for 2021 last year! But I suppose tie dye sweats are trending now since most of us are a) stuck inside and b) freezing cold!
They’re cozy, they’re snuggly, and they’re colourful. What’s not to love?
How to wear it: At home, on Zoom, doing the grocery shopping….whatever you’re up to, you’ll want to be wearing some tie dye sweats. Pair them with some vegan trainers outside, or cozy slippers at home.
Image credit below: Shopbop
12. Practical Puffas
As people crave more and more to be outdoors, you can expect a boost in fancy and functional outerwear. It should be able to withstand any kind of weather, but of course, look super chic at the same time. And that pretty much describes puffas! Just make sure yours is cruelty-free, like the one below by Culthread, which uses rescued deadstock black faux leather, faux fur and Thermore 100% post-consumer recycled plastic insulation, instead of animal down.
How to wear it: Wear it with boots or trainers for an urban look, but you can also wear these skiing.