Even if 2021 didn’t turn out to be the post-pandemic utopia we had wished for, there were many causes to be excited about fashion again this year. In-person gatherings resumed when vaccines were distributed throughout the world and we witnessed some huge debuts, as well as stars experimenting with their red carpet comebacks.
We’re already looking forward to what 2022 has in store for memorable fashion moments, but for now, these are the moments that we believe defined 2021.
Anya Taylor-Joy’s Emmy Awards Dress
Anya Taylor-Joy, who stars in The Queen’s Gambit, was the talk of the red carpet at the 2021 Emmy Awards when she wore a pale yellow Dior haute couture gown. The outfit, which was made of silk lingerie satin, was characterised as “luminous” by Dior Couture. “A yellow opera coat in silk faille and Dior shoes as styled by Paul Burgo” completed the ensemble. Taylor-Joy was honoured by the Council of Fashion Designers as Face of the Year in November.
Alessandro Michele and Demna “Hacked” Gucci and Balenciaga
Gucci and Balenciaga‘s unprecedented “hack” went live in stores just before Thanksgiving, resulting in queues around the block. Onlookers were confused by the faux-graffiti’d “Gucci” on the Balenciaga store windows. Alessandro Michele “quoted” silhouettes and logos from Demna’s Balenciaga and blended them up with his own signatures—glitter, ’70s suits, feathers—to recreate what a collaboration can look like.
Zendaya Became a Fashion Icon
Much of it stems from her innate sense of style and demeanour, but her long-standing friendship with Law Roach also plays a role. Lucky celebs may have a few “moments” each year, but we’ve lost track of Zendaya’s.
House of Gucci Premieres
Jancy Yates, the costume designer for House of Gucci, claimed that during the 54 days of production, Lady Gaga never replicated a look in her part as Patrizia Reggiani—”not even an earring.” In March, a teaser photograph of Gaga and her co-star, Adam Driver, dressed in high-glam ’80s ski gear leaked online, generating an estimated 4.3 million likes on Instagram. The premiere in November created even more interest in Gucci and its history, and for the press tour, Lady Gaga donned a new style of “painful Italian glamour,” in keeping with her habit of reinventing her image for each new part or album.
Cardi B’s Multiple Outfit Changes at the AMAs
Cardi B, who is known for her outlandish ensembles, did not disappoint at the American Music Awards 2021. She was in attendance as both a nominee and a host, wearing some of her wildest looks yet and eight of them in total. Cardi chose a stunning and vibrant Jean Paul Gaultier gown that was ruched and sinched at her waist and drifted ethereally behind her to claim her award for her hit song ‘Up.’ She later posed with her well-deserved award wearing a gorgeous white pleated gown with a jewel-encrusted hood as her final outfit.
Marc Jacobs Stages Comeback at the New York Public Library
Marc Jacobs had been missing from the runway for well over a year while his contemporaries experimented with virtual presentations and lookbooks to keep up with the fashion calendar. He took us to the New York Public Library in June and it was worth the wait to view Marc Jacobs couture: cocoon forms, gigantic platform shoes, holographic dresses, and trailing faux furs. “Happiness” was Jacobs’ title for the collection, and that’s exactly how we all felt when it debuted.
Kim Kardashian Wore Head-to-Toe (Literally) Black Balenciaga at the Met Gala
Then Kim Kardashian showed up in a black Balenciaga gown and body stocking, essentially turning herself into a meta-comment on her own cultural ubiquity: Even though her face had been covered and she had said nothing, everyone knew who she was. She exemplified how social media, fashion, and politics converged in 2021 to define our common experience.
Demna Resurrects Balenciaga Couture
Nothing in recent memory compares to Demna’s first couture collection for Balenciaga in terms of impact. From the clothes—sculptural dresses, trench coats, haute jeans—to the location at Avenue George V, the house’s original salons, he brought it back in a spectacular manner after 53 years.
Every element, right down to the fading paint and pin-drop silence, was historically correct. He wanted people to know that he is not just a hoodie and sneaker designer.
Fashion Enters the Metaverse
In 2021, several of the most influential brands went beyond concepts and invested real money in the metaverse. Balmain, Dolce & Gabbana, and Gucci all offered NFTs; Balenciaga collaborated with Fortnite on a line of skins; and Nike acquired Rtfkt, a platform that combines fashion collectables with gaming to create “the Supreme of digital fashion.”
Fashion Remembers Virgil Abloh
If you ask anybody in the fashion world, they’ll tell you that nothing has rocked them more than the news of Virgil Abloh‘s death on November 28. The fact that he was able to keep working, giving, and inspiring us throughout his ill-health adds to the poignancy of his death.
Abloh’s spring 2022 collection, which he debuted in Paris in June, was resurrected two days after his death in Miami. With friends of Abloh in the crowd, what could have been merely an expensive, client-facing shopping event took on new significance. Red lights against the night sky spelt out the classic phrase, “Virgil was here.”
He and his work were also honoured at the 2021 Fashion Awards. British actor, Idris Elba, opened the night by paying respect to Abloh, and impromptu tributes to him continued throughout the evening. Virgil had personally recorded a message, which was aired during the Creativity Award category interviews.