Cover Valentino spring-summer 2021 show finale (Photo: André Lucat)

Whether you’re still lounging in sweats or ready to get dolled up and dance, spring’s varied offerings promise to keep comfort front of mind

Last year, designers faced an unprecedented challenge in predicting what our predilections would be come spring. In the throes of the global pandemic, it was a toss-up whether we’d be unleashed into society, heels clicking, or borderline feral, still confined in our homes. But they knew one thing for certain: having tasted sweet, sweet freedom (and, maybe, put on the “Covid 15”), many consumers would not be ready to give up the sweats and stretch that made up their daily uniforms.

Brands embraced the elastic waistband, from Max Mara’s drawstring everything to Chanel’s slinky jumpsuits, and even to fittings on ballerina flats and shoes. Robes found their way onto Christian Dior’s runway in the form of a reimagined Bar jacket, made in denim, and Alber Elbaz—the former Lanvin creative director who launched his new label AZ Factory in January after a five-year hiatus—cross-pollinated couture and technical fabrics, even making sure to include some heavily-printed pyjama sets in his debut. Literal references to the bedroom, like the duvet-cape draped around Fendi’s finale number, drove home the idea of, well, home, and its lingering influence as we gingerly step out of the bedroom and back into the boardroom. Meanwhile in accessories, pillow bags—stuffed amorphous accent pieces held under the arm—from the likes of Bottega Veneta and Loewe, continue to dominate many women’s sartorial dreams.

“All dressed down is a new lifestyle and attitude everyone’s embracing, and it is reflected in bags through shapes that are soft and supple,” says Libby Page, senior fashion market editor at Net-a-Porter. 

See also: The Spring Edit: 9 Perfect Pastel Outfits For Easter Brunch

When it came to outfits, the designers split into two camps. Half opted for optimism, a word that was thrown around by dozens of creative directors, and the other half aimed for rough realism to distil the chaos of the world into clothes. In the former, you’ll find Pierpaolo Piccioli of Valentino, who believes in the power of a spoonful of sugar—his sea of candy colours and sorbet shades could induce a toothache.

“If there is one thing that has made me smile, it has been seeing bright bursts of colour on our Zoom calls,” says Natalie Kingham, fashion and buying director of Matchesfashion. “Many designers worked with a bold palette for spring. We also saw bright colour via tie-dye at The Elder Statesman, and even the humble Ugg was updated by Molly Goddard in rich green, red and orange.”

In the opposing camp is Riccardo Tisci of Burberry, whose feelings of lockdown loneliness fed into his show: models in spliced trenches weaved between trees in an ominous forest while seemingly hunted by men in black suits. In the same creepy neck of the woods is Matthew M Williams, whose debut for Givenchy was completed with horned heels and devil-eared caps. Gorpcore—the amalgamation of outdoor gear with traditional fashion—solidified its footing in luxury this season, seen in the collaboration between The North Face and Gucci. Together, they speak to our instinct to bundle up against the elements as we venture back out into a changed world, clinging onto our clothes (and masks) like atavistic armour.

See also: Meet The Cool Kids of Couture: Area NYC, SR Studio LA and Yuima Nakazato