The spring/ summer 2021 color trends are an unusual bunch. This is the first season where collections were designed in isolation, and the response to it was a blend of escapism, comfort, and a return to nature, although there were also some utilitarian shades.
When the Pantone Color Institute put together its trend reports based on the London and New York Fashion Weeks, Executive Director Leatrice Eiseman remarked that those shades, while being flexible and comforting, are also “reinvigorating our interest in colour that inspires feelings of much needed optimism.”
Compared to the color trends of the previous fall/ winter season, the spring 2021 colors are a real treat, an exciting feast of colors in different shades and tints.
Pastels were the most notable part of the spring 2021 color trends, with shades like Cerulean, Purple Rose, Aqua, and Pirouette pink continuously popping up even in looks from labels that have a more mature reputation.
Tying in with the pastels was a floral theme, which made room for more vibrant tones like Marigold, Orange Ochre, and Amethyst Orchid. Nature was even further represented in greens like Mint and Pickled Pepper, while the sky and ocean were reflected in Blue Atoll and Deep Sky Blue. It’s no surprise that many lookbooks and socially-distant runway shows were staged in nature, while many of the ones that weren’t still featured plants as the main decoration.
On the neutral side of things, the nature theme continued with shades like Moss Green and the green-tinted Willow brown. Of course, there were also some more timeless neutrals like Inkwell black, Buttercream, and Ultimate Gray.
Lastly, passion and fantasy expressed themselves in metallics like Gold and Silver as well in passionate and vivid shades like Raspberry Sorbet, Lava Falls, and Cherry Red. It was a lively season that gave many of us relief from indoor confinement.
Let’s go, one by one, and see all of the stunning spring/ summer 2021 colors that flourished on the runways.
#1. Lava Falls Red
Let’s start on a dramatic note, with this deep, alluring red. According to the Pantone Color Institute, this color “erupts with a flowing energy.” It’s dramatic and fiery, but with a deeper cast that lends sophistication. It’s not a typical spring color, but it’s so gorgeous that we really don’t mind.
Dolce & Gabbana gave us a classy yet sexy take on this color, with a tight, strapless tulip dress with a flattering cinched waist. The entire show was filled with patchworks of Lava Falls, so this one solid look felt especially powerful.
Balmain presented a fairly unusual take on Lava Falls, with a long, plasticky raincoat in the shade to protect the wearer from summer showers.
#2. Cherry Red
Cherry Red is a hint lighter than Lava Falls, so it’s also a little more passionate and less restrained. It’s the kind of red that shows up every season because we humans can’t help ourselves – even during the times of staying in, we still want to feel some excitement.
One of our favorite dresses from Christian Siriano this season was a stunning Cherry Red number. The dress had some vertical symmetry, with a short balloon skirt and an equally voluminous pouf around the shoulders. It was fitted at the waist, giving a really gorgeous silhouette.
Emilia Wickstead also played with some cool silhouettes in Cherry Red, including a softly draped, belted dress that reminded us a bit of a robe or kimono, with a deep-V neckline.
On a more earth note, we now move to Rust, a shade identified by the Pantone Color Institute. Rust is an earthy orange with a slightly autumnal feel. To us, it represents coziness and comfort, which we still require sometimes, especially in the spring.
Jil Sander definitely took an autumnal approach to this color, presenting a long, narrow trench coat in Rust that was tied off with a white belt. At Maison Margiela, a long, Rust-colored dress covered in a pattern of black lines was one of the tango-inspired collection’s more restrained creations.
#4. Orange Ochre
Orange Ochre is more of a true orange when compared to the brown-leaning Rust. However, it’s not too bright or loud, and it still has a grounded feel.
Christopher John Rogers made heavy use of this color in busy prints, but it also stood on its own in floor-length dresses, including a unique one made of puffer quilt fabric with a mock bustier pattern and a high slit.
We always expect some stunning, see-through creations from Valentino. The show closed with a few long and flowy transparent dresses decorated with vertical ruffles, with the second to last dress designed in Orange Ochre.
On the other hand, at Givenchy, tailored Orange Ochre trousers with a front pleat, with a matching shirt tucked in, felt entirely sophisticated and office-ready.
Our final orange for the spring 2021 color trends is Marigold. Marigold has a golden undertone that gives it a warming effect and a reflective quality that is easy to love. Pantone identified this color both at London and New York Fashion Weeks, and it also recurred in Paris and Milan.
Acne Studios showed us how Marigold could be layered, with a long sleeve, see-through swimsuit cover worn over a crocheted bikini. The entire ensemble was finished with an oversized Burnt Coral bag, showing how the two trendy colors could be combined.
Donatella proved that Marigold is THE color for the tanned Versace woman. A shift dress made out of a tightly-pleated fabric with some big ruffles was instantly noticeable in the vibrant shade.
Finally, the Veronica Beard lookbook presented a vision of Marigold that fits perfectly with the spring ethos of escaping into nature. The collection featured a flowy buttoned orange dress that was clearly perfect for frolicking in fields.
#6. Illuminating Yellow
Illuminating is the color that brought the sunshine to the fashion month! After months and months indoors, it was a warming addition to the color palette that worked well with all of the nature-inspired vivids and pastels. It’s a friendly and joyful yellow that’s uplifting to look at rather than stressful.
An irresistibly sexy dress at Altuzarra featured a wrapped-bandage top that showed off quite a bit of midriff, paired with a body-hugging skirt with a slit that could be adjusted with the help of pearl buttons.
There was a casual, ‘summer-in-California’ feel to a dress at Collina Strada. It looked like it was made of a repurposed T-shirt fitted with an asymmetrical skirt, giving thrifted punk vibes despite the immensely bright color.
#7. Burnt Coral
Exceedingly pretty and reminiscent of nature, Burnt Coral was described by Pantone as “convivial” and “inviting.” We felt like this shade was a slightly softer and more relaxed version of Living Coral, which was 2019’s color of the year.
Ulla Johnson did a unique thing by creating pastel garments out of heavier fabrics. The slightly stiff materials lent a grounding effect to the airy pastels, like in a very sophisticated pleated yet voluminous dress that would have looked girlish in a lighter material.
Burnt Coral dresses at Rokh on their own were quite sweet, made out of a light, translucent material, and decorated with girlish ruffles. However, the styling itself involved black leather harnesses and heavy combat boots that gave them a gothic twist.
Burnt Coral helped close the Alberta Ferretti show, who used fabrics in the color to craft the final, high-necked gossamer dress.
#8. Pirouette Pink
It’s hard not to appreciate the tenderness and femininity of Pirouette pink. There’s bravery in wearing such an unashamedly delicate color. We think now is definitely the time to drop pretenses and to enjoy its gentle caress.
Emilia Wickstead had a very soft and feminine collection replete with pastels, but surprisingly, the one Pirouette dress was a little more demure with a button-up-style top and a pleated skirt at the bottom.
Prada proved that Pirouette pink is a fitting color for more than just dresses, with a full, professional look consisting of trousers, a crisp button-up, and a light cape.
There was also quite a bit of Pirouette at Chanel, showing up on slightly cozier versions of the separates we’re usually used to from the house.
#9. Purple Rose
Our next delicate pastel is Purple Rose. It has the same tenderness of Pirouette pink but with an added touch of mystique and enchantment.
Seeing LaQuan Smith work in pastels this season was such a treat, and we found ourselves quite enamored with the Purple Rose bodysuit he presented. It was skin-tight, with a bustier top and irresistible cutouts just over the hips.
Victoria Beckham also presented some Purple Rose in the form of an elongating dress with a unique black lace halter decorating the bust and neckline.
Finally, Ulla Johnson also presented a Purple Rose dress, albeit with a more ruffled design. The dress, which was made of what appeared to be starched cotton, combined slight stiffness with feminine details like ruffles and puffy shoulders.
#10. Pastel Aqua
Aqua is one of the prettiest colors that are present in nature. Because it’s green-blue it evokes both the ocean and the plant world. It’s a smooth and cooling color that’s incredibly soothing on hot days.
This year, Hugo Boss was all about the monochrome pastels. The show featured a few great outfits in Pastel Aqua, including a long, high-necked dress with cheeky cutouts just over the waist.
Aqua dresses closed Elie Saab’s stunning evening wear lookbook, with the striking final dress a gorgeous see-through, long-sleeve creation covered with jewels, with a more opaque portion giving a sweetheart neckline and mini-dress feel.
This soft blue is so light and airy that it’s almost white. Pantone compared Cerulean to a clear summer sky, but this gorgeous pastel also gives us some otherworldly vibes.
Alyx delivered a long ‘90s-style cami dress in Cerulean but with a twist. A literal twist, with gathered fabric acting as a sort of bra-cup over the dress.
At Adeam, a sleeveless top and loose trouser set tied off with a gold chain belt felt to us like another interpretation of lounge-meets-office wear.
The Hugo Boss show opened with a lot of Cerulean garments, including a work-from-home look featuring a satin blazer and trouser set worn over a similarly colored cashmere top.
#12. Deep Sky Blue
Vivid and vivacious blues were essential everywhere on the runways, adding a cheerful, dynamic twist to the fall’s more subdued Classic Blue. Sky Blue is a cheerful color that is as energetic as a blue can be.
Christopher John Rogers went expansive with Sky Blue garments. He presented a voluminous shirt dress with a collared neckline that fanned out into a pleated skirt that went from the bust down to the ankles.
From Tom Ford, we saw a loud suede trousers and blouse set in Sky Blue that definitely straddled the idea of home-wear and professional wear.
Finally, at Burberry, an underwater inspiration meant that blue was everywhere. Riccardo Tisci even announced that blue was the new beige! As far as the deeper Sky Blue went, it was used as an accent on jackets of all sorts (often in combination with tans or with white), but we also saw some all-over deep Sky Blue ensembles.
#13. Blue Atoll
A little lighter than Sky Blue yet just as vivid, we have exotic Blue Atoll. This vibrant blue is meant to represent ocean water in a tropical locale. It’s the color designers and consumers alike dream about when they find themselves trapped indoors.
The vacation inspiration was explicit at Badgley Mischka, and it included a few glamorous dresses in Blue Atoll. Our favorite was an off-the-shoulder creation with large, puffy sleeves and a slinky, figure-elongating fit.
Burberry also showcased some light Blue Atoll garments, including a marvelous short jumpsuit worn over thigh-high boots, with a long matching jacket on top.
#14. Amethyst Orchid
Amethyst Orchid is a jewel tone with a floral twist. This stunning purple is eccentric and dramatic, with a glamorous touch thanks to its royal association!
Tom Ford continued to play with matching sets, offering an Amethyst Orchid lounge pants and blazer look made out of ultra-cooling and luxe satins.
The closing look at Ralph & Russo was a tiered skirt paired with a voluminous off-the-shoulder crop top, and it appeared extra dramatic thanks to Amethyst Orchid.
#15. Raspberry Sorbet
Of all the vivid colors we saw in the spring/ summer 2021 color trends, Raspberry Sorbet was probably the best one for expressing one of the main themes of this fashion month. Many designers took a fantastic, escapist approach to design in the times of COVID-19, and a lively, loud, and impactful color like Raspberry Sorbet was perfect for that.
Stella McCartney opened and closed her show with two fascinating Raspberry Sorbet creations. The first a long, loose one-sleeve dress with an odd hood attachment, while the last one was a party-ready, short and figure-hugging dress made out of hot pink lace.
The fantasy continued at Marchesa with a gorgeous gown fitted with a ruffle cascade along one side. Jason Wu and Naeem Khan also presented gorgeous Raspberry Sorbet dresses.
#16. Pickled Pepper
Pickled Pepper is the freshest shade in the spring/ summer 2021 color trends. It’s a very natural green with a slight yellow undertone that adds tangy warmth.
Pops of Pickled Pepper ran throughout the patchworked and brightly colored Dolce & Gabbana collection, but the color also got to make a statement on its own in a romantic long-sleeve dress.
Also notable was a sparkly dress we spotted at Halpern. It was made of a draped and folded bolt of shiny Pickled Pepper fabric, with a fan-like construction as an added decoration.
Finally, on the slightly more casual side, we spotted a massive Pickled Pepper shirt-dress at Valentino that was covered in a tropical floral print.
The other major green of the season is Mint. Whereas Pickled Pepper leans towards warm, Mint leans towards cool, so it’s a little calmer and more restorative – a great complement to all the blues and aquas that showed up on the runways.
Elie Saab always presents impossibly lush and beautiful gowns, and this year, he played around with a few colors, including Mint. He showed that the color perfectly suits a feminine silhouette with a wrapped, one-shoulder column dress.
We saw a slightly more muted yet unique variation on Mint at Cinq a Sept in the form of a blazer dress with oversized shoulders that was tied off with a fabric belt.
Designers couldn’t resist the call of luxurious Gold for the spring/ summer 2021 color trends. It’s the kind of dramatic, metallic color that’s fitting for escapist collections based on fantasy.
As such, it’s no surprise that Gold was one of the main colors running through the Moschino puppet show. The show opened with a short, gold brocade jacket worn over a tan dress. That same gold fabric continued to show up in the few outfits that followed.
At Paco Rabanne, a slinky dress entirely covered in gold sequins was already a statement-maker, but it was styled over a tight jewel-printed T, which made for an even more memorable look.
Silver was the other metallic with a big presence in the spring 2021 color trends. Like gold, it also fits in with a certain fantasy, albeit a more futuristic one. Gold takes us back into history, while silver places us in the exciting sci-fi future.
We were quite taken with the silver chainmail cami dress presented towards the end of the Balenciaga show. There was some punk futurism to the way silver was styled at Sacai. A top was made of a silver-colored material that looked almost like foil, paired with an asymmetrical gray skirt decorated with chains.
Balmain and Louis Vuitton also presented some sparkly silver garments.
#20. Sphagnum Moss Green
The deeper, slightly warm-toned green neutrals that show up every season usually give us militaristic vibes. However, for the spring 2021 color trends, the neutral green of choice was Sphagnum Moss Green, a color that reflects the lushness of nature.
At Erdem, we made note of multiple jackets in Moss Green, but we particularly appreciated the feminine touch of a tight-fitting brocade pencil skirt and jacket pair in the mossy shade.
We also saw a Moss Green skirt and jacket set at Tod’s, although the fit was more relaxed, and the overall vibe was more casual.
#21. Inkwell Black
We always see black on the runways. It’s an inescapable color in the fashion world – or, technically, the absence of color. Many designers gravitate towards it more than they do towards any other neutral, but this is the first time we’ve seen it make an appearance in Pantone’s trend forecast.
Some designers worked primarily in Inkwell black and Baby’s Breath white. This included Wes Gordon for Carolina Herrera, who populated his collection with black evening dresses in classic Carolina Herrera silhouettes. Our favorite was a high-necked mermaid dress that came towards the end of the collection.
Hermès presented a lot of black leather, which isn’t the first thing we’d consider for spring. However, a black leather dress with a square neckline still impressed us.
Tons of other designers played around with black, from Chanel and Giambattista Valli to Simone Rocha.
#22. Polar Night Navy
If the intensity of Inkwell black isn’t too your liking, immerse yourself in the restful embrace of Polar Night. This deep navy is a fantastic backbone to any wardrobe, and it has a mature feel that’ll work particularly well for professional wear.
The Christian Dior collection tried to marry professional wear and comfortable at-home-wear with a series of voluminous jackets and blazers (often paired with matching skirts) in Polar Night navy. The design was like a relaxed version of the skirt suits for which Dior is known.
Etro turned Polar Night into something a little more glamorous, presenting a big-skirted gown made of satin in the deep shade.
#23. Ultimate Gray
Gray is another excellently timeless neutral. If you lean towards cool shades but don’t want to go too dark, Ultimate Gray is the perfect neutral to pair with some of the blue-based summer 2021 colors like Aqua, Blue Atoll, Cerulean, and even Mint.
Balmain took a professional approach to Ultimate Gray, with a whole series of both men’s and women’s suits in the neutral color. Our favorite look took it to a dramatic place, with a sharp-shouldered blazer worn over a matching dress.
No. 21 gave an evening wear option, with an elegant gray dress decorated with silver snap buttons and white pearls.
Instead of a typical tan, our brown neutrals lean strongly towards unique undertones. Willow is our main khaki-brown, and it’s the perfect shade for casual suiting or spring trench. It has a very subtle greenish undertone that lends it a freshness that fits well with the other spring 2021 color trends.
At Tibi, we spotted a striking blazer and trouser set with flattering high-waisted trousers and a blazer with intentionally rounded and oversized sleeves.
Stella McCartney also utilized this neutral for suiting, with a comfortable looking, slightly oversized set.
Then there’s Macchiato, a creamy coffee shade with some peachy undertones. It’s warm, but not in the loud way that a yellow-leaning brown shade would be, and it’s phenomenal when paired with true peaches or oranges.
It’s a great color for basics and separates, so Cinq a Sept presented a slightly sportier set with loose fabric trousers (loungey for the addition of pockets) and a zip-up jacket with short, feminine sleeves.
For a more professional look, the Veronica Beard lookbook featured a matching blazer and skirt set in the shade. Valentino took Macchiato to a romantic place, with a revealing, billowy dress made out of a transparent fabric in the shade.
#26. Desert Mist
There’s a lot of peachy similarly between Machiatto and Desert Mist, although Desert Mist is lighter and airier. Pantone even describes it as a color that brings to mind “shifting powdery sands.”
This color almost isn’t neutral. Take, for instance, a loose, drop-waist mini-dress we saw at Stella McCartney. When worn all over, it’s a real color with a peachy cast, which we think begs to be paired with oranges like Rust.
At Alberta Ferretti, floaty dresses in Desert Mist decorated with wooden beads felt like the perfect choice for a Sinai vacation that would reflect the landscape.
We also spotted great examples of Desert Mist at Fendi and Louis Vuitton.
A rich and creamy off-white shade is always in season, but for the summer 2021 color trends, it’s an especially nice neutral to choose. It blends in beautifully with pastel tones and helps the entire color palette retain its softness. On its own, it’s delicate yet down to earth.
Nicole Miller presented a collection of boho-chic, repurposed bridal wear, which meant that Buttercream was ubiquitous throughout. Our favorite example of it came towards the end, in the form of a Buttercream leather jacket adorned with patches worn over a similarly-colored mini-dress.
On the opposite end of the spectrum was a tailored Buttercream suit with geometric sleeves that was presented at Givenchy.
#28. Baby’s Breath White
White is a special color, so we always like to finish with it. It’s a light, pure, and hopeful choice, but it does also have a bit of starkness and clarity, especially when compared to the off-white Buttercream.
We’re always excited to see what Thom Browne will deliver, and this year, it was a collection composed of Baby’s Breath white in its entirety! The stark collection featured a lot of well-tailored suiting and separates worn mostly over dresses with drop-waist silhouettes.
White was also the main color at Fendi, where it was presented in all sorts of outfits, from sleek long coats to cozy outfits featuring crochet.
Photos via Vogue