The spring/ summer 2021 print trends are here, and like all other trends this season, they were influenced by the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. In this instance, the influence of the pandemic wasn’t just on designers’ creatives processes: it also had a massive impact on sourcing.
While many designers make their own prints, others buy already-printed fabrics. However, with so many factories shut down, sourcing summer 2021 prints and patterns was a difficult endeavor. This meant that many designers upcycled fabric from previous seasons, bringing back some familiar prints, while others stuck to solid-colored fabrics.
Then there were the designers that took the chance to get truly creative by taking printmaking and dyeing in-house, giving some unusual spring 2021 print trends.
All in all, there weren’t as many prints in the collections this season as there had been in the past, but the prints we saw absolutely stood out to us!
#1. Generally Floral
We found the abundance of florals a little surprising last season, but for the spring 2021 print trends, they make a ton of sense. After all, many designers still had a stock of the same fabrics they’d used in the previous few seasons. This time around, the floral prints felt much more harmonious with all of the other nature themes running through collections and presentations.
First, there were the designers we already expect to present floral prints, like the always romantic Rodarte, whose collection featured a lot of lush roses in prints that gave them room to breathe.
Erdem is another designer who often presents florals with a romantic twist, with lots of delicate miniature florals as well as some larger and busier prints. However, even designers that don’t play with florals often, like Tom Ford, gave some tropical prints a try.
#2. Extra-Large Florals
Large floral prints allow designers and print-makers to show off detailed artistry. They’re visible even when glimpsed via live stream on a tiny phone screen!
At Valentino, oversized florals gave a touch of romance to a flowy, oversized dress made out of partially transparent fabrics.
Adam Lippes is another designer who played with oversized florals, using earth tones to lend the realistic prints a softer touch. He used them primarily to decorate the bottoms of skirts, but the lookbook’s closing outfit was a dress covered in a bit more of the print from the bottom up to the torso.
Finally, the garden and bee-keeper theme at Kenzo was well-represented by oversized rose prints worn by male and female models alike.
#3. Tiny, Busy Florals
Small, busy matronly florals have a totally different vibe from the lush floral prints that remind us of nature. They’re a little more abstract, and there is also something a little matronly about them, which adds a great contrast to chic, high-fashion garments.
Michael Kors didn’t show too many prints, but he did include one flowy dress covered in busy black and white florals, with a sexy twist in the form of two high slits and a low neckline.
At Marchesa Notte, florals came in all sizes, but we really loved the drama of busy, super colorful florals over a tiered, belted spaghetti-strap dress. Tiny florals fit in well with the boho-chic, flower child aesthetic of the Nicole Miller collection, with quite a few pretty dresses perfect for frolicking.
#4. Scarf-Like Prints
Scarf-like prints added a rustic, old-world touch to the spring 2021 print trends. Normally, scarf-like print trends are all about the desire to wander to far-away bazaars, but this season, it seemed as though most designers returned to their roots and explored the print and fabric making of their home countries.
For instance, at Dior, Maria Grazia Chiuri took inspiration from Mediterranean paisley, crafting functional dresses, robes, and jackets out of the patterned fabric.
Etro collections are always a little inspired by travel, but this season, Veronica Etro actually took her inspiration from Italy, her home country. The fashion house is known for working with paisley prints, but the scarf-like prints this season were actually decorated with abstract, symmetrical vines and strong borders.
Finally, the “scarf” items at Marine Serre were the result of the young designer upcycling, turning carpeting into fringed skirts, jackets, and dresses.
#5. Vertical Stripes
Stripes show up almost every season, but from the spring/ summer 2021 print trends, they definitely had a more specific vibe. The majority of striped fabrics this season were quite colorful, and the stripes themselves tended to be vertical, which is always flattering.
Jason Wu took an escapist approach, with loose, striped garments ideal for a beach-side vacation. These included flowy dresses that would make the perfect swimsuit covers, as well as pajama-style separates.
There was a slightly biblical feel to the striped dresses and robes at Christian Dior, which had an old-world, raw quality to them and were styled to look loose and comfortable with just slight belting at the waist. There was also something a little biblical about the long, striped tunics at Michael Kors.
Versace presented the busiest version of vertical stripes over skirts, jackets, blouses, and shorts, either in neon shades or with combinations of straight stripes and staccato lines.
#6. Wild Stripes
In addition to vertical stripes, there were also striped summer 2021 prints and patterns going in other directions, in a wilder and more unusual style.
Combining two different striped fabrics is what created this wild effect at Louis Vuitton, with half-and-half dresses where each side featured stripes going in a different direction.
A long dress at Sunnei was made of a fabric with diagonal stripes. A mermaid skirt sewn to the bottom of the dress was made of the same fabric but attached on a different angle, which gave that same wild stripe effect.
#7. Horizontal Stripes
We downplayed them a bit, but horizontal stripes also figured into the summer 2021 prints and patterns. They weren’t quite as loud or dramatic as their vertical counterparts, but they still deserve some attention.
Christopher John Rogers is the exception, with some very colorful and fun dresses and sweaters that were decorated with stripes in bright oranges and blues, sometimes with cheeky circles breaking up the pattern over the breasts.
Thick sweaters at Burberry were covered in equally thick stripes, giving a very cozy look and even autumnal look in black and orange. There were also a lot of thick stripes covering polo shirts at Miu Miu.
There was something a little more vivacious and modern about the chrome stripes over a short, white dress at Temperley London.
#8. Squares and Checks
While plaid took a slight back seat this season (though there were still some plaid garments presented), squared and checked spring 2021 patterns were quite common. The pattern is a little more spring-appropriate, reminding of using picnic blankets and time spent outdoors!
One of our favorite examples of a checked print came from Alessandra Rich in the form of an off-the-shoulder dress that included some florals, really driving home the fact that checks are perfect for spring!
Giambattista Valli presented a miniskirt and buttoned shirt set in a cream and black checked pattern, which was later followed by a pair of trousers in the same print.
Molly Goddard also presented her own takes on squares and checks, with a ton of color and drama, by combining a green and black checked pattern with large, ruffled skirts.
The plaid looks we did see in the spring 2021 prints were certainly unusual. Some were on the lighter side, which definitely fit the warm seasons. Many were used for cozy-looking homey looks, while others had a patchworked vibe since designers had to recycle fabrics from previous seasons.
At Sunnei, a few plaid fabrics were actually patched together to make a surprisingly lightweight but homey-looking tunic. The vibe was thoroughly goth at Rokh, with tartan and plaid patchwork dresses worn over heavy combat boots and topped with leather harnesses.
At No. 21, a purple plaid skirt and button-up shirt set in a loose fit definitely reminded us of a pair of pajamas, especially since they were worn with a yellow plaid jacket that was a little robe-like in length.
#10. Abstract Paint
Fashion design is an art in and of itself, but designers often find themselves inspired by other mediums, including paintings. Art found its way easily into the spring/ summer 2021 print trends.
Certain designers found themselves more interested in abstract designs. Christopher Kane, in particular, returned to painting with glitter glue while on lockdown. He ended up presenting a collection where each item corresponded with a specific abstract painting he had made.
At Christopher John Rogers, one abstract print truly caught our attention. The design on the fabric was maximalist in loud neon orange, green, blue, and yellow, and it was used to construct an equally-maximalist tiered dress.
Finally, there are the incredible prints at Dries Van Noten. We’re always impressed by the artistry that Van Noten puts into printmaking, and this year was no different since he took inspiration from Len Lye and adapted his technique of painting on celluloid film to print on fabrics. The result was unique, colorful, and a little psychedelic.
It’s an election year in the US, and many designers are telling us to vote with their spring 2021 prints. Most of them don’t mention who the viewers should vote for, but I think we can all assume it’s not for the incumbent.
At Louis Vuitton, the command was emblazoned over ‘80s-style printed sweatshirts. The final look at Staud was also a little casual, telling the viewers to vote with button-like print over a simple white hoodie.
There was no subtlety about voting at Christian Siriano, where a long black dress (perhaps in a suffragette-inspired silhouette?) was printed all over with the word “VOTE” in white – the model wore a matching mask to drive the point home.
The ocean can be a rich source of inspiration for prints and designs. Summer (and resort) collections often draw inspiration from beaches, but for the summer 2021 print trends, the ocean depths are what a few designers chose to depict.
Donatella Versace presented a twist on the typical Versace patterns. Starfish, seashells, and coral decorated many of the garments, which models presented while walking through the imagined ruins of Atlantis.
Blue mermaid tails decorated long, flowy blouses at Burberry to fit with an under-the-sea story, while other garments were decorated with slightly eerie conspiracy motifs with waves, sharks, and lighthouses.
Staying indoors for so long drove many people to go out and adopt cats. Or maybe it drove everyone a little towards the comfort of kitsch. Whatever it might be, two slightly unhinged collections featured quite a few kittens.
At Ashish, the kittens decorating short-sleeved shirts were done in a pixelated style reminiscent of “touch tapestry” kits. The prints at Ashley Williams were more photorealistic but just as silly, with ultra-fluffy kittens decorating dresses and skirts.
We predict that tie-dye is slowly heading out, but it’s not totally gone. If you still have tie-dye garments from previous seasons, you can keep wearing them since the hippie dye technique continues into the spring 2021 print trends.
The Elder Statesman, an LA-based knitwear brand, also went heavy on the tie-dye with matching sweater and trouser sets as well as spaghetti-strap dresses.
Tom Ford presented caftans covered in large tie-dye prints in various colors for the ideal swimsuit cover-up or at-home summer look.
A few other designers wove a bit of tie-dye throughout their collections, including MSGM, Sportmax, and Osman.
Photos via Vogue