The complete integration of social media into our lives has, for better or worse, birthed the phenomenon of virality. Now, moments that previously may have been forgotten about or not captured on film can take over the internet to dramatic effect, and even dictate offline practices. Trends, largely fuelled by TikTok this year, have caused a shift in how brands, people and enterprises operate, with people seeking virality as the new most desirable form of publicity. That is to say this year, things have got bigger, bolder and in some cases, just plain weirder.
Fashion is no exception – the amalgamation of both fashion and social media has irrevocably changed the industry and how it operates. From questionable collaborations between previously competing luxury houses to the return of low-waisted Y2K euphoria and a whole host of viral Balenciaga moments, fashion has never been so dramatic. We’re running through some of the best viral moments in 2021 fashion.
Dubbed by Alessandro Michele as a ‘hacking’, Gucciaga was one of the most significant, and most viral collaborations of fashion in recent memory, let alone 2021. Like a musician sampling the hits of past producers, Michele took inspiration from multiple Gucci periods (like Tom Ford’s time at Gucci), and combined them with signature Balenciaga designs such as broad-shouldered tailoring, windbreakers and knee-high boots, which have all been reinterpreted in recent years by Demna Gvasalia. Where else could you see Tom Ford-era velvet blazers alongside BDSM-inspired equestrian gear? Nowhere, and that’s why this collection is paramount. When it dropped last month, it near-instantly sold out, and was found on eBay hours later at sharply hiked prices. We can dream.
Two of the biggest names in fashion, Fendi and Versace, came together to mark the end of Milan Fashion Week with a dual show, titled ‘The Swap’, or, in the mainstream, ‘Fendace’. It seems Gucciaga walked so Fendace could run. No longer just about logo manipulation and precedence (although, both brands adopted a fusion-logo for their Instagram display pictures), this show was different in a number of ways. Firstly, it was more surprising: whilst Gucci and Balenciaga both fall under LVMH, Fendi and Versace are entirely separate houses and thus their joint venture at MFW spoke less to a convenient collaboration, and more to a celebration of Italian luxury fashion.
The metaverse seems to have taken over the last couple of months in fashion, with announcements from brands such as Nike, Balenciaga and adidas sharing that they’ve filed for trademarks, created new business units, and started designing collections to be exclusively released in the digital realm. What once seemed like Mark Zuckerberg’s distant dream is now becoming a reality, and fashion has taken note, especially since there’s predicted to be US$50 billion in it for them.
NFT has been made a ‘word of the year’ by Collins dictionary after the use of the abbreviation rose by more than 11,000% in 2021. Recent NFTs in fashion include Jawara Alleyne’s blunt-dress design – a virtual avatar wearing the iconic piece – and Hermès’ line of NFT Birkins. With the inevitable intertwinement of the fashion and tech worlds, NFTs are moving from being sidelined to being the norm, and fashion is no exception.
Miu Miu really said low waisted is back. In its SS22 show in Milan, the brand brought back the micro-mini, with pocket linings hanging below the skirt’s cut off and a collection of belt-skirts, too. Elongating the torso in a reminder of the Paris Hilton days of the early noughties, this collection also featured super-cropped workwear inspired jumpers and shirts, fuelling the Y2K movement that has carried over from previous years.
Another brand that went viral for its dive into Y2K was Blumarine, who’s glitter-heavy, sequinned and butterfly inspired collection screamed Y2K euphoria. Whilst they took a more subtle approach at the beginning of the year with fur coats and lots of low waisted silhouettes, it was the SS22 collection in September that went viral. Think baby pinks, blues and a good dose of nostalgia.
Despite being snubbed in the GQ ‘most stylish man’ list, coming in at a dismal number 19, Kanye gave us a whole host of viral fashion moments. Perhaps most obvious though was his mask wearing: being spotted across Europe in toy store latex masks. This then led to an army of Halloween-mask-wearing Ye’s taking the streets of New York to promote the release of the new version of Donda.
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YEEZY X GAP
Another viral drop from 2021, Kanye’s YEEZY x Gap line which sold out within hours. The main event was the blue puffer jacket, revealed in June, spotted on the musician in paparazzi shots multiple times throughout the year and racking up serious searches online. Retailing for US$200, it wasn’t surprising that this caused a frenzy online when it was later released in Autumn.
Rarely seen without them, Kanye has also been the subject of headlines and online attention for his devotion to the Balenciaga crocs. A viral moment in itself, Balenciaga’s collaboration with crocs saw the brand release three runs of the platform clogs, which got progressively darker and higher throughout the year. Coupled with the latex masks, Kanye developed something of a signature look, which we’re expecting to be seen through 2022.
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FASHION IN FILMS
The fashion in the critically acclaimed sci-fi movie has gained a lot of attention, and not only because recently proclaimed fashion icon Zendaya and Gen-Z poster boy Timothée Chalamet were included in the movie. The costumes were produced by the extraordinary duo Jacqueline West and Bob Morgan, who have an impressive portfolio of film costume design under their belts. Although it’s a sci-fi, the pair were not only inspired by the future: West and Morgan looked to a hybridisation of past and future to craft a totally different aesthetic – self-described as “mod-eval,” a blend of modern and medieval.
HOUSE OF GUCCI
As well as chronicling the Gucci family’s historical murder plot, Lady Gaga’s outfits at various premieres ensured the film got lots of attention, both on and offline. The film has also caused a great deal of controversy: Tom Ford said he “laughed out loud” when watching the film, and the Gucci family are gearing up to sue the filmmakers for their allegedly unfair portrayal of their character. However, no publicity is bad publicity, and these headlines have helped House of Gucci be one of fashion’s most viral moments of this year.
Back in July, Demna Gvasalia staged his first couture show for Balenciaga, paying the utmost homage to Cristóbal Balenciaga. Marking the brand’s 50th couture show, and the first show since Balenciaga’s retirement in 1968, Gvasalia continued to test boundaries by creating a traditional show, while merging his futuristic aesthetic to create a new era of couture. Taking place in Balenciaga’s original Parisian salon, the silent show was an ode to the house’s founder. As Gvasalia stated, “Over half a century later I see it as my creative obligation to the unique heritage of M. Balenciaga to bring the couture back to his house”.
ALBER ELBAZ TRIBUTE
Global fashion houses united in a tribute show for the late fashion great, Alber Elbaz to mark the end of SS22 Fashion Month. For the show, 45 designers and Elbaz’s design team at AZ Factory came together in celebration of his talent, personality, and design legacy. Many, like Jean Paul Gaultier, chose to play off the designer’s love for love, offering a striking couture dress composed of layered, three-dimensional, ruby red hearts. Others chose to immortalise Elbaz’ own iconic dress sense, with designers such as Ralph Lauren adding signature bow ties and Olivier from Balmain using a portrait.
DOMINIQUE FOR MUGLER
Dominique Jackson’s walk for Mugler’s digital fashion films this year gave pure power. For Spring 21, the model opened the show wearing Mugler’s signature lined sheer bodysuits, a walk worthy of virality, and leading to the designer’s second film for Fall 21, which played with acrobatics and sharp editing to present its next collection.
NAOMI FOR VERSACE
You can’t mention iconic walks without mentioning Naomi Campbell, and this year she gave us a viral walk at Versace’s show in Milan. Dressed in a bright fuschia look, Naomi gave us her signature, famous strut and even threw her bag into the audience, seemingly because she couldn’t be bothered to carry it anymore. Iconic.
KID CUDI FOR LOUIS VUITTON
The most recent moment in this list, Kid Cudi walked the catwalk for Virgil Abloh’s last, and posthumous show for Louis Vuitton. A firm friend of the late designer and visionary creative, Cudi wore a green look which featured a panelled jacket and fluid silhouette. He was joined on the runway by Offset, and walked for an A-list audience who turned out in Miami to witness Abloh’s poignant last collection for the luxury house.