As the coronavirus pandemic extended into 2021, major brands and companies strove to bounce back from its impact on business with new initiatives and shakeups that dominated the year’s news cycle.
While last year’s biggest news stories centered around the immediate impact of the pandemic, 2021 saw major design houses change their structures with new chief executive officers and creative directors — like at LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, which expanded its partnership with designer Virgil Abloh — and embark on major new ventures, such as Gucci and Balenciaga’s “The Hacking Project,” to continue their business’ recovery.
The year also saw several historic moments in the fashion world, such as at President Joe Biden’s and Vice President Kamala Harris’ inauguration, which put a spotlight back on American fashion, and at the recent Paris Couture Week, which saw Pyer Moss designer Kerby Jean-Raymond make history as the first Black designer to earn a spot on the coveted calendar.
Here, WWD breaks down all the biggest fashion news stories of 2021 by month so far. Read on for more.
January 2021: President Joe Biden’s Inauguration Puts a Spotlight on American Fashion
The Cape Makes A Return On The Runway
Harris looked to Christopher John Rogers for her inauguration look, which consisted of a purple coat and dress accessorized with a David Yurman American flag pin. The color purple, which was also worn by former First Lady Michelle Obama and former Secretary of State and First Lady Hillary Clinton, had a significant meaning at the inauguration, as the hue “represents a blending and coming together of the red and blue, which are the two colors that represent each of the major political parties in the U.S.,” according to Laurie Pressman, vice president of the Pantone Color Institute.
Harris’ look also gave a nod to Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to the U.S. Congress, who ran for president in 1972 and used purple as one of her campaign colors.
February 2021: Rihanna Pauses Fenty Fashion Brand
Rihanna at the Savage x Fenty launch Clint Spaulding for WWD
Rihanna and LVMH announced on Feb. 10 that they would be pausing the musician’s Fenty fashion label nearly two years after its debut. The indefinite pause was brought on by challenges spawned by the ongoing pandemic and the brand’s difficulty in finding its footing upon launch.
The musician made history when she launched the brand in 2019, as it was the first time LVMH had created a brand from scratch since establishing Christian Lacroix in 1987. Rihanna is also the first Black woman to be at the head of a brand under the conglomerate.
March 2021: Teen Vogue’s Editor Controversy, Elsa Peretti Dies
Jewelry designer Elsa Peretti models her snake charmer belt-necklace and bone cuff bracelet. WWD
Teen Vogue was embroiled in controversy in March 2021 over its newly appointed editor in chief, Alexi McCammond, whose history of racist and homophobic tweets came to light after her appointment. Many of McCammond’s tweets targeted the Asian American community, which was experiencing a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes. After weeks of backlash over the appointment, McCammond announced she would no longer take on the role.
The month also saw the passing of famed Tiffany & Co. jewelry designer Elsa Peretti, who died on March 18 at the age of 80. Peretti started her career as a model, serving as one of American fashion designer Halston’s many muses. She later joined the fine jeweler and created some of its most well-known pieces, with her minimal silver jewelry becoming a core part of the brand’s identity.
April 2021: Alber Elbaz Dies, Gucci and Balenciaga’s ‘Hacking Project’, Changes at Ferragamo
Alber Elbaz Stephane Feugere
The fashion world was in mourning in April when former Lanvin fashion designer Alber Elbaz unexpectedly died at the age of 59 after battling COVID-19. His death came just months after Elbaz revealed his new fashion venture, AZ Factory, which he launched with Richemont.
April also saw Gucci celebrate its 100th anniversary with its “Aria” collection, which unveiled the design house’s “Hacking Project” with Balenciaga, where the two brands interpret each other’s logos, motifs and famous styles in their pieces.
Earlier in April, Salvatore Ferragamo announced that creative director Paul Andrew would be exiting the brand the following month. WWD was the first to report the news in January when market sources indicated Andrew’s contract was ending in February.
May 2021: IMG’s NYFW Fashion Alliance, Fashion and Media Sales
Backstage at Jason Wu RTW Fall 2021. Masato Onoda/WWD
As COVID-19 restrictions were slowly being lifted, IMG looked forward to September’s New York Fashion Week with a new initiative with 11 American designers that are committed to presenting at the biannual event through 2022. The alliance includes brands and designers Telfar, Rodarte, Proenza Schouler, Altuzarra, Brandon Maxwell, Prabal Gurung, Sergio Hudson, Monse, Jason Wu, LaQuan Smith and Markarian.
The month also saw several major sales in the fashion and media spaces. Verizon Communications started the month off by selling Yahoo and AOL to private equity firm Apollo Global Management for $5 billion. Hearst Magazines followed suit by selling Marie Claire U.S. to U.K.-based media company, Future, which already owns the U.K. version of the magazine.
On the fashion side, Ralph Lauren announced it would be selling Club Monaco to private equity firm Regent after 22 years with the brand.
June 2021: Victoria’s Secret’s Rebrand, Yeezy Gap, Media Shifts
Kanye West appears on stage during a service at Lakewood Church in Houston AP
Victoria’s Secret debuted a new look in June 2021 after its parent company, L Brands, announced it would be spinning off the lingerie brand into its own publicly held company. The lingerie brand revealed its rebrand with a new marketing campaign that included a diverse range of models and a board made up almost entirely of women. The initiative comes after L Brands founder and chairman, Les Wexner, announced in March that he was leaving the company.
There were a few major news stories to come from heritage design houses in June, including Burberry CEO Marco Gobbetti, leaving the English heritage brand for Salvatore Ferragamo, LVMH taking full control of Emilio Pucci, Richemont acquiring Belgian leather goods firm Delvaux and luxury watch company Tourneau changing its name.
Kanye West also revealed his Yeezy brand’s highly anticipated collaboration with Gap, releasing an image of a light blue puffy jacket made from recycled nylon.
June 2021 also saw several media shakeups. The New York Times’ longtime Styles editor, Choire Sicha, left his role to join New York Magazine as editor at large. Shortly after, it was announced that New York Magazine’s longtime editor of fashion vertical The Cut, Stella Bugbee, was leaving the magazine to join the New York Times as its new Styles editor. It was also revealed that Allure editor in chief Michelle Lee would be leaving the Condé Nast-owned publication to join Netflix as its vice president of editorial and publishing.
July 2021: Virgil Abloh’s LVMH Role, Phoebe Philo’s New Collection, Pyer Moss Couture
Virgil Abloh Lexie Moreland/WWD
July 2021 saw several major news stories among fashion and beauty brands. One of the biggest came from LVMH, which revealed on July 20 that it was expanding its partnership with Abloh, Louis Vuitton men’s artistic director and Off-White designer, and raising its stake in his brand to 60 percent. The deal also allows Abloh to launch more brands and seal partnerships across the conglomerate’s activities beyond the fashion division.
Additionally in the fashion space, it was reported that former Celine designer Phoebe Philo is planning a new collection, marking her first venture since leaving the fashion house in 2017. According to an industry source, Philo had been working on her own line when she left Chloé in 2006, but put the project on hold once she accepted the Celine job. LVMH is a minority investor in the new venture.
Jean-Raymond made history in July as the first Black fashion designer to earn a spot on the Paris Couture Week calendar. He debuted his first Pyer Moss couture collection at the Irvington, N.Y., estate of international hair care magnate Madam C.J. Walker — who is also the first self-made female millionaire in the U.S. — and presented a collection that paid homage to overlooked Black American inventions and inventors.
Balenciaga also had an impactful moment during couture week when designer Demna Gvasalia unveiled the design house’s first couture collection in 53 years. Gvasalia restored Cristóbal Balenciaga’s historic couture salon for the collection.
August 2021: Reebok’s Sale, Sephora at Kohl’s
Cardi B models her latest collaboration with Reebok Courtesy of Reebok
Reebok found a new owner in August 2021 when it was announced that the Authentic Brands Group inked a 2.1 billion euro deal to buy the athletic brand from Adidas. The deal reunites Reebok with its star endorser, former professional basketball player Shaquille O’Neal, who has long wanted to own the brand. The sale gives ABG, which is a licensing powerhouse, a boost in the athletic category just before its planned IPO this summer.
Additionally in August, Sephora and Kohl’s debuted their much-anticipated shop-in-shop initiative, where the beauty giant is bringing more than 125 prestige beauty brands to 850 of the mid-tier retailer’s locations across the U.S.
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