The thing about faithfully following fashion trends is that they tend confine us inside molds. As soon as taste makers declare the return of a silhouette or cut, you can expect that everyone with a flair for fashion will be wearing the same thing. The same goes with forecasts that cover color of the year or prints making a comeback. They fill the runways, sartorial pages, social media feeds and streets, making most of us look more like fashion clones instead of icons.
That’s the tricky thing about fashion. Trends and forecasts inform what is relevant. They sum up the overall style temperament and mood of a season. How you make them your own, however, will draw distinction between the trendy and the well-dressed.
Of all the season’s, Summer is the time when designers, stylists, creative directors and editors go all out. During these months, fashion opens its heart to color, prints, textures and a wide range of shapes. This is also a time for picking out pieces that truly stand out. With the promise of re-emergence just a few vaccine shots away, the last thing you want is to step out wearing the exact same white dress or sheer coverup as everyone else. Here, under-the-radar brands that will inspire you to go beyond the summer fashion trends of 2021. This is not a trend report.
WAIMARI does the classic white dress and sheer cover up, but with loads of chic Colombian flavor. The resort wear label based in Barranquilla, Colombia was founded by two sisters. Waimari was borne out of a desire to save their old family-run factory from closing. Designs celebrating wanderlust and colorful lifestyle in the Northern Colombian tropics, distinguish dresses, coordinates and summer robes from the brand. Each piece is executed by local artisans following craft techniques from generations past. The team expounds, “Traditional manufacturing techniques, craftsmanship and details are essential to us. Nothing is mass produced and everything is handmade with love.”
In true resort fashion, the brand’s key pieces are their white frocks. A very distinct approach to creating shapes and textures make their creations immediate standouts. Case in point: the Lorenza Dress from this year’s Spring/Summer collection evokes old world glamour via an asymmetric neckline. Intricate shell motifs, tassels and scallop trims usher in a sense of effortlessly sensuality fitting of a season under the sun.
USHATAVA is a Moscow-based brand that revisits the use of silk for summer. Founded by Nino Shamatava and Alisa Ushakova, the label has gained traction among fashion insiders with an appreciation for under-the-radar, effortlessly chic staples. Their capsule collection of silks was made with a highly discerning audience in mind. The idea was to curate a compact wardrobe of staples that could take you from city, to private hangar and finally, your dream island getaway.
Outsized silk shirts, wide leg trousers and off-shoulder dresses are key pieces that may be worn in countless ways. Silhouettes are decidedly soft and easy, indicating a time for freedom and movement. The reworking of a timeless shirt dress to create an asymmetric neckline was nothing short of genius. The palette is muted but refreshing to the eyes. Creams, grays and taupe with that subtle sheen from fine silk remind one of vast sandy shores or oceans sparking under a full moon.
NILUU is a sustainable luxury loungewear brand that make pieces for staying in look like pieces from a fashion page. Known for the vegan silk kimonos, the brand has also expanded to include wide leg trousers that you’ll want to pack for you next summer sojourn. They work with textile innovators from Turkey and draw from the country’s rich tradition of luxury in their designs.
Their Alyx Pants, available in Blush, Noir or the signature Monroe print, is a versatile piece that presents a chic alternative to the requisite white trousers of the season. Made using vegan silk, this conscious and planet-friendly style staple can turn a classic maillot into sophisticated outfit for seaside cocktails. I love how it can look effortlessly luxe with a bikini top and a men’s white shirt thrown over. It also completes a crisp and polished ensemble for the city when worn with a matching kimono or wrap top.
MY812 knows how to interpret nostalgia into garments in the most elegant and polished way. Working from their studio in Saint Petersburg, their team of artisans cut, fold and stitch the finest of Italian textiles to craft sophisticate silhouettes that celebrate women. “We buy stock fabric to scale our collection, which in turn reduces excess supply and adds a sustainable touch to our supply chain,” adds the MY812 team.
The Spring/Summer 2021 collection is a poignant tribute to her childhood. Founder and brand designer, Albina Zueva explains, “This collection is my memory of childhood, of the house where I spent my summers, of the house’s textiles, of my grandmother’s girlfriends in their skillfully knitted shawls and lace handkerchieves, of the hours spent with grandmas at the table embroidering snow-white cotton.”
A soft pink fabric with delicate floral prints is made into an open back dress with large flounce sleeves. It is a classic piece that strikes the perfect balance between sweet and sensual. The Nymphea dress, a multi-tiered maxi that dances with your every move, impresses as the kind of dress for waltzing into the season. Divine by design, the white tulip dress features a beautifully corseted bodice that closes with three dainty bows at the back. It is a stunning piece to wear when showing off sun-kissed shoulders and legs. Although seemingly simple in shape and detail, pieces from MY812 are meticulously made. “It takes weeks of manual work and a lot of effort from everyone.” This season’s collection is testament that less truly is more. It also reminds us of why the simplest things take the most work—because there is no place or fluff for flaws to hide.
Pieces from NISSE ought to be staples in every jet-setter’s wardrobe. They are made with form, function, movement and distinction in mind. Designs envisioned by Nargisse Akyuz draw from historical icons. They are executed using recycled, organic and vegan materials from certified suppliers around Europe.
For Spring Sumer 2021, the brand experiments with unexpected fabric combinations. Cashmere prints meet knits. Linens are paired with handmade appliques. There is a play in texture, movement and subdued color ways, punctuated by crisp tailoring. The idea was to capture the excitement of traveling to your dream summer vacation. To quote the NISSE team, “The timeless and voluptuous cuts, knit piece and cashmere prints create feminine silhouettes walking on the tarmac.” The entire collection is everything you can need for a Mediterranean summer sojourn. In my eyes, these garments that make the prospect of getting stranded on a beautiful island seem even more dreamy.
J’AMEMME makes couture pieces that you can actually wear. The brand’s signature pleats are crafted entirely by hand. The same goes for cutting and stitching. In the J’AMEMME studio, garments are made based on uncompromising quality. Brand designer, Julie Yarmoliuk, redefines femininity through sculptural shapes, unique fabric treatments and cuts that move with the body. Now a regular in the New York Fashion Week scene, the has become a favorite of style movers like Maye Musk and Kat Graham.
Hand pleated tops, trousers and dresses are additions to a summer wardrobe especially in a time of re-emergence. Pleated tops, paired with wide leg pants or pleated bottoms immediately transform brunch with the gals into a full one fashion moment. Dresses with exaggerated puff sleeves are essentials in a summer suitcase. They are staples to wear to dinner by the beach or cocktails with a sunset view.
MARIANA SENCHINA is romance, retro and rock ‘n roll all in one. The brand has been worn by icons like Rihanna and Dua Lipa. Signature polka dots, ruffles, and bows bring a sense of nostalgia and femininity to modern dressing. Designs are drawn from various epochs including the 50s, 60s and even the hard edged 80s. There are flower power references cleverly integrated onto contemporary silhouettes. Checkered prints on matching off shoulder dresses and berets recall the elegance of Jackeline Kennedy–Onassis. Boxy jackets and Bermuda shorts with polka dot prints are nods to power dressing in true femme fatale form.
Pieces from the Spring/Summer collection paint the picture of city living in the summer. Well tailored Bermuda shorts, cream pantsuits and vests are ideal for both work day and leisurely weekends. A dark brown polka dot coord set is an ideal ensemble for cruising around turquoise seas. If you are looking to channel your inner superstar, a classic white polka dot dress is fit for a grand entrance. Pair with oversized eyewear just in case the paparazzi come swarming.