The Beginner’s Guide to Post-Pandemic Fashion

Hot girl summer is just around the corner, thanks to vaccinations and the promise that we will soon be enjoying barbecues again. If you are feeling stressed about what to wear, join the club! Is baggy clothing here to stay? Who are the designers to watch? How are designers and advocates pushing the industry to be more accountable, sustainable and inclusive? Join us for today’s look into the uncertain world of post-pandemic fashion.

talking trends

Vaccine-Ready. Everything that Dolly Parton touches turns to gold, including what she wears. She’s inspired a whole new fashion trend of vaccine-ready clothing. Amy Schumer was the latest to hop on the trend, wearing her fanciest dress with an arm cutout to get the jab. The cold-shoulder top is now the vaccine top, bringing ’80s fashion to 2021. Outfits with lots of arm/shoulder real estate are all the rage, with creative ensembles catching fire on TikTok.


Baggy Is Back. The myth that style and comfort cannot coexist was debunked during stay-at-home mandates: Fashion must evolve when the highlight of your day is venturing into your living room. The current stage: baggy. Tracksuits, breezy maxis and pajamas are only a couple of the styles flourishing over the past year. Japanese brand Suicoke is leading the sandal trend with a chunky, orthopedic-styled silhouette. Similarly, multibrand Chinese streetwear retailer DOE Shanghai’s lookbooks use layers and oversized concepts, including its February collaboration with MAGIC STICK and WILD THINGS. Baggy is back and it just might be here to stay.

Bootlegging. Bootleg fashion, with its DIY customizations of nostalgic brands, first became a trend in streetwear in 2016. From forgotten bands to ’90s television shows, T-shirts were time machines sending customers to their favorite era of pop culture. Today that trend is dominating the fashion industry as designers who got their break from that style are now directors of major fashion houses. Chicago’s Joe Freshgoods is collaborating with the same brands he once mimicked, and Michael Cherman’s entire brand’s premise is based off New York’s Chinatown markets. Look for nostalgia to continue being the driving force for streetwear in the future.

Rise of the Black Designer. The late Karl Lagerfeld set a standard in the fashion world as a designer, photographer and creative director who impacted the industry as a whole — and trends indicate a person of color will step up to fill that void. Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton, Shayne Oliver at Helmut Lang and Kerby Jean-Raymond at Pyer Moss are among a wave of new Black designers shaping the fashion industry’s future. The momentum went into overdrive after the death of George Floyd as a record number of Black designers were tapped for projects. Expect to see Gucci, Louis Vuitton and other big names continue to do so. Read more on OZY.

on the radar

Lack of Inclusivity. Gucci’s admission to taking influences from Dapper Dan — a legendary Harlem streetwear designer from the ’80s — is just one example of the mainstream’s long history of appropriating Black ingenuity. And while the two sides have since collaborated and made amends, the issue persists. The retail chain Fashion Nova has been accused of appropriation, and Kylie Jenner has been repeatedly called out for not giving credit to Black-owned labels (she denies the claims). However, with people of color occupying more positions of power, perhaps there will be fewer imitations and more collaborations.

Telfar. “It’s not for you — it’s for everyone” is more than just Telfar’s tagline. Founded by Liberian American Telfar Clemens, the company is built on affordability, down to their Bag Security Program — a made-to-order luxury bag service disrupting the resale market. Competing with Chanel and Gucci, the faux-leather carryall sells out just as fast at half the price. Telfar does all of this while appealing to a diverse consumer base that includes men, people of color and queer audiences. They are so popular that Guess is under fire for copying their bag design.

Stealing From Creators. One of fashion’s most notorious “content farms” is causing waves on TikTok. Danielle Bernstein, head of WeWoreWhat, got eviscerated on the platform for stealing designs, outfits and content from smaller creators, often people of color. She took to the video stage to defend herself, decrying what she called bullying. Still, many were quick to point out her habit of requesting free samples from small designers and refusing to credit them or copying them outright for her clothing line. Among the victims: Latina designer Karen Perez, whom Bernstein copied after requesting samples from her.

#UsToo. Is #MeToo coming for the fashion world? Recent allegations of sexual assault leveled at Alexander Wang have exposed the tortoise pace at which the industry has responded to the #MeToo movement, especially for male-identifying models. The accusations were largely met with silence, which Owen Mooney, the model who first accused Wang, called “deafening.” Mooney channeled his outrage into the hashtag #UsToo, which is used to share stories of sexual abuse by LGBTQ people, as well as within the fashion industry.

forces for change

Ngozi Okaro. While caring for her sick father, Okaro found herself using sewing to destress. She was inspired to create Custom Collaborative, a skills incubator for low-income women or women from immigrant communities who want to start fashion businesses. The Manhattan-based collective is all about empowering women who are traditionally taken advantage of by the fashion industry and encouraging consumers to pay attention to the handicraft (and environmental impact) behind their purchases. Read more on OZY.


Jin Kay, Dylan Cao and Huy Luong. The ’80s are back, but not the horrible hair. Designers of the label Commission decided to pay homage to their Asian moms and bring their fabulous style to the runway. The brand marries Western fashion with Eastern execution in a way that honors their mothers’ sleek look and impeccable tailoring (albeit often using cheaper cuts of fabric). The brand is putting Asian women at its heart instead of tokenizing or appropriating their fashion.

Phillip Lim and Ruba Abu-Nimah. Together, the two designers are teaming up to fight anti-Asian violence. They are designing Stop Asian Hate key tags, with the proceeds going to the AAPI GoFundMe. The pair is also the brains behind the “New York. Tougher Than Ever” campaign. For Lim, who has his own fashion line, and Abu-Nimah, who was named Tiffany’s new creative director last month, their activism is rooted in the belief that even doing something small makes a difference. Lim encourages everyone to “inspire your surroundings to give a damn.”

Anifa Mvuemba. Born in Nairobi, Kenya, to Congolese parents, Anifa Mvuemba’s inclusive label, Hanifa, provides a rare space for plus-size women of color. Her collection of luxury pieces spans sizes 0-20, offering palettes and design trends on par with any major fashion line. Mvuemba’s industry leadership extends beyond the threads: In 2020, she produced Hanifa’s fashion show on Instagram Live using 3D animation to make it appear as if ghosts with curves were floating down the catwalk for an added spooky effect.

new wave of indigenous fashion


Bethany Yellowtail. Over the past year, Northern Cheyenne Nation designer Bethany Yellowtail used her business to make more than 100,000 masks featuring the tribe’s symbol, the morning star, for her community — as Native people are dying of COVID-19 at twice the rate of white Americans. Her company, B.Yellowtail, is a tribute to the textiles and colors she grew up with on a southern Montana reservation. She sells her own designs as well as those from other Native artists.

Jamie Okuma. Okuma takes luxury fashion and turns it into something even more stunning. The renowned beadwork artist hails from the Luiseño and Shoshone-Bannock tribes, and her pieces can be found at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian. Her latest commission is a pair of boots featuring a hand-beaded image of her childhood pet, a California scrub jay named Peep.

Eighth Generation. This Native-owned lifestyle brand is dedicated to lifting up their community by eschewing stereotypes and providing products that expand the definition of what it means to be Native. The brand sells everything from blankets to phone cases. Founder Louie Gong got fed up with companies co-opting Native designs for their gain, so he decided to beat them at their own game and redirect that consumer spending back into Native communities.

Truly Sustainable Fashion. It’s one of today’s most popular buzzwords, but sustainable fashion began with Indigenous designers and the connection with nature. Designer Sho Sho Esquiro insists that the heart of sustainability has to be “less of a focus on ‘trendy,’ and more respecting the balance between humans and the natural world. People need to remember they have power by being a consumer — change happens with you and me.” It’s a principle that applies across the globe, from making vegan wool in India to upcycling textile scraps in Estonia.

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