The HYPEBAE Best: The Top Fashion Brands, Designers and It Items That Dominated 2021
Standout collections and accessories that we loved this year.
2021 was an exciting year for fashion with the return of physical runways and in-person gatherings, following a months-long pandemic filled with sweats and slides. Brands, designers, celebrities and more celebrated with front-row appearances, red carpet moments and new collections, while social media feeds were dominated with post-COVID looks.
In this year’s HYPEBAE Best, we’re highlighting the top brands, designers and It items of 2021. Balenciaga sparked buzz with its runway showcased in a one-off episode of The Simpsons, in addition to Kim Kardashian‘s faceless look on the Met Gala red carpet. Jacquemus opened an Instagrammable, all-pink pop-up in Paris for all to visit, and Prada became one of the hottest brands with the continued partnership between Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons.
We’re also celebrating up-and-coming designers, such as Chet Lo, ERL, Harris Reed, LUAR and Nensi Dojaka, whose creations have appeared on the red carpet, viral music videos and more. Our favorite It items include the coveted Fendi x SKIMS collaboration, Jacquemus’ popular cropped cardigan, Prada’s Cleo bag and more.
Continue reading for the top fashion moments and items of the year. While you’re here, make sure to check out the best beauty products of 2021, according to HYPEBAE’s editors.
Balenciaga was arguably the buzziest brand in fashion this year. The house kicked off a strong year with Kering announcing that it would go fur-free, followed by a joint “hacked” project with Gucci for its 100th-anniversary collection. It kept its spot as one of 2021’s hottest brands, continuing to roll out coveted releases including a PlayStation 5-themed range, as well as the high-fashion Crocs footwear collaboration.
Demna Gvasalia brought couture back for the house, while designing merch for Kanye West’s DONDA album. The label also took over social media with viral red carpet moments including Kim Kardashian’s all-black faceless look, which became a popular costume option for Halloween. The brand pushed boundaries with a hybrid Fortnite team-up and a runway featuring characters from The Simpsons. Most recently, Balenciaga became the first luxury name to join the metaverse.
In 2021, Chanel continued its ongoing partnership with BLACKPINK member Jennie, unveiling viral imagery featuring the K-pop star. The musician fronted the house’s “Coco Neige” and Coco Crush campaigns, and also sat front row in an all-red ensemble at Paris Fashion Week. While it’s worth noting that the house’s beauty line faced backlash for its $825 USD advent calendar, Chanel still marked a strong growth in sales and was praised for Virginie Viard‘s nostalgic Spring/Summer 2022 runway show.
Jacquemus continued to dominate social media this year with its bold colors and coveted accessories. On its Fall/Winter 2021 runway, the brand debuted some of its most popular styles to date that were later featured in its Winter 2021 campaign fronted by Kendall Jenner. The label also tapped families in Hawaii for its “Family Love” visuals, which gave a sneak peek at a potential Nike collaboration. The French label ventured beyond the fashion sphere to launch pink-themed releases such as an electric bike and CBD drink, while opening an all-pink pop-up in Paris. It is also planning to launch its own beauty line, which we’re anxiously waiting for.
Creative director Casey Cadwallader undeniably opened up a new era for Mugler this year. The brand showcased dynamic presentations that saw Bella Hadid doing backflips on the runway. Its designs were a favorite among celebrities like Cardi B for red carpet appearances. The legacy of Thierry Mugler is celebrated at a dedicated exhibition in Paris, titled “Thierry Mugler: Couturissime,” open until April 2022.
With Raf Simons joining the brand as co-creative director, Prada has become one of the coolest names in fashion. The house’s FW21 collection was filled with bold color palettes and photo-worthy accessories including the revamped Cleo bag and triangle logo-branded gloves. Its SS22 collection made “hot boy summer” a thing, breaking gender boundaries in fashion. With travel restrictions in place due to the ongoing pandemic, the brand presented its SS22 womenswear collection simultaneously in Milan and Shanghai.
Central Saint Martins alum Chet Lo became the breakthrough designer of the year after dressing SZA and Doja Cat for their hit track “Kiss Me More.” The American creative made his Fashion East debut in September with his signature spike knit pieces. The garments have since become a celebrity favorite, as seen on Dua Lipa, Willow Smith and Kylie Jenner, just to name a few.
Eli Russell Linnetz’s ERL became an instant hit when Justin Bieber dropped his music video for “Peaches,” in which he wears the label’s two-toned puffer jacket. The brand once again went viral after A$AP Rocky arrived at the Met Gala, where he wore a colorful quilt outfit that turned out to actually belong to someone’s great grandmother. It remained a go-to for rappers including Kid Cudi, who arrived at the CFDA Fashion Awards in a wedding dress.
2021 was a big year for Harris Reed, having shown his first-ever physical collection in September. The designer rose to fame for his gender-fluid creations seen on Harry Styles, Selena Gomez, Lil Nas X and more. The CSM graduate’s dreamy gown for Iman at the Met Gala marked another major moment for his eponymous label. Most recently, the rising label launched its Fluid Basics range, an extension of its focus on inclusivity and fluidity.
Created by Raul Lopez, co-founder of Hood By Air, LUAR returned to the runway at New York Fashion Week after a three-season hiatus. The label proved itself the city’s buzziest, showcasing its newest it-bag Ana loved by stars such as Dua Lipa and Troye Sivan.
Already an Instagram favorite, Nensi Dojaka celebrated a highlight year for her namesake label by winning the 2021 LVMH Prize. With the title, the designer showcased her debut solo runway at London Fashion Week, revealing updated takes on her signature cutout pieces. She additionally won the BFC Foundation Award at the 2021 Fashion Awards.
IT FASHION ITEMS
Bottega Veneta Mini Jodie
Daniel Lee abruptly left Bottega Veneta after making the fashion brand cool again by getting rid of social media marketing and developing the signature Bottega green color. While BV fans wait to see the house’s new collections under Matthieu Blazy’s direction, the Mini Jodie remains a bestselling accessory. The label’s iconic Intrecciato weave takes over the pouch, a statement-making design that goes well with both casual and dressy fits.
Fendi x SKIMS Collaboration
Kim Jones and Kim Kardashian teamed up on an unexpected Kim² project. The Fendi x SKIMS collection, featuring the Italian label’s logos across the shapewear brand’s ultra-comfy styles, reportedly earned $1 million USD in just one minute with most pieces selling out right after the drop. The duo returned with a second launch of bodysuits, briefs, bra tops and more.
Jacquemus La Maille Pralù Cropped Cardigan
Loved by stars like Jennie and Kendall Jenner, the La Maille Pralù cardigan is one of Jacquemus’ most coveted items. Arriving in red, green, orange and black options, the garment is highlighted with gold logo hardware at the front. The design also comes in the Neve iteration, which features short sleeves and fuzzy stretch-knit material.
Prada Cleo Bag
Raf Simons and Miuccia Prada brought back the Italian house’s cult-loved Cleo for the SS21 season. A design that took over ’90s fashion, the silhouette returned in larger sizing and colors, as well as adjustable straps. On the FW21 runway, the bag received further updates in geometric jacquard motifs.
Telfar’s iconic Shopping Bag received a shearling makeover in the brand’s UGG collaboration. The design, arriving in the usual small, medium and large sizing options, quickly became a favorite for cold weather fashion. In addition to the bag, the team-up featured boots and hoodies following the same theme.