Designers, retailers, editors, and consumers have spent the past year in conversation about what needs to change in our industry. The pandemic revealed the cracks in the system; in some cases, it deepened them. We need better diversity practices, real sustainability commitments, and increased transparency, but we’ve also agreed that we simply need less stuff. Early on, designers called for dramatic alterations to the retail cycle, and brands high and low have extolled the virtues of a “fewer, better” approach, vowing to create smaller, more infrequent collections with items they truly believe in.
How does it jibe with the breakneck news cycle and social media pressures of 2021? Stories feel old within a matter of days; by the time this month’s fall 2021 collections are in stores, many of them will feel tired. It’s one thing to talk about slowing down and producing less, but how do you keep people interested without that constant newness?
All of this has been on Mara Hoffman’s mind. Last October, when most designers had just shown their spring 2021 collections, she couldn’t wrap her mind around making anything new. She still had so much inventory from past seasons—and more importantly, she still believed in those clothes. A few months shouldn’t render them waste, so she re-styled them in her resort 2021 lookbook and sold them on her site immediately. The intention was partly to reflect the moment—and it was an anxious, messy moment—but also to start a conversation about longevity, novelty, and volume. How much clothing do we really need? And how far can we push that linen jacket, high-rise bikini, or printed sarong?
Spring 2021 is a similar “in season” experiment, mixing past-collection items with a few new designs made with leftover textiles in Hoffman’s studio. Loyal customers will recognize the “popcorn” Tencel in cherry and bubblegum pink, as well as the earthy zebra-striped organic cotton. A tie-front blouse in ivory or poppy linen was probably a repeat silhouette, but honestly, who cares? It looked fresh pushed off the shoulders and styled with kitschy shell jewelry, all handmade by Hoffman and her friend, Pamela Love, with old beach finds.
Hoffman embraced quirk, color, and lots of skin, capturing the heat and radiance of summer at a time when we’re so desperately craving it. To that end, she also mixed her popular swimwear line with her ready-to-wear for the first time. Wearing bikini tops and maillots as “real clothes” became something of a trend in New York last summer, ideal for beating the heat and humidity of our extremely-outdoor lives. Hoffman is ready for those glistening afternoons; she joked that if tanning beds weren’t so disastrous for your health, she’d install one in her house in lieu of a trip to Tahiti or Jamaica.
As New York gradually warms up, you can count on seeing her in her cotton button-down and easy trousers in a barely-there shade of blush; she explained they were tinted with rose petals. An artist pressed and rolled dozens of them into the fabric, so each garment will have a one-of-a-kind finish. It’s Hoffman’s next experiment in organic, natural, regenerative fabrics, following resort’s Climate Beneficial wool sweaters made in partnership with Fibershed. That project is expanding for fall 2021 (though we probably won’t see it until closer to the in-store dates), and Hoffman is hoping to do more natural dyes in the future.
See? Not that much newness, but plenty of news and lots to look forward to.