The It List: 9 Brands, Trends, and Items That Mattered Most in 2021
As fashion editors, we're always looking forward—we're scouring collections to anticipate next year's biggest trends or scrolling through Instagram to find the next It bag, It brand, or influencer of the moment. It's rare to reflect in fashion, but luckily for us, we here at Who What Wear have one annual tradition that allows us a chance to go down Nostalgia Lane: The It List. Formerly known as our Street Style Awards, The It List is our version of Spotify Wrapped, but for fashion.
How did it go down exactly? We had our editors compile the trends, brands, and pieces that dominated the runways and our social feeds and then had our stylish readers (looking at you) vote for the best of the best. Once you all said your peace, we had a panel of critics weigh in on your favorites for each category. The result? Well, you'll have to see for yourself, but rest assured, if this recap taught us anything, it's that 2021 fashion understood the assignment.
Photo:Courtesy of Mickey Freeman, @used.issue, Telsha Anderson-Boone, Tyler Joe
Speaking of critics, let's meet them. This year, we're excited to present our four critics, or panel of judges if you will, who each represent a different perspective of the industry: Mickey Freeman, celebrity stylist; Telsha Anderson-Boone, owner and buyer of NYC shopping destination T.A.; Tyler Joe, the inimitable street style photographer; and, of course, Kat Collings, our very own editor in chief and the creative director of Who What Wear Collection. Each of them weighed in on the biggest trends, brands, and items as chosen by you and chatted with us about why they made their mark on fashion this year. From the trend of the year to the rising brand we should all have on our radars, it’s officially time to present to you the winners of the 2021 It List. So sit back, relax, and enjoy our official year in review.
Photo:@devapollon; @samimiro; @claire_most; @lottaliinalove
Hold on. Is this from 2001 or 2021? We may live in an uncertain world, but fashion's cyclical nature is one thing we can always rely on. No matter how controversial or outdated something feels, you can pretty much guarantee it will come back around eventually. Whether or not many of us were emotionally ready for it, the early 2000s came roaring back into the fashion spotlight, and it had us questioning where the line was between modern and throwback style. The trends of the early aughts not only dominated in 2021, but as Freeman put it, they served as a source of escapism.
While for some of us, the return of Y2K fashion is laced with borderline-traumatic memories of low-rise jeans, liberally placed rhinestones, and kitschy butterfly motifs, for others, the era is just nostalgic enough to feel exciting. "Being a teenager during the '00s, it's fun to see trends being reintroduced in a more modern way," one reader shared with us.
No matter how you feel about the return of the era's aesthetic, you can't deny that 2021 let us relive some of our favorite early aughts fantasies—Britney Spears is freed from her conservatorship, Lindsay Lohan is engaged, and Paris Hilton got married in our dream wedding dress. Low-rise jeans may still haunt us, but nature is healing.
Twenty twenty-one may have still had a big focus on comfort and easy style, but that didn't mean that a little glitz and glamour were completely overlooked. On the contrary, we jumped at the opportunity to break out our best going-out attire and put the idea "revenge" dressing to the test. After far too long of having nowhere to go, we were more than ready to dress up again this year, and nothing exemplifies this party-ready mood quite like Mach & Mach's heels.
The crystal-embellished heels absolutely lit up our social media feeds with their unmistakable bow-tie details and bright candy hues. "The perfectly placed crystal-encrusted double-bow somehow pulls off being a showstopper while being somewhat understated and sophisticated," Freeman explained, continuing, "They are the type of heels every woman would wear to their mailbox just to show them off." We couldn't have described them any better ourselves.
Just to be sure they were a fan favorite, our readers were equally as on board as our expert-filled panel was. They won our popular vote by a landslide, which is impressive considering they were up against heavy hitters like the Prada Cleo bag and Jacquemus logo cardigan. "These shoes give Cinderella vibes," one reader quipped. You know what, if I left one of these stunners behind at a party, I would only entrust a prince to return them to me, too. Actually, if they were in my possession I would probably never let them out of my sight.
Photo:The Style Stalker; @indyabrown; @thevisuelofgrace; @handinfire; @katcollings
Every year, one brand manages to embed itself into the collective psyche of the fashion set; this year, it's Jacquemus. It's easy to see why this brand is the It brand of the year—just look at its buzzy micro-cardigans, dreamy resort collections, or the viral F/W 21 runway featuring Kendall Jenner. And when we asked panelist Telsha Anderson-Boone about her opinion on Jacquemus winning the It brand of the year, she stated, "Duh! The king of all things mini, tropical, and vibrant."
But what truly makes Jacquemus an It brand goes back to the designer himself, Simon Porte. You'd never guess it, but Porte is a self-taught designer who launched the brand at the humble age of 19. Porte's fresh perspective in the industry gives him the freedom to turn the coveted je ne sais quoi of French style into approachable ready-to-wear. With every collection, it's as if he's tapped into the fantasy of women and men worldwide to create something everyone wants to buy (our readers included). Just look at what one reader told us about Jacquemus. They said, "I bought my pink Bambino bag this past year, and it's perfect. His accessories are magnifique." So there you have it, friends; when you're able to get everyone to hop onto the mini-bag train, you know you're doing something right.
Photo:@camillecharriere; @Adwoaaboah; @handinfire; @bellahadid; @jourdandunn
Every so often, a new brand comes along and quite literally takes your breath away. Ask anyone in fashion, and they will agree that Nensi Dojaka is one of the freshest new labels on the scene right now. "She started her line in 2017, and it feels like this is her breakout year," Collings effused. This year put the London-based designer on the map not only because she took home the coveted LVMH prize for young designers but also because an A-list crowd including Bella Hadid, Jourdan Dunn, Dua Lipa, Adwoa Aboah, and many more names were donning her delicate strappy mesh pieces all over the red carpet and Instagram.
Moody, sexy, and a little subversive—that's how I'd describe Dojaka's otherwordly creations. "The delicate garments have brought a freshness to the catwalks, without compromising their edge," noted Freeman, and I think that's what made them resonate so much with our 2021 sensibilities. The strappy numbers manage to toe the line between being wearable and barely there. "I'm excited to see which celebrity wears it next!" Anderson-Boone wondered, and to that, we'd say the possibilities in 2022 are endless. Commit her name to memory because Dojaka is only getting started.
Photo:The Style Stalker
Last year, '90s shoulder bags were named the It bag of the year by our readers, so it only makes sense that this year's winning style would be the staple of the early aughts, the baguette bag. As our editor in chief, Kat Collings, explained, "A subcategory of the Y2K revival, the baguette bag was ubiquitous this year. The trend has been gaining steam for a while, which makes sense given the sensibility of a shoulder bag and the fact that all the biggest fashion people have been wearing them."
IYKYK that the hype around this bag style isn't just because of all the dreamy iterations of the staple that have been found at Fendi, By Far, and Staud (though it helps). In truth, this bag is an icon in its own right because it's moved beyond a label and cemented itself into the zeitgeist. As one reader told us, "It almost feels fitting with the reboot of Sex and the City that this bag was the It bag of the year. Say goodbye to the days of an impractical bag." It's this bag's popularity and practicality that has cemented it into the hearts of many. It's not any old bag; it's a baguette, fam.
Photo:@haileybieber; @champagnemani; @anaasaber; @alllisonho; @the_real_chi; @fashionwithjazz
We'll admit we were a little salty that revenge dressing did not win Trend of the Year. Who doesn't love a cutout moment? Or built-in G-strings? All was forgiven in our books when we found out that Miaou was the winner for the most tagged brand on Instagram. As Kat Collings mused, "Miaou is so Instagram-friendly it's no wonder it won this category. Its eye-catching corsets and dresses are made to celebrate the body, and to that, I say amen!"
Miaou's sets and corsets haven't popped off on the 'gram just because they're oh so hot. In a way, the brand's design ethos speaks to a significant cultural moment we're in: the rise of the hot-girl aesthetic. As one of our readers adeptly put it, "This brand screams Hot Girl Summer." And while summer may be long gone, the style movement spearheaded by brands like Miaou and celebrity icons remains. Because being a "hot girl" is all about embracing yourself, and if you happen to find you're feeling yourself in a cow-print corset, that's all the better.
Photo:@chanelmckinsie; @bria.jo; @champagnemani; @sofiamcoelho; lefevrediary
We've discussed how glamour made its striking return this year, but just because we're breaking out our heels and dresses again (sometimes), we weren't ready to give up our comfortable staples just yet. Loafers resonated for that reason. They're a classic that's almost too timeless to be deemed on-trend, yet with a few 2021 updates like square toes and lug soles, they soared to the front of everyone's rotation and became the shoes we reached for over and over again through the course of the year. Given their highly wearable nature—you really can walk all day in them—it's not hard to see why.
The rise of loafers also happened to coincide with the return of preppy fashion. Fashion people were keen on styling their loafers with contrasting ankle socks and, more than likely, either a crisp button-down shirt, polo sweater, or pleated miniskirt (or sometimes all of the above).
Photo:The Style Stalker
Our relationship to color has changed throughout the pandemic like all aspects of our lives. One could say the fashion set's sudden adoption of saturated hues surprised everyone—after all, this is the same crowd that was telling us beige and chocolate browns were the only colors that mattered. But 2021 proved that color is back and better than ever, and there's one hue that's been brightening up the world: kelly green.
To comprehend how this hue has managed to distinguish itself from the entire pack of saturated hues and come out as the only color that matters this year requires you to have a holistic view of the state of the world. Colorful clothing has become a way to inject joy into our lives when we need it the most, and in the minds of experts like Anderson-Boone, "There's no better color. Period." Beyond the hue being badass, its popularity can be attributed to Bottega Veneta. As one reader explained to us, "This hue took over everywhere from Bottega Veneta and beyond, and I'm not mad about it. It's a color everyone can look good in." Whether it's the influence of the pandemic or Bottega Veneta, it's clear that this color is here to stay.
Photo:@greceghanem; @anna__laplaca; @mon.agar; The Style Stalker; @oliviafaeh; @daniellejinadu
When a staple is so good you can wear it every day of the week and never tire of it, that's when you know it's a winner. Relaxed trousers were quietly the backbone of our wardrobes this year with their easy-to-style and effortlessly cool nature being just a few main reasons we love them so much.
As Freeman put it, “relaxed trousers belong to 2021 because they can be the foundation of an entire silhouette." Whether you're going for a suiting look with an accompanying blazer, keeping it simple with a thin knit, or giving a nod to the Y2K redux with a low-slung waistline, the styling possibilities are virtually endless, which makes a pair of relaxed trousers, especially in a natural hue like tan or camel, one of the most valuable wardrobe additions you can make right now. Dare we say they're even replacing our jeans?