Optimistic Tones at New York Fashion Week FW21

Virtual runway shows reveal colorful collections with otherworldly elements

Without the demanding structure of an in-person New York Fashion Week schedule, designers were free to debut digital shows, consider events in locations outside NYC or opt out in favor of different, independent presentations. Plenty of big name labels did just that—with several noticeably absent. That left room for emerging and mid-level designers to show some riskier, off-kilter, playful productions. This fashion week, we found ourselves drawn to the vibrant collections that encourage joy, nostalgia and a little joy. Here are our highlights from the virtual New York FW21 presentations.

Christian Cowan

Designer Christian Cowan‘s three-and-a-half minute narrative fashion film was as eclectic as it was celebratory. Starring Bowen Yang and Chloe Fineman, directed by Matthew Frost and titled A Fashion Thing, the comedic virtual spectacle in NYC’s Pierre Hotel incorporated bright, bold, shimmering and empowered pieces for all genders—united by optimistic extravagance. Further, proceeds from Cowan’s collection will benefit the Loveland Foundation, which supports the young Black queer community in Atlanta.


“After 12 months of being cut off from the real world—we’ve created our own,” designer Kara Jubin explains in a statement preceding her label KkCo’s NYFW presentation. Surreal yet stylish, the collection comprises colors, clashing prints, clever silhouettes, and, on multiple occasions, cyclopic models, adding even more magic to the otherworldly offering. It’s a playful collection with serious design prowess.


Employing all-natural and 100% cruelty-free materials exclusively, CHOCHENG designer Cho Cho Cheng marries many influences for his NYFW FW21 presentation. A Parsons fashion and costume design alum and an expert at British tailoring, Cheng applies these talents to womenswear and, more specifically, women’s tailoring. Eye-catching coats come with contrasting collars; extravagant caps flow into webbed capes; formalwear is reinvigorated with the right amount of theatric flair. According to Cheng, it’s Mulan reimagined in a 1980s utopia.


London-based label KA WA KEY‘s gender-inclusive collection comprises several colorful knitwear garments, cut-and-sew blazers and beanies, and plenty of patterns. The wool-dominated FW21 presentation references the eccentricity of characters like Willy Wonka and the Mad Hatter, translating their odd personas into layered wool ensembles and boucle tops and bottoms.


Matching sets make up most of the FW21 collection from designer Kee Kim’s menswear label, KEENKEE, from which there are plenty of statement pieces. Ombre coats pair with shiny pants, and all-over floral prints juxtapose tie-dyed velvet pants. Altogether the collection proves far-reaching. There are pieces within that cater to plenty of styles, especially if you’re someone seeking garments in optimistic tones.


From Charaf Tajer’s Casablanca, the “Grand Prix” collection encapsulates all the glitz and glam of Monaco, with plenty of casino references. Quilted coats contrast silky blouses, but all thematically link up through delightfully gaudy prints and almost-kitsch silhouettes.

Timo Weiland

Through images snapped by Timo Weiland co-founder Alan Eckstein, the NYC-based brand introduced their latest menswear articles in style. The lookbook, which features creative direction by Donna Kang and styling by Haley Loewenthal, puts “polished leisure” front and center, pairing the brand’s dress shirts and sport jackets with jeans. The single-breasted pink and double-breasted red blazers stand out for the fact that they bring levity to the future of formal.

Prabal Gurung

An ode to NYC, Prabal Gurung‘s FW21 collection embraces exaggerated shapes, sumptuous textures and glorious hues. Gurung says the garments are inspired by the city and “its eclectic misfits and impossible dreamers.” With some ’60s and ’70s influences, plenty of volume and clashing colors, the overarching vibe is one of playful glamour.

Images courtesy of respective venues, hero image courtesy of KkCo