Cloudwear is a trend to watch as we move out of the summer months and into chillier evenings. The plush term was coined by trend forecaster Agus Panzoni who has gained an ever-growing following of 241,000 on TikTok for her succinct and captivating analyses of what’s to come in the fashion industry. Through her honest, engaging approach to trend forecasting, Panzoni lets her followers know what to keep their eyes on while also championing small, diverse businesses. Recognising the fantastical, unfeasible nature of cloudwear’s unpredictable silhouettes, Panzoni invites her audience to engage with the trend through statement accessories. Examples range from Baggu’s cloud totes to Holzweiler’s puffy scarves.
While the trend has infiltrated Fall/Winter 2021 collections across the board—check out Eckhaus Latta’s quilted skirts and Ottolinger’s padded sandals—what exactly precipitated it?
With the rise of Lululemon and similar brands in the 2010s, athleisure has been around for a while now and it doesn’t seem like it’s going anywhere. Forbes Council Member Alison Bringé noted in May 2021 that “although the fashion industry struggled last year, it seems that activewear and athleisure brands flourished more than ever.” With more people spending time indoors and on screens watching their favourite influencers—who more often than not also double as digital personal trainers, take Grace Beverley for example—athleisure has saturated the market and our wardrobes even more so. Bringé stated that currently “more and more people not only spend their time at home exercising […] but also spending their money on clothes that are simply multi-seasonal and multifunctional.”
Cloudwear’s affinity for light, poofy layers and quilted aesthetics fits seamlessly into athleisure’s continued evolution. But as we move further into the 2020s, where is athleisure headed? CR Fashion Book’s Hannah Oh looks to utility-inspired apparel for answers. Clothing influenced by outdoor and military gear, workwear, cargo pants, and more has certainly gained popularity in recent years. While cloudwear seems frivolous compared to the clean lines, square shoulders, and multipurpose functionality of the utility trend, it does have some similarities.
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The Spring/Summer 2021 and Fall/Winter 2021 seasons were marked by a “collective celebration of joyful fashion,” as stated in CR Fashion Book. Collections by luxury houses such as Valentino and Balenciaga expressed their elation through larger-than-life silhouettes, puffed sleeves, and structured ball gowns. Chitose Abe of Sacai, guest designer for Jean Paul Gautier’s couture Fall/Winter 2021 season, even took to mixing and matching draped puffer jackets with pinstripe corsets and structured undergarments. The result was a playful interpretation of the utility and athleisure trends’ love of seamless preparedness in a captivating yet largely impractical manner. Oh concludes that in 2021, “fashion seems to be flirting with utility in a way that lives somewhere between practicality and play.” Cloudwear’s fusion of fantasy and reality fits into this analysis harmoniously.
So where does cloudwear fit into our cultural moment? As we’ve collectively emerged from our quarantine cocoons over the past few months, the trend’s comfort factor makes a lot of sense. While we step back out into pre-pandemic routines, most of us aren’t ready to give up the cosiness of home fashion quite yet. As we transition into cosy autumnal apparel, puffer jackets across the nation will be taken out from the backs of closets. But why limit it to just outerwear? Cloudwear invites everyone to incorporate the comfy, padded quilting of their go-to winter coat into other elements of their wardrobe.
The trend’s down-filled apparel could also point to gen Z’s affinity for tactility in their online expression. With trends like deconstructed/reconstructed and Y2K still taking centre stage as we enter the later seasons of 2021, it’s important to recognise their emphasis on irregular closures and fuzzy materials respectively. Though gen Z trends are largely rooted in digital life, their IRL counterparts playfully interpret traditional silhouettes and textures in a way that makes them look great on screens but feel even better offline. Alternatively, Panzoni offers another perspective on why gen Z may gravitate towards tangible trends. She said that “in 2020, we were looking for comfort from an emotional and functional standpoint. In the midst of this, puffy heels and purses started trending. Mildly unpractical, this tactile trend provided emotional comfort in a time when physical connection was at an all-time low.”
As Panzoni mentioned—and her TikTok username, @thealgorythm, cleverly refers to—now, more than ever, fashion trends are influenced and dictated by algorithms and life online. The playful dimensions and inflated textures of classic quilting techniques that are showcased in cloudwear seem intrinsically connected to the internet. Not only do they look whimsical in social media grids, but their sometimes bouncy house-like shapes and iterations are reminiscent of other virtual fashion trends that exist solely online. Though the trend’s wispy name points to ephemerality, cloudwear seems to be here to stay. Panzoni even suggested that “while the FW21 runway welcomed cloudwear, the trend isn’t reserved for colder seasons: it has also appeared in some SS22 runways.” Look forward to bringing your poofy, multifunctional apparel well into the new year with you.
Pop punk has infiltrated the mainstream, creating the sonic backbone for some of this year’s most listened to albums. From Olivia Rodrigo’s SOUR to Pinkshift’s song ‘i’m gonna tell my therapist on you’, the sounds of the 90s and early 00s have been making a definite comeback. Even one of the Kardashians is dating Travis Barker, drummer for the band Blink-182, propelling the genre’s heavily tattooed and grunge-inspired aesthetics into the mainstream in a big way. However, gen Z has adapted the trend to their own style and perspectives, ultimately creating a more diverse and inclusive atmosphere around the genre.
The most telling example of gen Z’s reiteration of 2000s punk can be seen in egirl and eboy aesthetics. This subculture was popularised in the internet of the early 2010s—think the height of Tumblr—and made prominent again by TikTok users. Closet staples of the community include thick chains, monochrome stripes, and heavy eyeliner paired with softer anime-inspired qualities.
In July 2019, Kish Lal wrote for Dazed that the aesthetics of this punk subculture are “the antidote to the homogenised IG aesthetic” as reinforced by cookie-cutter influencers. Embracing the internet-saturated world they grew up in, gen Zers have been using the skills they’ve learned from online makeup tutorials to create alternative, rainbow-hued looks as opposed to full-contour glam. Taking the rise of this punk-inspired subculture into account, it seems inevitable that those engaging with the aesthetics would champion a sound that matches their outlooks.
Though the pop punk sound has flourished in 2021, the revival has been a few years in the making. The first musical inklings of its re-emergence can be traced in trends in the heavily autotuned, melancholic rap and hip hop of the internet in recent years; think Lil Uzi Vert and Juice WRLD. Rolling Stone writer Stephen Witt cited the decline of the emo rap genre as taking place in early 2019 after the death of Lil Peep, Tekashi 6ix9ine’s legal battles, and a slew of other events, both tragic and notorious, took place.
While contemporary pop punk has many roots in the sounds of Soundcloud rap popularised in the late 2010s, the genre is significantly more diverse. In contrast to the cis-male dominance of its predecessors, headlining acts of the present genre include Olivia Rodrigo, Meet Me @ The Altar, and Pinkshift. Even Willow Smith, who previously specialised in soulful, alternative R&B tracks, has veered into pop punk territory.
On her most recent album lately I feel EVERYTHING, released 16 July 2021, Smith works with pop punk icons—and childhood heroes of hers—Travis Barker and Avril Lavigne. Coming a long way from ‘Whip My Hair’, the singer infused the sounds of her youth into tracks like ‘transparent soul’, ‘XTRA’, and ‘¡BREAKOUT!’ while incorporating her own specific emotional experience as a black female into them. This perspective she shares wasn’t in the mainstream in the early 2000s, as Fall Out Boy and Green Day took centre stage.
It’s incredibly noteworthy that this time around—in the aftermath of the Me Too movement and rise in awareness of intersectional marginalisation—the once-male-dominated pop punk genre is now being frontlined by women, gen Z women in particular. When interviewed by The Independent in April 2021, 20-year-old guitarist for Meet Me @ The Altar, Téa Campbell, said, “It’s so incredibly important to have representation as POC women in this scene […] The scene belongs to everyone and it’s time that the stages reflect that.”
While feminist and LGBTQIA+ voices gained popularity in the 80s and 90s through queercore and riot grrrl movements, they were outshined by the male-dominated alternative genre. Today, as the space has gradually widened and continues to do so, these voices have confidently resurfaced. The prominence of egirl and eboy cultural attitudes could also have a role in this increased inclusivity. In Dazed, one self-proclaimed eboy and influencer named Jamison offers that the eboy subculture “allows for more freedom of expression and the chance to experiment with traditionally feminine looks that men—especially straight men—have been taught to shy away from.”
Another component to the genre’s renewed popularity could be due to gen Z’s deep awareness of systemic flaws, as echoed in Willow Smith’s interview with The Evening Standard from September 2021. In the piece, the singer is quoted saying that her generation “has an insatiable desire to right the wrongs of the world […] We’re tired of all the decisions that have been made before us.” She finishes this statement off by saying, “We’re raising awareness of the issues that affect us all, we’re taking control.” Taking this into consideration, the re-emergence of pop punk seems even more inevitable. When collective emotions seem to be at an all-time high due to the very social media platforms that give so many young people a voice, it seems inevitable that this emotion-laden genre and its signature abrasive vocals have come back into the spotlight. Similar to other bands engaging with the sound, Willow recognises the power she has in drawing attention to the experiences of her generation and is using her voice, in a pop-punk cadence, to do so.
The pop punk genre and the specific internet culture that comes with it can be viewed all-in-all as a rejection of the dominant attitudes often expressed by older generations on the internet. By using the digital skill sets they’ve developed throughout childhood and the music genres of their youth, gen Zers are able to express their own concerns with the world they’ve come of age in.