2020 has been a year most of us would rather forget. A year where the Coronavirus pandemic uprooted all of our plans putting an end to not only our jet-setting lifestyles but also more fundamental elements of our lives such as everyday social interactions and being able to spend holidays with family. It also forced most parts of the world into some form of lockdown that had overwhelming economic effects meaning most industries had to readjust to the “new normal”.

As life goes on though (that is, if you’re not in a lockdown right now) the changes caused by the pandemic made us rethink what really is important – health, community, environment. This has led to the accelerating popularity of an already existing movement such as conscious consumerism and also to new, major cultural trends that have, and will continue to have, a direct impact on the material trends in the future.

Before we dive straight into the material and colour trends to prevail in 2021, we must first understand the cultural shifts forecasted to shape creative and strategic thinking across lifestyle and other industries in the months to come.

Global Social, Cultural and Environmental Trend Drivers

Conscious consumerism. This one has been around for a while, gaining traction over the last few of years thanks to environmental activists such as Greta Thunberg and Laurie David amongst others. 68% of consumers now rate sustainability as important, regardless of age or gender, and 35% are happy to pay 25% more for sustainable products (source: Colour Hive CMF Forecast AW21-22). As a result, brands and manufacturers are looking to change their practices and invest in sustainable solutions.

Anti-obsolescence. A direct result of more eco-conscious society is the demand for high quality cause-driven products that will last longer and if broken, can be repaired and restored rather that discarded. In the materials world, this means increased demand for durable and high-performing textiles that can be restored easily.

Redefining luxury. At the time of austerity, where most people are forced to prioritise what they need over what they want, luxury items are, well, a luxury most of us can’t afford. However, it is predicted that post-pandemic consumers will embrace glamour once again. Although this time they’ll gravitate towards brands that had proven they do care during times of crisis such as Louis Vuitton’s move to use their production line to produce hand sanitiser. (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-51868756)

Slow travel. Pandemic induced uncertainty, caused us to think more about local communities and this year we’ll continue to explore the world closer to home. Those living in cities or with little access to nature and countryside will want to bring nature home and this will result in explosion of nature-inspired materials, be it texture or colour wise or simply with nature-inspired prints.

Material and Colour Trends to Look Out for in 2021

These are only some of the major drivers that will shape things to come across all markets in the immediate future. So, what are the actual colour and material trends we can expect to see in 2021?

  1. Sustainable production practices
  2. Durability and longevity
  3. Nature-inspired textiles
  4. Warm colours and earthy tones

We’ll see a lot of tactile surfaces with sweeping lines, rustic raw weaves, loose brushstrokes in warm, earthy and harmonious colours. Contemplative neutrals and natural dyes will dominate, reflecting our eagerness to be able to explore the great outdoors again. Raw materials with textures resembling natural surfaces will also be a big hit, especially if those are strong and durable and sustainably produced.

As we eventually get on top of the pandemic and begin to form yet another “new norm”, we may also see a touch of splendour making its way into the materials world as consumers start embracing glamour and make purchases that are celebratory and memorable.

2021: Natural, Sustainable, Earthy

The key motifs to run the materials industry this year are going to be:

  • Selecting natural and sustainable materials
  • Warm colours and earth tones
  • Anything nature inspired

A couple of weeks ago, we were all very keen to see the end of the longest year in history that was 2020. But we were not naïve enough to think things would magically and instantly improve this year. Despite continued restrictions enforced on us by governments, there has been no lack or creativity. And as long as this trend continues, we have a lot to look forward to in the coming months.