We see your future: the trends set to shape our lives after Covid

And it’s packed full of glam dresses, meals out with friends and – yes! – holidays in the sun. Claire Coleman unveils the trends set to shape our lives after Covid



In the depths of monotonous lockdown, when the most glamorous thing you’ve put on is a face mask and some antibacterial hand gel, it seems impossible to imagine sashaying out of the front door in a voluminous tulle dress and vertiginous heels – but that’s exactly what those in the know are anticipating.

When designer Molly Goddard presented her autumn/winter collection of party dresses and tutus last month via Zoom, she told the audience, ‘I am quite fed up of seeing leggings and black puffer jackets for walks in the park. Pieces in this collection are for celebrating and enjoying. I’m trying to be as optimistic as I can – I’m desperate to have somewhere to wear a taffeta dress to.’ Similarly sizeable silhouettes were spotted on the presentations by Simone Rocha, Roksanda and Tom Ford.

Stylist and art director Dee Moran, who has worked as a consultant for Selfridges and Liberty, believes this sort of exuberance is only to be expected. ‘Everyone is keen to make an event of going out – I think we’ve missed the ceremony of dressing up. And what better way to ensure you’re social distancing than by wearing a bigger silhouette?’

Elsewhere, the catwalks were a riot of glitz and glamour, with Alice Temperley’s packed with lamé and sequins, and Dolce & Gabbana showing one of their biggest collections to date, all colour and glittery boots. The feeling is very much that the ‘future’s bright’, says Dee. ‘Acid and neon brights were a really big catwalk trend for spring/summer 2021, spotted at Valentino and Ralph & Russo.’ Perhaps in evidence of the ‘skirt-length theory’ – the idea that the shorter the skirt the more the stock markets are going up – miniskirts also appear to be making a comeback.

Other trends of note included tailoring (the antithesis of omnipresent athleisure) and, in a return to the ultimate symbol of going ‘out out’, ultra-high heels – otherwise known as ‘taxi shoes’, so called because you can’t really walk anywhere in them.

Don’t ditch your sport-luxe working from home (WFH) looks just yet, though: Dee cautions that the comfort trend is still in evidence, a reflection that the transition back to liberty may be slower than we’d like.

‘It feels as if the designers are hedging their bets – we’re hoping we’re going to be able to go out and party, but at the autumn/winter shows, there were also a lot of cardigans and sweater-vests, as well as slipper-style “house shoes” in case the WFH trend persists.’


If the past year has proven anything, it’s that far more of us can work from home than our bosses might have believed. And while it might not be a permanent shift, Simon Moriarty, a trend director at market research firm Mintel, believes we’re going to see more flexibility from companies in what he calls a ‘blended’ approach.

‘A lot of people are keen to get back to the workplace, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it became the norm for employees to split their time between home and office,’ he says.

Several large tech companies, including Spotify and Twitter, have already announced that their employees can choose to work from anywhere. While not all firms will be able to do the same, in their report on the 100 key trends that will shape 2021, Wunderman Thompson Intelligence identified a number that are benefitting from flexible working – many of which also incorporate the badly hit tourism sector.

‘In the absence of their traditional clientele, hotels and restaurants are repurposing their spaces as rentable offices,’ says global director Emma Chiu, who authored the report. ‘The Wythe Hotel in New York transformed a floor of guest rooms into offices that can be rented by the day, and we’re also seeing a rise in popular holiday destinations – Dubai, Barbados, Croatia, Bermuda – hoping to attract wanderlust workers with novel long-term visas and extended-stay offerings.’


Beauty aficionados are predicting a party atmosphere when Covid-19 is finally tamed. ‘Putting on lipstick again will be a symbol of returning to life,’ said L’Oréal’s chief executive Jean-Paul Agon. ‘This will be like the Roaring 20s – there will be a fiesta in make-up and in fragrances.’ Already brands are looking to launch long-stay formulations – foundations, eye make-up and lipsticks – with the expectation that once we’re allowed to go out, we’ll embrace the freedom and will want make-up that goes the distance.

In skincare, you can expect beauty to be out of this world: a recent WGSN trend report predicted that consumers’ newfound ‘tech-ceptance’ will create ‘beauty moonshots’ (groundbreaking products pushing the boundaries of design). Advances will focus on new bio-engineered ingredients and enhanced potency and delivery methods. And as face masks look like they might be here to stay for a while, it’s little surprise that they’re still driving make-up trends.

‘Make-up artists and beauty influencers are focusing on the eyes as the face’s focal point, with brows specifically in the spotlight,’ says trend forecaster Emma Chiu. She cites brows on the catwalk at Miu Miu, which were styled as if they had lines shaved into them, and those daubed orange at Dries Van Noten. Meanwhile, the I May Destroy You actress Michaela Coel has dyed hers purple to match her hair.

Make-up artist Lisa Eldridge feels similarly. Speaking about 2021 trends on a video on her website, she says: ‘There’ll be a real celebratory sense to make-up, almost like fancy dress – you’ll want statements, whether it’s silver eyes or embellishments. It’ll be more artistic, and creative, more fun and out there. Maybe the face will be quite natural and you’ll stick stars all over it, but I believe that we’re going into an interesting phase of make-up.’



No longer limited to the supermarket aisles, ‘I think people will flood back to the shops,’ says retail strategist Wizz Selvey (wizzandco.com), who is predicting a real boom in what she calls ‘experiential retail’ – shops that offer something different. ‘Even pre-Covid we’d started to see the demise of department stores that hadn’t moved with the times, and the pandemic has just fast-tracked this trend. Stores will introduce more services and more collaborations to improve footfall – think coffee shops, yoga studios or hot desks for workers. And more concessions like this mean less financial risk for the stores.’


Many restaurants have already adapted to the demands of socially distant dining, and you can expect the novelty of dining in a shed/igloo/pod/greenhouse – or any other mini-cabin that restaurants have employed to ensure social distancing between groups – to continue.

Some imaginative designers are taking things even further, says Emma Chiu. ‘Cutlery and tableware are being reimagined to reflect evolving dining etiquettes,’ she explains, citing product designers who have created long, slender trays, divided serving platters and elongated spoons, which help staff maintain social distance while serving.

She also references the Plex’eat, a French concept where ‘translucent lampshade-like hoods cover each individual diner and their place setting, or an entire table for two, so diners don’t feel isolated when eating out.’

Many restaurants over the past year have adapted to produce ‘at-home’ meal kits – where diners order dishes prepared in the restaurant’s kitchen, to be reheated and assembled in their own – as a means of survival. If you’ve grown used to getting Michelin-starred meals delivered to your door, don’t worry – they’re not about to disappear: ‘A lot of restaurants will continue to use the at-home model,’ says Simon Moriarty of Mintel. ‘It gives them access to clients that they wouldn’t have had beforehand.’

What might change is the packaging. The team at Wunderman Thompson Intelligence expects to see antimicrobial and antiviral packaging becoming far more commonplace. By 2027 the antiviral coatings market is forecast to be worth just under a billion pounds, both in containers for home use and in the packaging used for delivering food.


When gyms reopen, many will continue to run a combination of virtual and real classes. Meanwhile, the popularity of Peloton, and Apple’s investment in Apple Fitness+, shows that there is definitely a market for home fitness. Emma Chiu believes that we’re also going to see virtual reality (VR) headsets revolutionise this space in the coming years.

‘Oculus [the company behind the hugely popular VR headset consoles] last year released a new fitness app which provides players with personalised workouts and coaching, all within stunning VR landscapes,’ she says. ‘This year, we’re going to see a VR treadmill launch, where players wear a headset and are attached to the treadmill with a harness. They will be able to run, jump and kneel on the platform, making this one of the most active and immersive systems yet.’

Elsewhere, telemedicine – caring for patients remotely – is here to stay. ‘More and more older people are familiar with the technology that comes with a virtual consultation than previously, because the pandemic has forced them to start using Zoom and FaceTime to stay in touch with family,’ says Simon Moriarty. ‘While there is still a craving for human contact, they will continue to play an important role.’

Moriarty also believes that as companies have been forced to help employees working remotely deal with isolation and stress, the increased awareness of mental-health issues that we had started to see pre-pandemic is going to continue. Moving forward, rather than being reactive, smart medicine will help us approach mental health from a preventative perspective.

‘People are more aware of their own stress triggers and, in tandem with that, of their own health data, thanks to devices such as fitness trackers and smart watches. I think we’re going to see an increase in that sort of monitoring – blood pressure, blood sugar – in the hope that we’ll be able to pre-empt health problems rather than react to them.’


Perhaps unsurprisingly given how little time we’ve all been able to spend together, forecaster Emma Chiu is anticipating a boom in multigenerational family travel, with children, parents and grandparents all taking the opportunity to holiday together when restrictions are lifted.

When airports do start opening up again, you might expect things to work slightly differently, with a focus on minimising the use of shared touchscreens and face-to-face interaction. ‘Airlines are taking steps to maximise hygiene standards at every touchpoint of the journey,’ she says. ‘As well as touch-free check-in and baggage-tag printing, Alaska Airlines is introducing socially distanced boarding, with airline staff able to scan boarding passes from six feet away. Passengers on selected flights can also pre-order meals from the Alaska app or website, and store payment methods for contactless in-flight transactions.’


‘In 2019 in Mintel’s 2030 Global Consumer Trends report, we had predicted that communal living, where people have their own spaces but share resources, was going to become more popular, and the pandemic has only accelerated this,’ says Simon Moriarty. After all, whether it’s adult children moving back in with their parents, people understanding the importance of support bubbles to combat loneliness and isolation, or just neighbours pulling together, we have all, as he says, ‘recognised the benefits of being surrounded by people you can look to for support in a crisis’.

Additionally he believes that we’re going to see a sort of ‘re-wilding’ of urban areas, as space that was previously taken up by offices is given over to ‘urban farming and communal green spaces’. In some parts of the UK, we’re already seeing an increase in space dedicated to parks. In Stockton-on-Tees, a shopping centre is being demolished to make way for a new park, while in Manchester construction has begun on the city centre’s first new park in 100 years.


If you’ve been Zoom dating during lockdown and secretly loved not having to schlep to the other side of town to see if someone who looked like a match on screen really is, then you’ll be delighted to hear that an estimated 94 per cent of dating site OKCupid users say they will continue to date virtually. While it’s not going to be a replacement for meeting in person, it’s certainly something that Simon Moriarty believes will become a part of the early stages of building a relationship.

Beyond this, people seem much more open to the idea of long-distance dating or travelling for love, with more OKCupid daters than ever before setting their location preferences to ‘anywhere’. It also seems that spending a lot of time solo has changed behaviour – and made women more likely to go after what they want. In January 2021, women under 30 on OKCupid sent 28.5 per cent more first messages than in January the previous year, and both sexes are looking for the real thing rather than just a quick hook-up. When asked about their post-pandemic plans, daters were 12.4 times more likely to say that they’d like to find someone special rather than date around.