Last summer, after months of being confined to the same four walls, many of us – particularly those looking to leave the dreary concrete of cities and towns – sought escapism in cottagecore. The bucolic aesthetic celebrated all things pastoral, from country home interiors to picnic-ready prints like gingham and ditsy florals. If the pandemic didn't see you upping sticks and leaving it all behind for pastures new, we'll wager you lived out your rural fantasy via romantic prairie dresses and frilled collar blouses, taking inspiration from the likes of content creator Paula Sutton or one of the 5.6 billion videos tagged under the trend on TikTok.
Beyond the desire to escape our own personal Groundhog Day, the pandemic has given people new perspectives on the kind of life they want to live, with many being drawn to a more simplified and slower existence, closer to nature. Even if you didn't have the urge to escape to the country, many of us spent last year exploring the great outdoors closer to home as international flights were banned and dreams of Italian piazzas and quaint French villages were put on ice. Having taken advantage of hyper-affordable flights over the past decade, many of us were guilty of neglecting the beauty in our own back garden. The pandemic allowed us to rediscover the joys of the Norfolk broads and Yorkshire moors.
As a big question mark looms once again over the idea of international travel, we're back to planning our summer escapes on these shores. A year on from the first lockdown, though, as spring greets us with longer days and more promising weather, we're not looking to the countryside for sartorial inspiration but to the great British seaside instead. We're packing away our saccharine frills and reaching for sturdier staples better suited to rough-and-ready days combing the coastline, with quintessential pieces like stripes, linen and chunky knits taking note from salty afternoons spent eating fish and chips and fending off seagulls.
Designers, too, have departed from the chintzy prints of cottagecore and found inspiration at the seaside this spring. JW Anderson's latest Moncler Genius project, a gender-fluid capsule titled A Nomadic Voyage, looked to the hues cast by a Northern Irish sun setting over the sea. Using Econyl®, a regenerated nylon derived from ocean and land-based waste, the collection is made up of fisherman beanies suitable for high winds, rubber boots made for exploring rock pools and quilted fabrics which will warm you up after an icy dip.
Elsewhere, Arket's SS21 collection, called Modern Marinière, riffed on the classic striped knit (also known as the Breton shirt), a traditionally blue-and-white cotton long-sleeved top which originated as the uniform of French sailors in the early 19th century. "Marinière stripes are a reference we revisit season after season," says Anna Teurnell, Arket's head of design. "Every spring they feel new again, and they lighten up our wardrobes after the winter season. Over time, they have become a symbol of this joy. This year, we offer a new interpretation that makes reference to this mood by exploring not just the iconic stripes but also the garments we style them with, as we long for the first signs of spring." Beyond the Breton, the collection offers water-resistant recycled nylon anoraks and hardy denim, plus oversized striped shirts, woollen hats and cotton chinos, all hallmarks of a traditional nautical aesthetic.
Over on the (virtual) catwalks of SS21, designers from Balmain to Celine celebrated the marinière stripe, while Margaret Howell and Etro featured sou'wester hats and fisherman beanies. So whether you hit Whitstable or Whitby, Brighton or Blackpool, St Ives or Salcombe, this summer it's time to fall back in love with all the charms the seaside has to offer, from lemon-soaked scampi to the sugar rush of a stick of rock. Just make sure you dress accordingly, and be prepared for whatever the changeable British weather will throw at you.
The Marinière Jumper
The Pull-On Shorts
The Chunky Knit
The Rubber Boots
The Cotton Button-Down
The Cotton Trousers
The Beach Towel
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