gifts they might actually want

The Best Gifts to Buy Before They Sell Out, According to Trend Forecasters

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photos: Retailers

Every holiday season, you can count on at least a few highly covetable items — usually “It” toys and tech — to sell out right away. So for the past few years, we’ve asked trend forecasters to help us predict what those hot tickets will be.

This year, there is more to consider than just what is the latest L.O.L. Surprise! doll. First, most of the experts we talked to say that supply-chain issues may mean longer shipping times. “The supply chain has always been a very delicate ecosystem,” explains Jessica Richards, founder of trend-forecasting firm JMR Trend + Creative. “At the moment, it’s up against so many obstacles that aren’t normally considered in the same-day shipping we’ve come to embrace — everything from material shortages on the production side, factory shutdowns, through to congested ports.”

The second highlight of 2021 is that gifts are less about staying in. Loungewear and pajamas are still a thing (more on that below). But last year’s satin slippers, minimalist underwear, and maximalist socks have made room for luxury luggage and colorful balaclavas. To help with your gift-giving, we put together a panel of trend forecasters — including a few from Fashion Snoops and two who work for WGSN — on what’s hot, still in stock, and sure to sell out soon. Don’t dillydally.

Knitwear sets

From $48

The Fashion Snoops team has been following coordinated-top-and-bottom sets for several seasons now, says the firm’s vice-president of womenswear, Melissa Moylan. Consumers are still looking for comfort-oriented styles, and knitwear is an evolution of that, she adds. The Skims version, which mixes and matches a range of silhouettes, is one of the team’s favorites. “The bouclé yarn gives it a textured wintry look that sets it apart from popular rib-knit styles,” Moylan says. But Lindsey Smecker, ESP Trendlab’s trend and marketing director, thinks that most ribbed knits will still be especially popular.

Splurgy pajamas

“By far, the most splurge-worthy pajama set of 2021 is from Olivia von Halle,” Moylan says. We’ve heard about the company from stylish stylists before — one lingerie expert even told us that it’s well known for “larger-than-life, chic motifs.” Moylan mentioned that her team can’t get enough of the sphynx-cat print in particular. A set of pajama top and pants with the print even sold out during Net-a-Porter’s most recent sale. Fortunately, this shorts set is still in stock (but going fast). “The silk crêpe de Chine fabric and details like contrast piping and mother-of-pearl buttons merit the price tag,” Moylan adds.

This year, gift fancy eye-catching or feather-trimmed pajamas instead of flannel. They “meet the almost impossible to achieve style oxymoron of comfort and glamour,” says Sharon Graubard, founder and creative director of online fashion forecasting service MintModa. Sleeper’s sets are a pandemic success story — worn out by the fashionable just as much as they’re worn in. Graubard points out that the black feather-trimmed version is being snatched up right now, but we’re particularly partial to this merry mint set.

Highbrow-lowbrow collabs

Speaking of Skims, Moylan tells us that if there’s one collab to covet this season, it’s Fendi’s partnership with the brand — “If you can get your hands on it.” Graubard agrees that the collection is sure to sell out, as bodywear is also “an outgrowth of comfort-dressing that took hold during lockdown.” Graubard adds that bodywear itself has gone through its own metamorphosis — much less fitness-y and more dressed up enough to take a midday yoga break and still hop on a Zoom call while wearing the same piece. Moylan mentions that “the lilac-clad teaser campaign has us excited about monograms again, [with] bodycon and sporty silhouettes designed for every body.” The capsule collection, which launched on November 9, features sculpting bras and bodysuits along with logo’d coord sets. The sets are almost completely sold out, so your best chance to score the highly anticipated pieces probably lies with the shapewear.

Telfar’s totes, better known as the beloved “Bushwick Birkin,” sell out in mere minutes. And part of the popularity can be explained by just how essential shoppers have become as supermarkets and other stores are banning plastic bags and charging for paper bags, Graubard points out. She adds that totes from Telfar are “the perfect combination of luxury and practicality” while being more affordable than the average “It” bag and genderless. Since the brand is so in demand, it’s hard to get your hands on one of its signature totes. But Ana Correa, footwear and accessories editor at WGSN, also mentions that the brand’s ongoing collaboration with UGG will be another hit during the holidays. And now, you can preorder pieces like this shearling shopper at Saks. The bag won’t ship until January, but you can also snag this shearling bucket hat from Nordstrom that’s ready to ship right now.

Dadcore sweater-vests

“The sweater-vest was one item we didn’t think we’d see back as a trend for a long time, but since last spring, it’s slowly reemerged in a much more spirited way than the humdrum basic of the ’90s and early ’00s,” explains Jason Kress, men’s senior strategist at Fashion Snoops. Kress adds, “Now, with the growing acceptance of wearing what used to be a middle-age basic in a beyond-ironic way, it has become an important part of fall, nicely merging retro with modern.” And these aren’t like the “business bro” sweater-vests of the Financial District, either. Instead, they’re a nod to dadcore in a way that “subverts the traditional white-collared golf-club-member associations attached to it.” Today’s sweater-vests are more slender and, when styled right — like with washed-out jeans, sneakers, and sans shirt — look much cooler, Kress tells us. This Acne Studios sweater-vest he tipped us off to is already selling out quickly.

An “It” scarf among influencers

Blanket scarves aren’t new, but there’s something about this Acne Studios version that has resonated. TikTokers are walking around with it wrapped around their necks, down to their knees. Always in this orange, blue, and green checkered pattern (although it does come in other colors). Several shades of this scarf were on sale early on during SSENSE’s private sale — but notably not this one — and sold out right away. If you type the brand into Google, the recommended word that follows is scarf (and dupes for it). Correa mentioned Acne Studios as one of the brands behind the double-as-actual-blankets scarves boom happening right now.

Looks handmade by Grandma (but better)

As more of us embrace a fewer-but-better approach when it comes to our closets, brands are getting craftier — with making fewer pieces and upcycling used items becoming the norm, Graubard says. She tipped us off to Stan, which features vintage textiles in its one-of-a-kind pieces. Its most recent collection was even inspired by Californian quilters.

London-based fashion futurist Geraldine Wharry cites independent British knitwear label Hades as part of that “no longer about stuff for the sake of stuff” movement too. The handcrafted sweaters and scarves feature fun graphics and last for years and are made by ethical manufacturers in Scotland and Spain, Wharry says. Wharry’s particularly fond of this cardigan from the brand that reminds her of a sweater her grandmother knitted. “So right there, it has a lot of emotional value even before the purchase, and it echoes my beliefs that [it’ll] be a sweet spot in gifting for many people this year,” she adds. Wharry describes the cardigan as joy-inducing, with “buttons that look like video-game icons” in the shape of a conch shell, female form, and hand. Add it to your cart fast — there’s only size small left in stock. (But there are other versions of the cardigan with equally eye-catching buttons.)

Kinda-grown-up kidcore

The “reminiscent of your childhood friendship bracelet” jewelry, as Smecker describes, is reappearing this year. Hallie Spradlin, director of accessories at Fashion Snoops, traces the reappearance to the DIY qualities of quarantine — just think of all those crocheted catastrophes on Instagram.

Brands like Sunnei, Éliou, and Notte are in on it, offering rubberized hoops and beaded necklaces “with mood-boosting motifs” Spradlin says. It’s hard not to smile at this happy-face signet ring from Notte. You’ll see more playful designs even on demi-fine and fine jewelry nowadays — a sign that what started off as somewhat niche has become ubiquitous. A “Fun Flirt” pearl necklace that Smecker told us about is even an Etsy’s Pick, hand-selected by the company’s trend and style editors.

Smecker points us to landscape-patterned sweaters. One scroll through your “For You” page shows just how the maximalist aesthetic of today’s teens is a stark contrast to millennial minimalism. Lisa Says Gah recently released its own fall collection that includes this scenic sweater. Drops from the site usually sell out fast, so we wouldn’t wait. For a more muted version, this & Other Stories cardigan features pastels and embroidered flowers.

Sporty Sherpa

Two of our forecasters specifically brought up this Free People fleece jacket. Moylan mentions that it checks off a couple of the top trends: a cozy texture that’s reminiscent of a traditional teddy coat, a pop of color (offered in hues like “pineapple punch” and “ginger spice”), and its everyday-wear and activewear hybrid. It’s a do-it-all jacket that is a far cry from the just-warm outerwear of 2020. As more proof of its popularity, several sizes in some shades are already sold out.

Bright balaclavas

An update to the seasonal beanie, balaclavas started appearing on runways in more recent seasons from designers like Marine Serre and Miu Miu, according to Spradlin. But instead of the plain black balaclavas you’ve probably seen on ski slopes, these are less serious-looking. Case in point: Marine Serre’s is printed with her signature crescent-moon pattern, and Miu Miu’s crochet helmet comes in a mango shade that’s sure to stand out in a crowd of black puffers. But if your recipient might be wary of looking like a cartoonish bank robber, one of her suggestions is this cheaper color-blocked knit from Verloop. “Balaclavas are having a moment because of their more streamlined, cocooned look,” Spradlin says. But it’s about changing attitudes, too: The balaclava “relates to wanting primal comfort, as consumer needs shift to value both protection and comfort in a post-pandemic world,” she adds.

Athletic gear turns prep

Noah Zagor, senior menswear strategist at WGSN, is excited about the fashion and sports collaborations happening now. These are like the successors to Supreme’s logo-mania partnerships. He tipped us to the Rowing Blazers’ collaboration with the NBA. The brand’s take on sports team gear is much more sophisticated than the jerseys you’ll see at Modell’s. The collection features a range of logo-covered rugby shirts, dad caps, and shorts that “lean heavily into current prep trends while showing an earnest love of basketball,” Zagor says.

Geriatric-millennial clogs

Specific to men, Zagor thinks Birkenstock clogs and mules will still be popular. But for even more stylish Birkenstocks, he mentions there was a lot of hype around the Jil Sander and Birkenstock collaboration. These are fodder for #muleboyz — men showing off their mules on social media. The trend isn’t “new and was around last holiday season as well, but it’s not going anywhere,” Zagor adds.

The Bubble Clogs are “a quirky take on a familiar silhouette, with its chunky shape that further speaks to the ‘ugly chic’ or ‘grandmillennial’ trends that we’ve been tracking,” Spradlin says. Many are only available for preorder at the moment, but this vegan-leather version will ship now (and comes in cheery cherry red and a muted mustard). And if you’re looking for a less “exaggerated bubble shape,” Spradlin likes this pair from Topshop that is “just weird enough.” The Topshop mules are ’90s-inspired, with a chunky heel that’s not unlike those Steve Madden flatforms. That pair also comes in an Army-green color that’s almost completely sold out.

Cocktail-ring revival

Richards forecasts that we’ll be moving from “shoulders up” accessorizing to a more “hand-focused 2022,” with stacks of bracelets and handfuls of rings. She’s currently obsessed with the novelty jewelry that Swarovski has been putting out under the creative direction of Giovanna Engelbert. The designs are part of a “decorated maximalism” — with more layering of pieces — that Richards thinks will make a mark next year. And if you’re not ready to give up on shoulders-up styles, the company makes equally statement-making lucite earrings too.

Café-quality coffee machines


Being at home has made once-normal occurrences, like grabbing a cup of coffee to go, more of a treat than a necessity, explains Jaye Anna Mize, vice-president of home and lifestyle at Fashion Snoops. Instead, most of us have become latte artists in our own very kitchens. The Barista Pro, a more recent addition to Breville’s lineup, is “less intimidating than the professional coffee-shop setup yet [does] the same thing in a sleek, compact arrangement,” she says.

One-pot wonders

Mize describes Our Place’s new Perfect Pot as “a one-stop shop — it does everything from boiling to baking to crisping to steaming.” It was just released at the end of the summer. The brand is part of a push to update kitchen essentials (think of classics like Le Creuset or Cuisinart) with cooler cult classics (like Caraway and Great Jones), Mize adds. And she thinks it would make a great gift for the young homeowner or an apartment dweller who is looking for one do-it-all piece of cookware rather than the standard 12-piece set.

Cotton-candy-colored glassware

The return of dinner parties means lots of us will be searching for fun and festive tableware. Stephanie Summerson Hall, founder of Estelle Colored Glass, is “the girl for all things glassware.” Mize adds, “What started as a passion is now a fully blown (no pun intended) global business that hails from South Carolina.” The company — which is named after Hall’s grandmother — offers glassware in shades of cobalt, blush, and lavender. Mize also appreciates just how affordable Estelle’s pieces are.

Conversation-starting candles

Anecdote’s candles have names such as “2022,” with descriptions including “smells like high hopes and low expectations” that tie into the notes of each scent. (This one features a combo of citron and jasmine.) Cancelled Plans’ candles tend to be even cheekier — usually with sweeter scents as a contrast. Mize believes both brands are part of a shift in the industry to make candles both luxurious-feeling and seem more personal.

Face-firming self-care

Lymph-drainage techniques, which involve massaging fluid flowing from your lymph nodes to lessen puffing, have gotten the most attention going into the holidays, says Melissa Hago, vice-president of beauty and wellness at Fashion Snoops. There’s been an ongoing trend of looking back to ancient remedies, she explains. Hago points to the popularity of beauty products like this now-sold-out de-puffing and detoxifying cupping set from Wildling. But she has also seen a rise of newer options that promise to do away with puffiness, like FaceGym’s face-firming massage balls. They might look like something you’d find in an elementary-school gym, but the balls are designed to release all that tension in your (probably-clenched-right-now) jaw.

Two of the statusy skincare tools that skincare obsessives should keep an eye on are Medicube’s Age-R Device and Droplette‘s Micro-Infuser mister, Hago tells us. Medicube’s device is designed to help with skin elasticity through massaging the face’s muscles. And Droplette’s infuser is one of the more modern high-tech devices that transforms capsules into a micro-mist that’s then seeped into the skin. Hago thinks that these devices “speak to that desire for elevated skin-care” that goes beyond just blackhead popper tools and mask brushes.

Crystal-carrying gym clothes

“We’re seeing wellness fuse into fitness, and we’re at a point where the two markets have almost fully merged,” Hago says. One of the up-and-coming activewear labels Hago points to is Geyed. For a crystal-carrying and tarot-card-reading friend, the label offers sports bras and leggings with pockets holding energy-balancing crystals.

Old-timey cameras

In Kress’s research, one of the top tech gadgets now is this version of the instant camera. He says that the camera has a retro pebbled look with modern touches, such as a one-touch selfie mode and selfie mirror. The old-timey Fujifilm camera “speaks to the nostalgic yearning for those freshly snapped Polaroid pictures.”

Statement phone cases

Remember the smartphone pinkie panic? Well, as we grew more attached to our phones, their cases “have become a personality extension and a way to express your ever-changing mood,” Spradlin says. Today’s trendiest phone cases hearken back to when the iPhone first debuted. She points to Gen-Z favorite Wildflower as having phone cases plastered with things like “airbrushed fonts, psychedelic florals, [and] throwback monograms.”

Now, for a more grown-up version of those trippy cases, Spradlin mentions bespoke brand Memor, which makes mosaic-inspired phone protection. You can personalize these with gold coins and ceramic shards and can even send the company specific objects you want incorporated into a custom case.

Luxury luggage

“People have renewed their passports, global travel restrictions have eased, and the desire to get back out there is high,” Richards says. So, unsurprisingly, travel gifts will be big this year. But many will be looking for long-term-investment luggage especially, Richards tells us. There’s “such a sense of If not now, then when?” when it comes to taking those long-dreamed-about trips. Richards expects Rimowa’s line of luxury luggage — a favorite of frequent flyers — to be a hit for the holidays. (The brand’s Cabin S suitcase is even on her wish list.) But she specifically mentions that the newly launched Never Still collection will sell out as companion pieces to suitcases. The collection features the same clean lines of Rimowa’s suitcases but looks much more futuristic — take this weekender, for example. “Tuck a ticket for a much-needed beach vacation inside and it’s the ultimate gift to give or receive this year,” she adds.

Personalized pet gear

Correa points to Staud’s personalized pet-portrait collection as the new version of carrying around baby photos in your wallet. She also mentions that matching pet and owner outfits fit into an “aesthetic is life” trend that WGSN has been watching. Maxbone and Kule’s vests and Lirika Matoshi’s strawberry-dress version for pets are two of the examples she cites.

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Trend Forecasters on What Gifts to Buy Before They Sell Out