The Cult Items That Were Everywhere in 2019

Let's be honest, the world of fashion has always been a bit of a popularity contest, and I'm not talking about the people who work in it (don't believe what you see in the films, kids) but rather the mechanisms that keep the wheels turning. The industry has long operated in a way that means, season to season, certain styles are thrust into the spotlight, while others are put on ice, waiting for their inevitable reprisal. While fashion has been dancing this sartorial hokey-cokey for decades, the birth of online shopping and social media has irreversibly changed the landscape.

Hour to hour, we have the potential to be exposed to unlimited quantities of clothing and accessories, all of which can be bought at a click of a button and, in some cases, delivered that very same day. We can scroll through an app that allows us to both project our personal style to the world and get inspired by other fashion lovers who influence followers in the thousands. It's hard to imagine the days of popping down to our local high street to peruse the rails—shopping is now a far more targeted and efficient affair. 

"Big brands have always managed to infiltrate the mass market, influence trends, and create It products. The difference with social media is the speed at which this can now happen," explains Elizabeth von der Goltz, global buying director at Net-a-Porter. "Creating cult products and moments via Instagram and memes is a guaranteed way to attract the attention of millennials and Generation Z, not only for the purpose of sales but as a brand-building exercise. Customers are using social media more and more not just to shop directly, but as inspiration. Often, when an influencer is spotted wearing a cult piece, it can lead to huge sales spikes."

Already known for being a fast-moving industry, the growing online sphere has kicked things into another gear. Pre-digitalisation, you would see big-name designer bags papped on the arms of the celebs of the moment and, only after the course of a few months, be recognised as It items. Now, it seems as though an item can go from new-in to sold-out in a matter of days. Going viral is the ultimate aim for many fashion brands—it's all about creating hot-ticket items that will rake in the likes. 

"The S/S 20 collections were more about key shopping list items rather than larger trends, highlighting that cult item–driven fashion could be the way forward. For example, the Versace J.Lo dress took over Milan Fashion Week from a social media point of view. It was the ultimate Instagram moment, and we invested in the runway and commercial looks for next season because of it," von der Goltz continues. "Our investment in brands like Bottega Veneta is up 460% versus last year, whose mesh chain anklet pump was a hard-to-get-your-hands-on viral item. We sold out via our personal shopping reservations and EIP preview upload before the style could even make its way onto the site."

Therefore, 2019 shall be known henceforth as the year that launched a thousand sell-out successes. They say knowledge is power, and with the insights of online metrics and instant consumer feedback coming in from all angles, it's no surprise that the formula for creating a viral fashion item has, over the last 12 months, been expertly refined. 

From the famous Zara polka-dot dress that spread like wildfire in the summer and the Bottega clutches that were glued to every editor's arm at fashion week to the "ugly" sandals that couldn't stay in stock and M&S's winning ballet pumps, scroll down to see and shop the pieces that went viral in 2019. 

The Bottega Clutch

Style Notes: Bottega has got to be the biggest success story of 2019, with new Creative Director Daniel Lee reviving the heritage Italian brand with his pared-back accessories and luxe staples. The brand's oversize clutch was spotted on anyone who was anyone at fashion week.

The Zara Polka-Dot Dress

2019 cult items: Zara dress



Style Notes: If the Bottega clutch was catnip for the high-end fashion crowd, then the Zara polka-dot dress is surely the high-street equivalent for 2019. You couldn't walk down the street in London without passing at least five Zara midi–clad women walking past. The dress was even given its own Instagram account, @hot4thespot. High praise indeed.

Topshop's Strappy Sandals

2019 cult items: Topshop sandals


Emma Spedding

Style Notes: Topshop has long been known for its affordable shoe offering, but there was one style in particular that hit the big time this year: the strappy sandals. They sold out and were restocked multiple times and released in different colourways—not to mention they were the wedding guest shoes of summer 2019.

Ganni's Green Jumper

2019 cult items: Ganni jumper



Style Notes: Ganni seems to deliver a winning jumper every single year. For 2018, it was the striped oversize buy, but for 2019, it was the vibrant green knit (i.e., the colour of the year). Fashion girls styled it with everything from denim to floral midi dresses. 

M&S's Ballet Pumps

2019 cult items: M&S pumps



Style Notes: This was the year that the ballet pump made a glorious return to our wardrobes, and unexpectedly, it was M&S that delivered the winning style. Coming in a range of colourways, this minimalist pair made it into the carts of at least four members of the Who What Wear team. Plus, it's only £35.

The Rotate Minidress

Style Notes: Rotate Birger Christensen might've only hit the scene last year, but its Scandi takes on party dresses were an instant hit. The brand's statement-shoulder minidress proved to be a particular favourite with its high neckline and thigh-grazing fit.  

& Other Stories Wool Blazer 

Style Notes: Ah, & Other Stories, you can do no wrong. Whether it's dresses, boots or jumpers, the brand's pieces quickly become staples for fashion lovers everywhere. This year, we fell head over heels for Stories' wool-blend blazer, as seen on Brittany Bathgate. It was a real multitasking wardrobe hero.

Teva's Hiking Sandals

2019 cult items: Teva sandals



Style Notes: We lost count of the number of Tevas we sold on our site over the summer. Affordable, versatile, comfortable and with just the right level of geek-chic appeal, they led the way in "ugly" trends that proliferated over 2019. 

Zara Tie-Dye Dress

2019 cult items: Zara tie dye dress


Who What Wear

Style Notes: This was less of a mainstream winner, but Zara's tie-dye dress was an undeniable hit among the Instagram gang thanks to its flattering knit fabric and statement-making print. Hannah Almassi wears hers here with Topshop's sellout sandals (see above).

Ganni Checked Dress

Style Notes: Another day, another Ganni buy, but this time it's the coolest frock of the summer. Launching a thousand copycat dresses, this bright-green midi was a favorite among fashion editors and celebs alike. 

The Frankie Shop Jumpsuit

Style Notes: Once a niche, in-the-know label, The Frankie Shop claimed the spotlight this year after it was picked up by Net-a-Porter. There are many different styles that were fawned over, but the jumpsuit seemed to get the most airtime with its cool-girl cargo undertones. 

Jacquemus Le Chiquito 

Style Notes: Jacquemus's Le Chiquito mini bag might look titchy, but it generated over a whopping 12,500 monthly searches during the last quarter of 2019. That's no mean feat. It might not be the most practical bag in the world, but it certainly was a hit on the 'gram. 

Zara Organza Blouse

2019 cult items: Zara organza blosue



Style Notes: Usually, designer brands set the tone in terms of trends, but this year Zara set the tone with its expensive-looking organza blouses. Offering everything we could ever need from a perfect pair-with-jeans blouse, this chic piece didn't last long, but you can still nab it in black and cream.

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