As any wannabe sartorialist or religious fashion follower knows, the fashion seasons work in advance – so when we have blue skies and sun aplenty outside, fashion designers have already set their sights on what wares they can create and peddle come the winter months. Recently, I have decided to imitate the fashion greats and launch a series of articles detailing the upcoming trends and themes for autumn/winter 2012.

However, fear not, these articles are designed to showcase upcoming trends with a spring/summer 2012 twist – so you can start getting involved ahead of the trend and become the forward-thinking fashion visionaries you really are. As the autumn/winter season approaches, a key aspect of how trends and clothing choices develop from summer to autumn is in the use of texture. In recent collections we have seen the popularity of colour blocking rise but for AW12 there is a new kid on the ‘block’ – the use of fabric blocking.

Fabric Blocking

Simply put, fabric blocking is the combination of two or more fabrics utilised within a single garment. The use of contrasting fabrics adds a fantastically interesting multi-textural feel, which couldn’t be more apt for the colder seasons where layering and texture are often key to successful, on-trend looks.

My recent article on ‘Blockbuster Coats’ showed designer examples of fabric blocking and multi-fabric paneling at its finest. Fabric blocking does seem to be a trend which is particularly easy to apply to outerwear pieces and tailoring, as reinforced by several high fashion designers at AW12 Fashion Weeks.

On The Runways

Collections from fashion houses as diverse as Bally, Moschino and Paul Smith fully embraced the fabric blocking trend in their outerwear pieces. Tommy Hilfiger combined the popularity of the burgundy colour trend with fabric blocking by featuring a maroon wool overcoat with contrast leather-look sleeves, and a muted burgundy blazer with similar leather-look sleeves. In these particular pieces, Hilfiger showcased a mish-mash of styles by combining a smart, tailored body silhouette with blouson, Letterman-style sleeves.

John Richmond followed suit with a selection of multi-fabric blocked jackets: a tweed, asymmetric-fastening biker jacket with contrast brown leather sleeves, a hooded blouson jacket with a faux fur body/hood and woolen, ribbed sleeves, and a leather gilet with faux fur lapels and shoulder patches.

Perhaps my favourite use of fabric blocking came from Bottega Veneta, whose collection featured a series of sleek, well-cut blazers with different types of contrast fabric paneling. They featured a grey blazer with blue, pvc-like sections and panels, and asymmetric-zip jackets in black wool with leather-look chest panels and arm patches, creating a kind of patchwork effect which retained a sense of sophistication:

Key Shows: Dries Van Noten & Acne

Although this type of fabric blocking appears to be most easily applied to outerwear, other fashion houses utilised the technique on other types of garments. Dries Van Noten included a dramatic, high-necked shirt paired with black, mohair armbands and a white denim jacket with stark contrasting black leather sleeves.

Acne also cleverly used multi-layering to create the look and feel of fabric blocking in their catwalk collection. One of the highlights included a cropped sleeve pullover worn over a thick, quilted, gold shirt, whilst other Acne models paraded down the catwalk wearing shirts beneath cropped sleeved jackets beneath even shorter cropped sleeve overcoats in differing fabrics and colours to create an interesting fabric panel effect:

In The Press

In the most recent issue of Esquire Magazine, a feature entitled ‘Bold Feet’ showcased the use of multi-fabric blocking within footwear, which just goes to show that the technique can successfully be applied to accessories as well as body and outerwear.

This particular article included some striking high fashion shoe designs – including horse-hair and metal shoes by Louis Vuitton, black leather and red rubber Oxfords by Prada, and leather and metal moccasins from Yves Saint Laurent. Although perhaps not overly practical, these items of footwear created a truly striking set of photographs and fully demonstrated the versatility of the practice of fabric blocking amongst all types of clothing and accessories.

Current Campaigns

The high street also seems to be backing the fabric blocking trend, with some of the key images from the AW12 Topman ad campaign featuring a navy woolen overcoat with a tan leather-look shoulder yoke, and a smart, tailored blazer in a blue tweed style with contrasting soft grey sleeves.

Another ad campaigns from Prada, featuring none other than new US film star Garrett Hedlund, follows in a similar vein to the Acne multi-layering look described above, creating a sense of fabric blocking. In the core image, Hedlund wears a thick pinstripe, sleeveless trench coat over a black and grey button-down shirt with a thin black roll-neck at the outfit’s base – creating a look that could easily become OTT, but the choice of colours and fabrics means the overall effect is one of high sophistication.

At the slightly more practical end of the spectrum, Victorinox recently featured an ad in several men’s fashion magazines displaying their travel blazer. Essentially, this piece consists of a standard grey blazer with a built-in, quilted, yellow body-warmer section for warmth and comfort – a real mish-mash of smart meeting practical.

Fabric Blocking Picks
  • Asos T-shirt With Shoulder PatchAsos T-shirt With Shoulder Patch
  • River Island Brown Shoulder Patch Contrast Collar ShirtRiver Island Brown Shoulder Patch Contrast Collar Shirt
  • Topman Brown Borg Collar PeacoatTopman Brown Borg Collar Peacoat
  • Topman Rust Tweed Heritage BlazerTopman Rust Tweed Heritage Blazer
  • Jil Sander Mens Hooded Puffa JacketJil Sander Mens Hooded Puffa Jacket
  • Topman Made In England Mustard Warwick Heritage BlazerTopman Made In England Mustard Warwick Heritage Blazer
  • Prps E61s19b Grey ShirtPrps E61s19b Grey Shirt
  • Allsaints Canyon Duffle CoatAllsaints Canyon Duffle Coat
  • Allsaints Errol Grandad JumperAllsaints Errol Grandad Jumper
  • Barbour Olive Tweed Patch Osprey Zip CardiganBarbour Olive Tweed Patch Osprey Zip Cardigan
  • A.p.c. Suede-trimmed Cashmere-blend SweaterA.p.c. Suede-trimmed Cashmere-blend Sweater
  • Allsaints Revel Quilted BlazerAllsaints Revel Quilted Blazer
  • Allsaints Grasp Leather JacketAllsaints Grasp Leather Jacket
  • Allsaints Mens Keaton JacketAllsaints Mens Keaton Jacket
  • Acne Cassady Leather-sleeved Wool Biker JacketAcne Cassady Leather-sleeved Wool Biker Jacket
  • Oliver Spencer Fair Isle-sleeved Wool-blend Bomber JacketOliver Spencer Fair Isle-sleeved Wool-blend Bomber Jacket
  • Junya Watanabe Leather-trimmed Camouflage JacketJunya Watanabe Leather-trimmed Camouflage Jacket
  • Polo Ralph Lauren Olive Leather Yoke Flannel Lined GiletPolo Ralph Lauren Olive Leather Yoke Flannel Lined Gilet
  • Maison Martin Margiela 22 Men’s Para SneakerMaison Martin Margiela 22 Men’s Para Sneaker
  • Quoddy Grizzly Leather And Herringbone Tweed BootsQuoddy Grizzly Leather And Herringbone Tweed Boots
  • Asos Brogue Boots In Leather And SuedeAsos Brogue Boots In Leather And Suede

It is clear to see that fabric blocking is becoming a popular textural choice this autumn/winter. It adds a new dynamic to several pieces which would otherwise be fairly run-of the-mill and generic, and seems particularly applicable to outerwear and tailored pieces.

But where do you stand on fabric blocking as a trend? Could you see yourself working with the multi-fabric look, or do you think items of clothing are better remaining unified and uniform in their use of fabrics? Rather than creating an interesting and fresh dynamic, perhaps you think the use of multiple fabrics within single garments can result in an unattractive patchwork look that can make the clothes look cheap and recklessly pieced together?

As always, we welcome your thoughts and opinions.