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. Although I am certainly not wishing away the glorious warm weather us Brits have been experiencing 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. First up, AW12′s fabric of choice, leather.
The catwalks of Paris, London, Paris and New York were all awash with next season’s prevalent fabric; leather. From full on leather three-piece suits to floor length leather coats to the more subtle and discrete leather detailing paired with other traditional fabrics, leather was everywhere. In fact, the penchant for leather was predicted by GQ Essentials in their SS12 preview, which showed particular emphasis on standard garments made all the more special by incorporating leather trims and detailing.
GQ Essentials made the point that using contrasting textures in a single garment can almost reinvent the item – taking it from standard-issue to unique – creating an entirely new feel and look. The example they highlighted was a beige, linen Dior Homme shirt which was nice enough, but extremely simple and didn’t stand out. By adding a tan leather collar, Dior Homme managed to successfully add a new, interesting dynamic to an ordinary item, showing that attention to finer details really does have an impact. Other proponents of the use of leather detailing within their collections for SS12 included Paul Smith, Neil Barrett and Bottega Veneta.
Turning our attention to AW12, the use of leather by high fashion designers increased dramatically, and the fabric inundated the catwalks. Jean Paul Gaultier, Mugler, Rick Owens and Jil Sander all contained head-to-toe leather outfits – with three-piece leather suits, covered by leather coats and accentuated with leather accessories – all packing a real punch. However, in my opinion, the most distinctive and wearable of leather goods came in more subtly styled garments that contained leather detailing blended with other fabrics.
The two biggest leather successes for me were the shows by Yves Saint Laurent and Lanvin. YSL titled their show ‘Sex and Money’, and no fabric is more apt for this title than leather with its dual connotations with luxury/wealth and fetishism/sexual deviancy. Raf Simons, head designer of rival fashion house Jil Sander, wonderfully summarised this when he said leather represents ‘an expression of uncompromising luxury and a material that could trace the dark side of man.’
The YSL collection featured a plethora of innocuous coats and jackets in signature black fabrics and cuts, but these moved to the forefront of the collection with the simplistic use of leather detailing – from leather lapels to leather collars to leather shoulder panels and cuff trims. A personal highlight came in the form of a fantastic cropped jacket with leather forearms, lapel and collar [below, bottom left].
Leather wasn’t only applied to outerwear, with leather tees, sleeveless tops with leather side panels and an innovative black sweater with a leather roll neck detail and chest panel being included. YSL also featured several leather accessories, including the ever popular leather gloves and, more surprisingly, leather clutch bags. These might sound a bit dubious to the manliest of men, but they have the potential to become ‘the‘ next man bag based on the recent rise in popularity of iPads, tablets and Kindles.
Lanvin followed a similar trend by featuring coats and jackets that blended traditional sturdy outerwear fabrics with leather detailing to add a fresh dynamic. There was a knee-length trench coat with a leather body and contrasting fabric sleeves, and an oversized duffel-style coat with leather detailing featured on the peg fastenings and around the cuffs.
Lanvin went a step further by introducing coloured leather (rather than sticking to black), as several of the other collections did. They featured an oversized short-sleeved sweater with black fabric and orangey tan leather stripes, demonstrating that contrasting colours as well as contrasting fabrics can add a sense of uniqueness.
I think the key to pulling the leather look off successfully is to avoid the dramatic catwalk head-to-toe leather styling, and opt for a more subtle feel. I am sure most readers of this site will already own a leather jacket, so AW12 will offer an excellent opportunity to bring out something from your existing wardrobe that (consistently) remains on trend.
For those of you who don’t already own a leather jacket, why not be influenced by the recent sports luxe trend (another which will last throughout 2012) and opt for a cropped, blouson-style leather jacket to seamlessly slide from summer to autumn? Other sports luxe influenced leather items include the Gio-Goi leather-look track jacket available at ASOS, or the khaki leather hooded jacket by Marc Jacobs seen in the product picks below.
Similarly, Topman are currently offering an affordable leather-look baseball jacket which aptly supports the currently popular Americana, varsity trend and will carry you successfully into the autumn/winter months.
In order to show you just how adaptable leather is, I have compiled the lookbook below, which shows both smart and casual outfits, as well as spring/summer and autumn/winter appropriate looks. Whether you opt for a classic black leather jacket or a simple piece of outerwear with leather detailing, you cannot go wrong:
Although the majority of the leather items featured in AW12 designer collections appear in black, there are also options for those people who want to support the current colour and pattern trends in their leatherwear choices. Fellow FashionBeans writer Alex Woodhall recently wrote about the popularity of yellow, and both Raf Simons and Marc Jacobs offer support for this trends in the shape of a yellow leather sleeveless top and yellow sweater with leather elbow patches respectively.
For those men who like leather but are daunted by the thought of larger, leather garments – the fabric lends itself perfectly to accessories. The number of designers who featured stylish leather gloves in their collections for AW12 was limitless (this is a definite a go-to accessory for next season), and the options of leather accessories out there are plentiful – from satchels to wallets to mobile phone cases.
Why not follow the recent popular trend for backpacks but add a visionary twist by opting for a leather backpack rather than the more traditional canvas? Or be extra brave and try out the newest man bag in town, the leather male clutch? It is arguably less emasculating with the advent of the digital age and increase in popularity of the tablet and e-reader.
So what do you guys think? Are you a fan of leather generally? Do you see the leatherwear and leather detailing trend for AW12 as one that could stick and generate more popularity?
Submit your comments and suggestions below.