Welcome To The Future Of Fabrication

Fabrics play a key role in how we dress – some materials are worn for their practical and functional attributes, while others serve more aesthetic desires. A stronger influence than cut and colour, designers are continually experimenting to reinvent age-old fabrics with fresh identities, or creating entirely new materials in a science-meets-fashion manner.

In part one, we looked at how the traditional materials such as tweed, merino wool and cashmere are influencing our personal style.

In this second instalment, we’ll be reviewing some of the more groundbreaking fabrics, as well as examining the innovative use of heritage materials in today’s menswear designs.


In the pursuit of creative ingenuity, designers are constantly pushing the boundaries to find a new, novel fabric to change the way we dress.

Those that follow the industry closely would have noticed that menswear is having a bit of a moment with futurism, which was clearly evident at many of last season’s London Collections: MEN shows.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at the futuristic material that has made a substantial impact on menswear over the past few seasons: neoprene. To many traditionalists, it may seem akin to madness to don a rubberised, synthetic material commonly used to make wetsuits and limb supports in the name of fashion, but designers have utilised the material with intelligence, creating unique pieces with a truly contemporary feel.

This season’s Givenchy, Balenciaga and Lanvin collections were all given the neoprene treatment, incorporating tees, trousers and jackets with neoprene detailing such as pockets, logos and graphic insignia:

Neoprene was spotted on the AW13 runways at Givenchy, Emporio Armani & Trussardi (Top)
as well as at DKNY, 3.1 Philip Lim & Kenzo for SS14 (Bottom)

Key Pieces

Perhaps it’s something of an acquired taste, but with one of these garments on your back, no one could accuse you of showing a lack of commitment to innovation.

Some key pieces that incorporate the material include Givenchy’s neoprene combination parka and detailed sweatshirt, Wooyoungmi’s neoprene geometric tee, Alexander Wang’s bonded neoprene sweat pants and Our Legacy’s neoprene overcoat:

  • Kenzo Men’s Blue Cloud Sweatshirt
  • Le Fix Polar Hooded Jacket In Neoprene
  • Emporio Armani Quilted Neoprene Jersey Jacket
  • Topman Black Neoprene Oversized T-shirt
  • Neil Barrett Neoprene Double Breasted Jacket
  • Givenchy Neoprene-insert Printed Cotton Sweatshirt
  • Alexander Wang Bonded Felt And Neoprene Sweatpants
  • River Island Grey Neoprene Holdall
  • Comme Des Garcons Wallet X Coteetciel Red Contrast Spot Ipad Sleeve
Leather Detailing

Leather is one of the oldest materials used by man for the production of clothing. So what’s new? A quick glance at the past few seasons’ menswear collections will reveal a strong design fixation with leather-detailed garments.

From overcoats and tees to trainers and accessories, leather-detailed inserts and trims have been employed to bring a fresh, urban appeal to otherwise ordinary pieces.

Cattle hide is the most common raw material used for leather, but deerskin and lamb leather are also popular and considered more luxurious due to the softer, finer texture of the skin. Pigskin, used in the 1900s to make gloves, was once considered the ultimate luxury as it is a difficult skin to work.

Driven by the trend for all things athletic, leather (and cheaper leather look) details have appeared widely on sweat tops, tees and track pants, bringing a sporty and futuristic slant to classic leisurewear pieces.

Lookbook Inspiration

network aw13 Canali aw13 h&m aw13 river island aw13 zara beat collection 2013 sandro aw12 bal aw13 river island aw13 allsaints winter 2013 Woolrich John Rich & Bros aw13 tom ford aw13 burton aw13

Key Pieces
  • River Island Smart Coat
  • Asos Sweatshirt With Leather Look Panel
  • Vintage Renewal Leather Beanie Hat In Black
  • Topman Grey Leather Look Neck T-shirt
  • Valentino Cotton And Bonded-leather T-shirt
  • The Kooples Leather Pocket T-shirt
  • River Island Navy Life Of Tailor Leather-look Panel Coat
  • Givenchy Leather-collar Cotton Shirt
  • Michael Kors Panel Sweater
  • River Island Black Pu Panel Oxford Shirt
  • Valentino Leather Panel Tailored Coat 165123
  • Marc By Marc Jacobs Thompson Leather Trim Hoody

Shearling has been worn and prized by man for generations, due to its warmth and durability.

Comprised of the pelt (skin, fleece and all) of a sheep or lamb, the hide is processed by shearing the fleece down to a uniform length.

The most enduring sheepskin garment in the popular consciousness has to be the aviator bomber jacket. Popularly worn by RAF pilots in the 1940s to keep them warm at altitude, the shearling bomber has become an enduring symbol of masculinity.

The past few seasons have seen the style return in a big way, with designers from all fields creating their own take on this iconic design for their autumn/winter collections.

Shearling details have also become extremely popular, with many outerwear pieces featuring shearling-trimmed collars – some of which can be unbuttoned and removed for versatility.

In addition, shearling-lined footwear has appeared in response to the intrepid explorer and technical trends dominating menswear, which are guaranteed to keep toes toasty on sub-zero days.

Considered something of a prestige material, genuine shearling pieces can take a significant bite out of your pay packet. High street brands have responded by creating synthetic sheepskins, which give the aesthetic appeal of the real McCoy at a much more wallet-friendly price point.

Lookbook Inspiration

massimo dutti september 2013 massimo dutti aw13 sandro aw12 superdry aw13 zara editions aw13 allsaints aw13 ami aw11 river island xmas 2013 reiss aw13 ben sherman aw13 joop aw11 topman aw12

Key Pieces
  • Barneys Faux Shearling Look Thomas
  • Allsaints Raven Sleeveless Leather Biker Jacket
  • American Apparel Jacket With Hood
  • Topman Black Shearling Look Biker Jacket
  • Private White V.c. Harris Tweed And Shearling Quilted Bomber Jacket
  • Reiss Ripley Funnel Collar Lined Jacket Sand
  • Topman Denim Jacket With Detachable Borg Collar
  • River Island Khaki Colour Block Wool-blend Bomber Jacket
  • Reiss Edward Sheepskin Gloves Dark Brown
  • Aldo Wiebe Shearling Look Boots
  • Clarks Originals Desert Hug Boot Brown Suede
  • Classic Macalister Boots In Shearling-lined Suede
Bamboo Fibre

In a world where we’re increasingly conscious of saving the planet for future generations, seeking innovative, renewable resources has become a prime focus in many fields, including the fashion industry.

Bamboo, one of the fastest growing and most common plant species, could be our salvation – this wonder plant has been touted as an eco-friendly and economically viable solution to our environmental woes.

From its initial germination stage, it reaches its full height within eight to ten weeks, and when cut for harvesting, grows back rapidly. There are certain species of Far Eastern bamboo that can grow up to one metre a day, making it seem like the ultimate renewable resource.

To create bamboo fabric, the pith and leaves of the bamboo plant are broken down to a pulp using a steam and chemical treatment method. The pulp is then formed into threads by pushing it through fine nozzle-ended jets; these threads can be spun and dyed, producing a final product not dissimilar to cotton, but with a silkier, softer texture.

Currently, bamboo fibre is mostly used for smaller items, such as socks, but is becoming more commonplace for use in larger garments:

  • London Undercover Collapsible Bamboo-handle Umbrella
  • 1pr Sockshop Striped Bamboo Sock In Bag
  • Pringle 3 Pack Bamboo Socks
  • John Lewis Bamboo And Cotton Hipster Trunks Pack Of 3  multi
  • Tog 24 Storm Sulis Tcz Bamboo T-shirt
  • Illesteva Saloniki Sunglasses Burning Bamboo
Final Word

Fabrics play a key role in how we dress, whether we’re an elegant traditionalist or a contemporary trend-seeker.

Some fabrics may be a mere fad, or a response to a political/social concern, but other materials have true staying power and enjoy peaks and troughs in popularity with the passing decades.

Fashion’s continual need for freshness and reinvention prompts each generation of designers to improve traditional fabrics, and create their own unique materials to express their creative ethos. It’s this experimentation with materials and shifts in taste that keep the industry ticking, and our wardrobes in a continual cycle of fabric renaissance.