Last month, Dolce & Gabbana unveiled a collection during Milan fashion week gilded from neck to ankle in baroque embroidery. On the same day, Meryl Streep stood on the stage at the Oscars in Los Angeles to accept her Best Actress statuette in matching gold Lanvin, while in the audience George Clooney’s girlfriend Stacy Keibler applauded in draped gold Marchesa.
It was a molten moment, but as far as metallics and clothing go, it was just the beginning. Next week the English National Ballet will premiere a modern take on the Ballets Russes’s seminal Firebird, featuring new gold- and bronze-burnished costumes by David Bamber, Tom Ford’s right-hand man and longstanding design studio director.
When fashion and culture meet, trends are never far behind. And from Christopher Kane’s lurex brocade dresses and coats with glittering floral prints to Maison Martin Margiela’s stylish gold high-top trainers, Antonio Berardi’s metallic leather embroidery and Michael Kors’s metallicised safari green, hemp and olive, designers are mining a rich seam for spring.Never far behind, the high street has picked up on the look, with molten metal cigarette pants at Topshop and River Island’s metallic leather skirts.
Blame it on the rapid rise in the price of gold in recent years, its reputation as a safe investment or just some Midas-myth-making. Berardi says simply, “Metallics inspire a feeling of hope. It makes a dress look rich and intense even if it’s in a pale colour.” He adds that we are actually in less of a bling moment than fashion has experienced before (believe it or not). “It’s a move away from crystals and heavy embellishment,” he says.
New York designer Thakoon Panichgul used gold chain trims, silk bands and gold leather sleeves to complement the heavy Indian paisley prints that dominated his spring/summer collection, while threaded silk gold collars acted as built-in jewellery and subtle flashes of gold capped his shoes. “I wanted to do gold in a fresh new way – more fanciful, decorative as well as urban, street and modern,” says Panichgul. “We combined it with sporty fabrics such as khaki T-shirts and non-cocktail pieces. It decorates slightly but is not too flashy.”
“Metallics allow many possibilities in terms of creation – to play with light effects, bring a new kind of preciousness or even high-tech finishes,” says Manish Arora, whose first collection as creative director of Paco Rabanne, the label behind the iconic 1960s chain-mail dress, used metallic organzas and silver paper to create avant-garde, futuristic dresses.
They also slide surprisingly easily into a wardrobe. “It’s a bit more accessible day-to-day,” says television agent Carly Lorenz. “I like the fact that I could now just wear a collar and add to an outfit.”
Design PR consultant Hannah Cox impulsively bought a metallic tunic with a sweatshirt neck at H&M that she wears for work with skinny jeans, as well as a foiled wool cardigan, and says, “They seemed to stand out with a tough but fun edge this time around – and the different combination of textures surprised me.”
Holli Rogers, fashion director at Net-a-Porter, suggests the easiest approach is to “balance metallic separates with neutral knits and clean lines”. For example, she advises combining “metallic brocade pants from Michael Kors with a slouchy sweater, or J-brand’s metallic snake print leggings with a luxe white T-shirt and black blazer.”
For those who would rather tiptoe into the trend, there are numerous accessories for iPads, iPhones and laptops being re-invented in metallics, including Marc Jacobs’ gold leather croc iPad case or Jimmy Choo’s glittery leather version. Alternatively, Natalie Kingham, international womenswear buyer at Matches recommends “rose gold and yellow gold nail varnishes”.
There are no such halfway measures on stage at the ENO, though. Firebird will showcase golds, bronzes, iridescent purples and rich burgundies on burnished ostrich skin headdresses and feathers worn by the two protagonists, Firebird and Peacock Man, to accentuate the ballet’s magical effect. “The Firebird will look like a fantastic reptilian feathered creature that’s cast in gold, but with mesh underneath so you see the apparent nakedness of the body,” says Bamber.
On stage, the use of metallics focuses the audience’s attention, catching the light, highlighting movement and allowing the show’s director to “control how the costume is seen.” In life, of course, such image-manipulation is not quite as assured. But if it was, that would be worth its weight in gold.
‘Beyond Ballets Russes’ by the English National Ballet is on at the London Coliseum from March 22 to April 1, www.ballet.org.uk. Programme 1, March 22 to 27 features ‘L’après-midi d’un Faune’, ‘Faun(e)’, the world premiere of ‘Firebird’, ‘The Rite of Spring’
Tiffany’s new metal: Rose-tinted necklaces
Bored of bronze? Tired of titanium? Tiffany has a solution to metal monotony thanks to a new material known as Rubedo. It might sound like a 1980s board game, but Rubedo is, in fact, the brand’s first ever original jeweller’s metal, and is named after the highest achievement in medieval alchemy, writes Carola Long
Created to mark Tiffany’s 175th anniversary, according to Melvyn Kirtley, president of Tiffany & Co for Europe, it took the design team and metallurgists over two years to develop the ratios of metals that give Rubedo its rose gold colour, and the composition remains a trade secret. The colour is intended to be “radiant with the glow of first light,” which sounds a bit over-the-top, but is genuinely reminiscent of the soft lustre of early morning as painted by the Impressionists – or perhaps a glass of pale rosé.
It helps that the popularity of rose gold has proved an ongoing trend. The range includes wide cuffs, bangles, rings, hoop earrings and circle necklaces with silver.
Della Tinsley, director of Jewellery Week 2012, says: “Difficult times and the shift in metal prices have had an enormous impact on the jewellery industry, and call for innovation.” She says the increasing popularity of another new metal, Palladium, bodes well for Rubedo, and that fear of its unproven worth as an investment will be offset by the Tiffany brand and design of its products.