This season, the designer accessory on many holiday wish lists – as well as the wrists of Victoria Beckham, Cameron Diaz and stylist Rachel Zoe – isn’t an “it” bag or a pair of gold hoops; it’s something a little less ladylike. Specifically, a chunky bracelet with protruding studs that, at least on first glance, wouldn’t seem out of place at a Clash concert or even attached to a leash.
These luxury dog collars are the rebel yell of choice this season for haute hellions everywhere.
The Collier de Chien from Hermès, for example, was originally introduced as a belt in 1927. (The design was inspired by pet accessories, a Hermès’ speciality during that era.) A bracelet version, with metal studs on leather, was launched in the 1970s. That statement cuff has snowballed in popularity over the past couple of years, and as a result Hermès has expanded its range beyond just silver or gold studs on calfskin (£810) and more exotic skins (starting at £1,360) to include extra-luxe versions, several of which, such as a white gold iteration covered in 3,701 pavé diamonds, have been showcased for the past few weeks in New York as part of a collection of the company’s most exceptional jewellery.
Hermès is not the only luxury brand to see potential in punk. Balenciaga has offered several styles of studded-leather bracelets (starting at £135) for the past few seasons, each with hardware that mimics the detailing on the brand’s handbags.
There are also black leather cuffs with silver tone studs in the Valentino Garavani Noir collection (£110-£350), with versions in lighter colours, such as fuchsia and apple green, coming this spring. Meanwhile, more accessible brands such as C Wonder have also embraced the trend ($98).
“For a leather heritage brand, it’s completely within their field of expertise,” says Simon Longland, fashion accessories general merchandise manager at Harrods, where sales of Balenciaga’s bracelets have doubled this year. “The hardware on the bracelet is taken from their most iconic handbags. It allows someone who couldn’t afford a bag to buy into the lifestyle of the brand.”
That makes sense, but it doesn’t address the real issue surrounding these styles, which is the irony of the high-end co-opting one of the badges of the underground, and the associated question of whether a luxury customer can wear such an accessory without seeming like a posing pretender.
“I wouldn’t wear them with leather and studs everywhere else,” says Jodi Hassan, who wears one of her two Colliers de Chien daily while working with brands such as Mercedes-Benz and Godiva as a principal at Alison Brod Public Relations. “It’s about a tiny little hint of it, and I really don’t wear any other jewellery, except the rings from my wedding.”
Stylist June Ambrose, who owns a dozen Hermès Colliers de Chien in different colours and skins, says: “What is really cool about these particular bracelets is that they give you just enough toughness without looking like a biker chick. There’s just enough punctuation.”
Indeed, New York-based publicist Jennifer Fisherman-Ruff, who always sports one of the 15 Colliers de Chien she owns on her wrist, says they are an ideal confidence booster. “They’re part of my uniform. They create my outfits for me. I think about the bracelet before I think about the shirt and the shoes. I guess I feel complete when I wear them.
“Besides,” she adds, “they are like my armour. Maybe subconsciously I am thinking these could hurt someone if they came near me.” In other words, they are the next best thing to a bodyguard – and a lot easier on the eye.
Studs and spikes: When ugly is beautiful
Punk style isn’t limited to bracelets, it’s everywhere, and it has shaken off its “alternative” image in favour of a tough elegance that works for men or women, writes Lucy Garside.
According to Toby Bateman, buying director at menswear website mrporter.com, “It has gone from the edgier fringes of fashion to the catwalks of Milan and Paris. It’s interesting to see stud work treated with more deference as a sign of decoration rather than a way to deface or customise.” Magali Ginsburg, head of buying at online boutique The Corner, agrees: “The look has evolved into a more subtle trend, rather than a total rock or punk look.”
Want instant irreverence? Throw a studded leather jacket over a silk Lanvin gown and you have modern evening wear, or slip on some spiky loafers with your bespoke suit and you have personalised power dressing. The late Malcolm McLaren said that punk’s popularity was down to its ability to make ugliness beautiful. Now the punk trend’s appeal is that even one studded accent takes an outfit from classic to cool. Take Burberry’s spiked iPad cases (£795), gloves (£395), belts (£375) and even the handles on umbrellas (£595). Each season, Louboutin brings out studded slippers in fabrics from velvet to tartan and zebra print (from £845); Valentino has a range of studded accessories, with its strappy kitten heels a fashion week favourite, and Givenchy has become the go-to designer for spiky femininity. Even heritage brands have been getting in on the act; Church’s offer a studded brogue (£350) for that anarchic academic look; Mulberry’s Alexa bags are adorned with studs (from £1,750). Ouch.