Biker babes? That’s so last season. This season’s leather culture – no, not the kind James Franco was celebrating in his recent Sundance Film Festival entry (though who’s to say that isn’t where the trend originated?) – comes from a very different place. Like all underground movements that begin in rebellion against societal norms, the leather world, which fashion has flirted with for seasons, has now officially been co-opted, defanged, and restyled for every age. Whether Versace’s camp send-up of punk, Miuccia Prada’s morning-after housewife gear or Marni’s pared-down style, these all-leather outfits are the opposite of controversial. Candy-coloured, supple as cotton, and possessed of an inner steel, they give a little edge to the everyday, just slightly subverting the sartorial status quo while retaining their vroom.
Blame Chanel. If they hadn’t had that Métiers d’Arts presentation in the Scottish Highlands last December, maybe the rest of the fashion world – or at least, those down south, in Italy – wouldn’t have started thinking northward. Combined with the fashion world’s love of cashmere in winter, and the general drive to celebrate artisanal countries of origin, it meant the Milanese runways ended up looking like a veritable clan convention, the sort that would send a Rob Roy scholar into raptures. Granted, there’s something to be said for a touch of tartan, though the head-to-toe look is best avoided, unless you’re expecting to recite Robert Burns’s classic poem “Address to a Haggis”.
When did an animal look like this? Never is the answer. Though this season Milanese fur houses (and the designers that work with them) embraced full-on pelts with a vengeance not seen since Peta started tossing tofu pies at Anna Wintour, they combined them with technological knowhow perfected over the past few years to create wholly new hybrid creatures – or what Fendi designer Karl Lagerfeld (who declared, “Fur is in the air”) called “metaphoric minks”. These babies aren’t going to fool anyone into thinking they’re fake, and that is not the intention, but their “not-in-nature” nature is dazzling – almost enough to distract the politically correct.