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Clarity is a wonderful thing – in accessories as in life. What else to conclude from the enthusiastic rediscovery of Perspex?
At the 17th annual US Accessories Council Excellence awards at the end of last year, Alexis Bittar won brand of the year, celebrating more than a decade of the jewellery designer’s Lucite (another brand name for acrylic) accessories. “I love how the material can be manipulated, sculpted, and its ability to reflect light. It’s been on an upward trajectory since the millennium,” says Bittar. Designer Dries Van Noten, who has used Perspex to create sunglasses, is also a fan. “I find something a little magical about it,” he says.
A relatively new material – it was first brought to the market in 1933 – Perspex nevertheless has a playful vintage feel reminiscent of the futuristic boom of the 1960s: see, for example, Jane Fonda in a plastic vacuum-formed bra designed by Paco Rabanne in sci-fi film Barbarella (1968), and Braniff Airways, which hired Emilio Pucci in 1965 to dress its stewardesses in Plexiglas bubble bonnets. Now, however, says Helen David, fashion director at Harrods, “Perspex has become a feature across many accessory collections with the resurgence of the sports-luxe trend. It’s quirky and modern, yet commercial.”
Converts to the material, and similar clear plastic variations, include Burberry, Giorgio Armani and Erdem, all of which accented their spring/summer 2014 collections with thermoplastic detail. Likewise, Fendi offers Perspex and crystal footwear, while Simone Rocha has toughened up her feminine dresses with signature Perspex-heeled brogues. Then there’s Chanel’s 2014 resort line, which features an oversized Chanel No 5 bottle-bag with a chain made from the same sci-fi plastic as last season’s star accessory, the Chanel Boy Brick. Wanda Nylon offers a transparent polyurethane raincoat (from £384) while Keely Hunter has a range of avant-garde Perspex headbands (£250).
“Perspex tends to have a futuristic or urban, sporty feel but the strength of the designs at the moment are those with more of a feminine touch,” says Tomoko Ogura, fashion director at Barneys. “We love the infusion of Perspex in shoe designs.” Examples include the army of transparent heels at Sophia Webster, such as its clear PVC and leather pumps (£295) and Violeta vinyl and leather sandals (£150); Gianvito Rossi’s leather and Perspex pumps (£510); Christian Louboutin’s Aqua Ronda heels (pictured below, £595); Christopher Kane’s Perspex heel leather sandals (£690); and Jimmy Choo’s Perspex sandals (£550), which come with a matching Ice Cube Clutch (£1,250). “I looked at ice, glass and light and played with transparency,” says Sandra Choi, creative director at Jimmy Choo. “There is a real feeling of freshness.”
According to the artist Andy Warhol, “Everybody’s plastic, but I love plastic. I want to be plastic.” Fashion, it seems, fully agrees.