Soaring temperatures may tempt you to shorten hemlines and truncate lengths, but designers would rather you indulged in skin show of a different kind. While summer wardrobes have already taken many incongruous leaps of imagination — with designers using neoprene, PVC, metal, even wool — the latest addition to this line-up is leather. Long associated with rock stars, cowboys and all things rugged, leather and its faux varieties are inspiring the creative set to play a game of hide and skin.
From statement pieces, to applique, trimmings and studs, leather accents are adding an unusual touch to summer staples as designers like Ankur and Priyanka Modi of AM:PM look beyond traditional tactile embellishments. Eschewing shiny sequins for matte laser-cut leather sequins, the Modis decided to take their spring-summer Tribal theme forward with “understated organic materials”. Faux leather sequins and applique married fabric “chattai” work for an interplay of textures in their Indo-western line. “Leather is used sparingly and hand-stitched onto the fabric, so that it doesn’t touch the skin directly,” says Priyanka. With sari borders, tunic cuffs, plackets and blouse yokes wearing faux leather detailing, the Modis have exploited the material’s inbuilt versatility. “Besides being available in a variety of shades, it is a supple, yet semi-structured fabric that is mouldable and can be easily stitched,” says Priyanka.
And while the Modis went the faux route, not one to shy away from using pure leather is Ragini Ahuja of Ikai whose Summer/Resort 2014 line “Asura” had words like “have”, “difficult” and “more” punctuating the geometric applique work in pure sheep nappa. Combined with flowy anti-fit silhouettes in indigo shibori on Chanderi fabric, the garments were a study in contrasts. “While shibori lends inexact lines, the application of leather in straight lines strikes a balance between imperfection and perfection,” says Ahuja.
Similarly, Sougat Paul of Soup sent out laser-cut PU leather sari blouses and dresses with PU leather yokes, debutante Urvashi Joneja hand-stitched leather hearts and flowers on to her draped silhouettes and Sourabh Kant Srivastava used leather trimmings to dress up his line “Rebirth in Kalyug”. Paul’s exploits leather’s textural quality and pits it against the feminine flow of his creations. “I’ve employed laser-cutting for two seasons now. It gives the material breathability, doesn’t fray and looks modern, yet understated,” says Paul.
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While most designers have taken the cautious route by treating leather as a surface embellishment, there are others like Nikhil Thampi who are using non-traditional fabrics to create trans-seasonal lines. Thampi’s no-holds-barred summer line “Untamed” went wild with faux leather skirts and dresses, seeking to make a statement rather than fall in line with fashion conventions. “I didn’t want to restrict the collection to a summer-specific showcase. I intended to extend it to our Winter/Festive line and also give audiences a glimpse of what to expect from us in future,” says Thampi, who was careful to use the faux leather with strategic zip placements that opened into long slits, artfully revealing shoulders and legs.
“Leather was treated as a prop to support our theme which rebelled against the cliche of societal norms, and fashion for summer, in particular,” he says. With others like Lecoanet Hemant also defying seasonal limitations with a line of masterful monochromatic woven leather skirts, bustiers and dresses (part of their SS’14 line “Urban Architecture”), here’s a statement that’s hard to dismiss as just another gimmick.
Even as Ahuja will use leather in metallic hues for her forthcoming Winter/Festive line, cooler climes will usher in more leather love — biker jackets from Shweta Kapur, perforated tattoo designs from Nachiket Barve, panelled gowns from Namrata Joshipura, zippered sari blouses from Arjun Saluja and corded Patola-like weaves from Rimzim Dadu. Fall’s big sartorial statement will also be the skin you live in.
This story appeared in print with the headline Leather Bound