While the only chemistry most fashion folks tend to understand is the inexplicable allure of the perfect outfit, there’s one polymer in particular that designers are strengthening their sartorial bonds with. Thanks to this evolving equation, neoprene — a synthetic rubber, hitherto relegated to active wear and performance clothing — has made quite the style leap from functional to fashionable of late.
From scuba gear to designer swimsuits, from laptop sleeves to luxe jackets, and from utilitarian wetsuits to stylish jumpsuits — neoprene has gone from the science lab straight to the catwalks of DKNY, Alexander Wang and Tommy Hilfiger, among others. On Indian shores, the “scuba fabric”, as it is popularly known, has made a sporty splash on the ramps of Namrata Joshipura and Sanchita Ajjampur, and made waves with the “neoprene lehenga” created by Narresh Kukreja and Shivan Bhatia of the label Shivan & Narresh.
Joshipura, who has developed a distinct and urbane sporty chic oeuvre over the years, says she’s drawn to neoprene because of its strong affinity to performance wear. “Thanks to the current popularity of the sportswear trend, designers have been experimenting with performance fabrics such as neoprene, mesh and jersey. I like neoprene because it has a very structured and futuristic feel and can be sculpted and contoured to any form. Plus, it’s very light and doesn’t fray easily,” says Joshipura, who has rolled out glam sweatshirts, jacket dresses, skirts and jumpsuits in the fabric over her last two Fall-Winter collections. She says part of the fabric’s appeal lies in its versatility: “You can tweak it beautifully to make chic and sporty day wear as well as glamorous evening wear.”
Or even wedding wear, if resort wear specialists Shivan & Narresh are to be believed. Part of their Spring-Summer 2014 line was the “neoprene lehenga” — an embellished full-length skirt that is “water-friendly, voluminous without excess tulle or weight and is a modern take on a traditional silhouette”, catering to the summer bride jetting off to a destination wedding. But this was not the first time the duo has used the wonder fabric. “We have used neoprene previously for our swimsuits, cruise dresses and coats where the shapes have structures that cannot be created with woven fabrics or jerseys,” says Kukreja.Thanks to this pliability and resilience, neoprene has also found a place of pride in Vizyon’s summer collection, fashioned into a line of pop-coloured separates and dresses by designer Shradha Murarka. She believes it’s also fashion’s move towards the minimal and fuss-free that has triggered off this trend. “People have had their share of embroidery and ostentation. And we’ve also continued…