Christina Aguilera wearing a shiny red leather-look coat. Picture: Ian West/PA
Leather has a bit of a stuffy reputation; it tends to bring to mind uncomfortable school shoes, or unyielding trousers that make you sweat.
This season, however, leather has been given a much-needed revamp - and it's all about bringing a bit of life and colour into your look.
Whether it was bright red coats at Coach, or green skirts at Givenchy, one thing was clear from the spring/summer 2020 catwalks: the leather look is in - but only if it's colourful. Louis Vuitton, Prada and Coach were just some of the other major fashion brands dabbling in rainbow leather looks.
In recent years, making clothes out of animal products has become a hot button topic in the fashion industry. Big brands like Gucci and Burberry have stopped using fur, and while leather is still used by most major houses, there certainly has been a lot more experimentation with fake alternatives, both in high fashion and on the high street.
Fenty - the LVMH-owned brand set up by Rihanna - recently came out with a whole new collection of fake leather. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) awarded Rihanna a Compassion in Fashion award for the work, with PETA senior vice president Lisa Lange saying: "With her new vegan collection, Rihanna shows how easy it is to create a killer look that no animal had to die for."
The go-faux fashion movement has been gathering pace.
"We hope that more people will soon realise that we do not need animals to be warm or fashionable," says Matt Turner, spokesperson for The Vegan Society. "The textile industry is already very creative in terms of developing vegan alternatives to animal-derived materials.
"Consumers are recognising that leather is only ever ‘natural’ on the animals who were born with it. Compassion, sustainability and innovation are shaping today’s fashion industry and this makes faux leather the obvious solution for many."
While there are still concerns over the environmental impacts of manufacturing vegan leather, there are plenty of natural alternatives. "Leather can actually be made out of pineapple leaves, apple skin, mulberry leaves, mushrooms and cork," says Turner. "The possibilities are endless and often cost-effective too. In the coming years, we hope that this will become the new normal."
The Higg Materials Sustainability Index evaluates and compares the environmental impacts of different materials. With a lower score of 43, polyurethane (PU) synthetic leather is judged to be less harmful for the environment than the production of cow leather, which scores 163 on the index.
The trend for coloured leather is sweeping social media. In fact, over the past year, Pinterest has seen a 40% increase in searches of how to introduce colour into clothing, which includes playing around with materials like leather. Even if you're only getting dressed up for yourself, you'll be amazed how a bright hue can boost your mood, compared to dressing in plain, neutral tones.
And the great thing about this trend is how versatile it is. You can pick an accent piece - be it a pink jacket or red skirt - and make the leather pop of colour the centre of your outfit.
To be really fashionable, take inspiration from the Duchess of Sussex and choose one colour for your whole outfit. Last year, she stepped out in a burgundy Hugo Boss skirt with a berry coloured jumper and shoes. When colour blocking, you don't need to make sure everything is exactly the same shade - play around within the same palette, and mix leather-look items with other materials and textures, like wool.
In terms of colour, really anything goes. To lean into a spring vibe, opt for gentle pastels in lemons or pinks, or to really vamp it up, wear fire-engine red. Pick whatever colour you like, as long as it isn't black or brown...
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