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Item of the week: the 'leather' dress

By Rachel Douglass


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(From left) Image: Rafaella, Karl Lagerfeld, Mart Visser

What it is:

The “leather” dress is returning to the forefront of fashion, albeit in alternative, next gen materials that are bringing the style into the modern age. It comes as consumers begin straying away from standard leather in search of products that are both animal-friendly and eco-conscious, in line with their ever-shifting values. This has seen both designers and brands shift towards this form of production in order to cater to shoppers, expanding the breadth of this dress style and creating more options for the conscious consumer.

Image: French Connection

Why you’ll want it:

While a dress in general may not be the immediate go-to for the AW23 season, the style in a leather iteration is more likely to satisfy, as even the faux material remains suitable for colder weather. With this in mind, the piece is a regular for the autumn and winter months, often returning to stores as a weather-appropriate layer that stays on-trend and in fashion. Brands are also changing up the look to appeal to both younger and older generations, offering shorter, Y2K-inspired looks for Gen Z, while other styles range from modest midi lengths to button-up shirt dresses.

Image: Ella by Rafaella

Where we’ve seen it:

While high street retailers are turning to leather alternatives, some brands during fashion week were still opting for the real deal. Proenza Schouler showed a fascinating iteration in an empire gown in a striking red that swept the runway at New York. In the same city, Brandon Maxwell also exhibited a leather gown, with cut out features and a flared skirt. Meanwhile, Altuzarra’s dress wrapped around the body before forming a pegged silhouette. At Milan, Bottega Veneta took on a form fitting shape with a drop waist and full skirt, while in London, Dilara Findikoglu offered up a zip up corset dress, complete with lace up sides.

Image: Wolford

How to style it:

The leather dress, while very much a garment that stands well on its own, can be elevated with simple accessories. Add layered chain necklaces with matching rings and bracelets to bring the outfit to life. A crossbody or clutch bag in a contrasting material can be used for practicality. To dress the piece up, opt for lace-up ankle heels or boots. Alternatively, for casual wear, a simple pair of sneakers can work. Layer the piece with an oversized jumper or place a button up shirt underneath for depth, and, in the colder seasons, a long-line coat or a bomber jacket can provide extra warmth.

Image: Summum

As the tastes of customers continue to verge on the eco-conscious and animal-friendly, the use of leather has been adapted to cater to such demands. This has seen the development of alternative leather pieces, such as the dress, be pushed to the forefront, with styles in this next gen material beginning to rapidly expand.

Image: Karl Lagerfeld

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Item of the Week