Picture this: a black biker jacket crafted from sleek calf leather, emblazoned with embroidered, varsity-inspired patches, including one shaped like a shield and topped with three overlapping letters, YSL, picked out in gold embroidery. This Saint Laurent creation costs Dh16,000 and is an example of this autumn’s style staple: the lavish leather jacket.
While outerwear is a key feature of any autumn/winter collection, jackets punctuated with personality have been particularly on-trend of late, thanks to one luxury fashion house, Gucci. When creative director Alessandro Michele unveiled a decadent hand-painted and embellished leather jacket on the spring/summer 2016 runways, every fashion-conscious man and woman rushed to get their hands on one. Since then, many other brands have followed suit, repurposing the leather jacket to make it ever-more fashion-forward. For the upcoming autumn/winter 2016 season, the floral motifs, applique work and hand-painted elements propagated by Michele are making a bold appearance on leather, proving that even a garment that’s historically masculine can exude feminine appeal.
Trends do not, generally, appear out of thin air – they’re often rooted in history, but evolve, expand and blossom once they are thrust back into the mainstream by fashion brands looking to put their own stamp on a certain style. The leather jacket was first manufactured for wartime pilots in 1918, and grew to become synonymous with motorcycle gangs in the late 1920s. For years, it was accepted to be off-limits to women, until rock and roll and the rise of feminism granted it with unisex appeal. In the 1990s, the leather jacket peaked when supermodel Kate Moss took to wearing one, helping the garment gain cult status in the wardrobes of women.
Still, leather jackets have remained relatively unadorned in high fashion, with focus traditionally placed on cut, crop and quality, rather than over-the-top art or three-dimensional embellishments. For the upcoming autumn season, however, a “more is more” mantra will prevail.
A boxy leather jacket from Italian label Etro may seem unexpected from a brand built on paisley prints, tiered dresses and bohemian chic. But embroidered birds and floral appliques are scattered across this leather piece, making it an ideal buy for women looking to balance femininity with old-school grunge. Other brands, including Miu Miu and Coach, have created high-priced versions similar to Saint Laurent’s, topped with sporty badges, but in bomber-jacket silhouettes.
While you may be sweating from the mere thought of wearing leather when its more than 40 degrees outside, be forewarned: cult fashion items have a way of selling out, especially in this region, where style trends are followed promptly and staunchly. And there’s certainly a place for leather, even in the Middle East, especially when those cool winter evenings return.
For pre-fall 2017, even local concept store S*uce is offering a range of in-house leather jackets, hand-painted to depict colourful motifs like rainbows, clouds, hearts and cherries. S*uce co-founder Zayan Ghandour, who helms her namesake brand, Zayan The Label, has also dabbled with the trend, having previously designed leather jackets featuring embroidered roses, sequinned stars, neon deer-shaped motifs and a romantic slogan, “let me dream my love”.
Those looking for completely unique leathers can take it a step further and have their jackets customised. Dubai-based salon SoH Art + Beauty specialises in unusual nail art, and even personalises leather goods, like bags, shoes and jackets. Dubai-based artist Maria Iqbal, known for her bold, graffiti-style approach to painting, can also put her brush to leather for clients’ special orders.
If you’re wary of splurging on decorated leather and are concerned about whether it will have long-term appeal, consider the sentimental value it may one day hold. And given that leather jackets, in theor various guises, have managed to retain their popularity for close to a century, it seems unlikely that they will loose their lustre any time soon.