From vinyl to nylon, this season’s designers’ fabric choices were defined by danger, unpredictability and the unlikely luxury of practicality
Miuccia Prada infamously wore an Yves Saint Laurent dress to hand out Communist flyers during the political unrest of the 1960s in Italy. The nylon dresses of her A/W18 collection may well have been created to the same brief – tough and elegant, they could take you from picket line to cocktail hour.
If the A/W18 catwalks showed us anything, it’s that fashion is grappling with change, be it political, technological or climate. Twin themes of danger and unpredictability epitomised the season and the fabric choices followed suit; if cold weather fabrics were once restrained to shearling, fur and wool, they aren’t any longer. For A/W18 they have hybridised, adapted to our complex lives and disappearing seasons for a new proposition entirely: the luxury of practicality. Here, five fabrics that defined the season.
1. Vinyl (above)
Vinyl may not be a runway newcomer, but its A/W18 iteration is heavier, darker and sexier: think somewhere between a butcher’s apron and Rihanna’s outfit in the final scenes of the video for Bitch Better Have My Money. Vinyl needn’t be a statement – breaches from Ottolinger or a knee-length skirt from Marni are easy to dress down for the every day. But, if you’re after a pièce de résistance, why not try a theatrical vinyl coat à la Marc Jacobs? The fabric’s lasting power is its ability to traverse categories – depending on the designer and season vinyl might signify dominatrix; power woman; Lolita. Or perhaps it simply acknowledges that most women possess a little of all three.
2. Gold foil
You will find the season’s most astute party girls in shiny swathes of gold fold – at least if it’s up to Molly Goddard and Rei Kawakubo. A gold foil dress in exaggerated ruffles was found at Comme des Garçons, while a similar off-shoulder number was the life of the party at Molly Goddard. Kawakubo noted that she was inspired by Susan Sontag’s Notes on Camp, and there is a refreshing jolt of life in a party dress that’s unapologetically over the top. Wear with graphic platforms á la CDG or, for ultimate magpie effect, your own collection of gold jewellery.
3. Clear plastic
Chanel’s S/S18 show left us all wanting for the nearest affordable version of what was, in prosaic terms, a designer shopping bag. Clear plastic remained ubiquitous for A/W18, appearing at Maison Margiela and Balmain, layered over arresting neon separates or simply nude skin. Usually associated with raincoats or grocery shopping, a clear plastic overcoat, bag or knee-high boots lend a tongue-in-cheek element to any outfit that’s practical too.
“When I returned to designing, I was taken aback by how everyone was seeing collections through their phones,” John Galliano told Vogue before his S/S18 Artisanal collection for Maison Margiela in January. In response, he developed a holographic material that was layered over dresses and coats, reflecting the light from the hundreds of smartphones as the audience was instructed to turn on flash when taking photos. The material reappeared in the house’s A/W18 womenswear collection, mirrored in Pat McGrath’s pearlescent makeup looks. At Sies Marjan, a holographic trench coat and duffle bag blended in elegantly with the designer’s signature lavish colour palette. It made for a well-timed statement for our current iPhone-obsessed generation: capture it on a screen and each time you will have a slightly altered replica.
Mario Prada, founder of the eponymous label, first developed parachute nylon in the 1930s, used to cover his steamer trunks. But it wasn’t until his granddaughter, Miuccia, took over the brand in the late 1970s that the fabric became Prada’s USP. Her line of nylon totes and backpacks was Prada’s first big commercial hit, a push against its heritage and a hint at Miuccia’s future ethos of functionality mixed with ostensibly ‘ugly’ chic. Nylon’s been recurrent for Prada since, but for A/W18, it was the fundamental building block of both the menswear and womenswear collections. It showed up as dresses, bags, padded jackets and bucket hats, leaving critics wondering if Miuccia Prada, too, is flirting with streetwear. Far from its humble reputation, nylon will prove to be A/W18’s finest investment.