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October 1, 2011updated Feb 11, 2013


By Chris Boyle


Leather jackets, dresses and suits are some of this season’s style staples.

But unlike the studded motocross jackets or embellished minidresses of seasons past, the look of leather for fall/winter 2011 is more polished than punk.

At the first sign of fall weather, women undergo the biannual “changing of the garb” ritual, swapping lightweight tops for cashmere sweaters and replacing summer dresses with wool suits, while open-toed sandals move to the back of the closet to give pride of place to boots. Now is the time to determine which of fall’s top trends to invest in. Yes, it’s always good to get a new winter coat, a solid pantsuit or a safe little black dress—but to be on trend this winter, consider buying those items in leather.

To keep the powerful look of leather under control, designers have used restrained silhouettes and minimalist styles. At Lanvin, designer Alber Elbaz cut decadent chocolate leather into an effortless sleeveless dress, belted at the waist. Martin Grant’s shell tops and pencil skirts, crafted from sophisticated tobacco brown leather, were the epitome of ladylike design. Even at Valentino, the youthful look of a nude lace top and demure pleated skirt was enriched by the use of supple leather.

Designers gave a piquant touch to their reserved leather designs by mixing in other materials. Designer Phoebe Philo, inspired by leather auto interiors for her collection for Céline, incorporated horizontal panels of leather into tops and added a touch of semi-sheer chiffon to leather skirts for an ultra-modern look. At Akris and Hermès it was the interplay between skins that made leather ensembles shine: Both houses mixed liquid leathers with pony skin or suede to create textural interest in classic designs.

For an edgier leather look that’s still good girl-approved, look no further than Giles and Gucci. The former’s ivory leather skirt suit will never seem dated, thanks to its bodyskimming shape and designer Giles Deacon’s clever addition of trompe l’oeil lapels. For Frida Giannini, leatherwork is a passion she incorporates into all of her collections for Gucci. This season her experimentation with skins lead to slick frosted leather coats and beautiful dégradé autumnal ensembles. Some of the season’s most luxe leather toppers came from Versace. Cut from shining black leather in hourglass shapes, they are both timelessly elegant and contemporary in sprit.

Choosing among the latest leather looks will not be easy. First time buyers should opt for pieces from a house with a rich leatherworking heritage to back up its designs— Hermès, Gucci, Fendi and Loewe are some of the top labels to look out for. In fact Loewe, which has been working with leathers since 1864, recently announced its made-to-order collection with a heavy emphasis on skins. Made to a client’s specific measurements, a jacket, dress or pair of trousers can be custom cut in the leather type and color of the customer’s choosing. What could be more ladylike than a one-of-a-kind leather ensemble created just for you?



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