NYFW Trend: Lightweight Leather

As the Spring 2012 New York Fashion Week shows wind down, several trends are beginning to emerge, including bold colors, piled-on prints (both graphic and feminine), safari-inspired pieces (John Patrick Organic, Richard Chai Love, Michael Kors), and sporty/athletic clothes for the urban warrior (Alexander Wang, Cut25, BCBG).

But the most surprising spring trend has to be leather, a fabric that usually dominates the fall/winter shows. To be sure, spring’s leather pieces are decidedly more lightweight – or lighter/brighter in color – than their cold-weather counterpart. But I was still surprised by how much (non-human) skin there was stalking the catwalk this season.

CUSHNIE ET OCHS showed a sleek white leather sheath accessorized with a black patent cone-shaped belt, as well as a peplumed black top finished with sexy double zips. Bibhu Mohapatra offered a lovely pale grey cropped jacket with elegant silver studs (worn atop a cherchez la femme chiffon dress), and Reem Acra presented a bejeweled leather jacket paired with an equally sparkly cocktail frock, as well as a nude leather dress that caressed the wearer’s curves in all the right places. Yigal Azrouel’s Cut25 collection featured abbreviated black leather shorts, topped by a long star-print chiffon top, while Mandy Coon used black leather to terrific effect on calf-buckled pants, a multi-strapped bustier and a cropped leather vest.

Tess Giberson welcomed spring with off-white leather leggings that are sure to become the cool girl’s wardrobe staple. Rachel Roy went short and sweet with a pin dot white leather miniskirt. Emerson showed a grey leather moto jacket and shorts, and Phillip Lim offset the blurry prints and sherbet-hued separates in his kite-inspired collection with boxy two-tone leather vests cut to hang open in the front.

Leather also got the Crayola treatment this season, as seen in Derek Lam‘s mustard yellow jacket and skirt (worn separately), and Joy Cioci’s neon green laser-cut leather dress, which managed to be both bold and ladylike (Cioci also used laser-cut white leather to festoon the pockets and collar of a blue chambray top).

If you want to get in on spring’s leather trend without going head-to-toe, there’s always Julian Louie‘s nubby ivory silk dress with an emerald green, white, and black leather panel that encircles the shoulders and runs down one sleeve, making it look like the wearer has slung her boyfriend’s racing jacket over the shoulder of her otherwise perfectly minimalist frock.

And if you like the look but don’t wear leather, you can channel your inner Bond Girl with Norma Kamali‘s leather-like gold foiled nylon lycra maillot, or pay homage to Jodi Foster in Taxi Driver with Erin Fetherston’s cherry red short shorts, which resemble leather but are actually PETA-friendly cotton silk.

Lauren David Peden writes for Rue La La as a Contributing Editor.

September 16, 2011