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Clear intentions: how the big labels are delivering a see-through summer
Sands Style / Fashion & Luxury

Clear intentions: how the big labels are delivering a see-through summer

Transparency is a clear winner – at least in the top labels’ collections for this season

The colour of your toenails, the secret world inside your handbag and the interior of your suitcase. These intimate aspects of our lives were traditionally concealed by clothes and accessories, but they’re now out there for everyone to see, as all things see-through rule the runway.

Maison Margiela, Jimmy Choo, Valentino and Chanel have created an entirely new accessories aesthetic in materials that could help you get your liquids through security checks. And even the spring/summer 2018 show invitations were clad in the stuff, with fashion editors receiving a see-through clutch from Givenchy and an extra-large ziplock bag from Céline, along with their Save
the Dates.

Transparency is trending everywhere. At Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld showed a standout collection of 91 looks, which was defined by its waterproof layers, including plastic over-the-knee boots, capes, hats and handbags. Tweed suits were worn under ladylike, hooded rain capes; denim jackets and skirts were trimmed with plastic fringes and the house’s trademark cap-toed, demi-heeled boots were reimagined as a kind of super luxury answer to waterproofs.

In Pierpaolo Piccioli’s equally impressive spring line-up for Valentino, his cool, cropped plastic jackets – one embellished with sequins – opened the show and were anything but practical. Plastic hats you’d traditionally see on a British
grandmother weathering a rainstorm were perched on top of glossy black dresses and sequinned cloaks.

High-gloss PVC raincoats were riding high at Céline, showing off the luxurious
tan outfits below, while Aspinal of London created an entirely see-through PVC suitcase – an accessory that could delight airport security checkers.

If you’re brave enough to go thighhigh, Kanye West’s Yeezy – available
at adidas – has tubular boots for you. Kim Kardashian – West’s wife and muse
– was quick to embrace the look, pairing them with high-waisted denim cutoff shorts, a sheer cropped bralette and an oversized denim jacket.

And clothes were no different – a veritable texture buffet. Burberry’s famous raincoats went entirely see-through, as did Miu Miu’s, while Valentino’s futuristic moto jackets showed what lay beneath – ensuring that whatever the weather, this season, your outfit of the day can still be admired.

But how do you style this 1960s sci-fi-slash- Wimbledon-waterproofs look? With difficulty it seems, because this trend requires dedication in key areas: firstly,
the rearrangement of the contents of your handbag with picture-perfect precision; secondly, an under-boot pedicure, followed by a neatly packed suitcase, and hat hair that doesn’t look like hat hair.

And, while the glossies have been gone wild for this trend, styling models in head-to-toe Perspex, it is a look that should be worn in small doses “IRL” (in real life). So choose between a plastic boot and bag, a see-through coat and jewellery – and only opt for entirely transparent luggage if you’re flying private, please. 

Unpicking the meaning of this trend is also rather enlightening. In recent years, brands such as Vetements, Jeremy Scott and Balenciaga have traditionally taken low-end iconography and made it desirable – think navy blue Ikea bags gone luxe, McDonalds imprinted jumpers and DHL T-shirts.

Plastic follows in a similar vein – traditionally the material has been associated with pure function (shopping bags, bin bags, water bottles, disposable raincoats and food packaging). But in New York, London, Paris and Milan, it is being recast as aspirational and luxurious, and is now imbued with the cool factor. 

On the one hand, this is welcome. As trainers and extravagant flats replace stilettoes, and modesty dressing fills the rails, fashion is responding to the desires of most women, who want to get about their day in wearable shoes without flashing an upper thigh to the cab driver. And given the current global weather patterns gone mad, waterproof hats, shoes and bags are really rather welcome, doing the particularly useful job of shielding you from the elements while brightening your mood.

But at the same time, this craze for all things plastic feels slightly puzzling. Despite the undeniably glamorous, arresting images these products create, there’s something oddly out of sync about the use of so much plastic at a time when major government-led campaigns are desperately trying to get the public to cut back.

“It is interesting to see, and we need to gauge the sustainability of these
items, or if these are indeed recycled pieces or have the ability to be recycled and repurposed,” says fashion commentator Nicola Cooper. “Nostalgia for the
’80s and ’90s have driven this fashion trend, so hopefully there will be a
contemporary sustainable spin. [However], it will have to align with the
aspirations, morals and ethos of a new, ‘woke’ generation.”

But what if brands such as Chanel have a different intention for their
accessories? What if, unlike single-use plastic packaging, these items
of desire are to be kept and cherished, never to be thrown away? If we
viewed the things we bought more carefully, with this thought in mind, we
would be doing the world a favour.