The Fall Winter 2015 runways were awash with lavish suede and leather. From fringed suede at Burberry to patchwork suede and leather at Tom Ford and everything in-between, it was clear to see that skin is most definitely in.
I’ve always been a huge fan of heavy luxury fabrics – velvet, crepe and now leather and suede, they have a way of upping the glam factor of any outfit and have the weight behind them to hang amazingly. I couldn’t wait to write about how to jump ahead of the pack and get in on the trend early by working it into your Summer wardrobe too. Both fabrics can be surprisingly versatile and easier to wear than you might imagine, coloured pieces can add drama; leather separates in bold primary colours can look rich and vibrant and soft, pastel coloured suede can be toughened up to create a great juxtaposition of textures.
There are some simple pieces you can pick up on the high street to update your wardrobe and they’re all hard working and not at all scary! Not just for play, both fabrics are smart enough to be worn as workwear and with some clever dressing and accessorising, can take you from day to night in a flash. Consider this my guide to the simplest way to get in on this trend, I’ve done the hard work and found you your dream pieces which will take you through Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter…..
First of all, dress to your usual style, you need to be comfortable, think of this as simply substituting textures rather than a complete style overhaul. Personally, I like to play with textures and finishes and often like to mix a soft tailored piece with something that has more of a ‘rock’ vibe for a street style look, but there’s no reason why you can’t wear a suede jacket and a suede skirt, hey, it’s 2015 – anything goes!
I love wearing a structured pencil skirt with an oversized tank so let’s start with a suede skirt; this particular one is from ASOS, at £70 it’s a great way to get in on the trend without shelling out too much initially. This one is a wrap over style so it’s real flattering and it has a D-ring fastener which gives it a high end finish. I like to juxtapose this skirt with a tank and recently wore it to a fashion event with a Givenchy tee (minus the original sleeves).
Tempted by that gorgeous tan suede skirt from Marks and Spencer, you know, the one that’s been featured in Vogue, Elle, Look, Grazia, Marie Claire etc.? Stop right there! There are two reasons to proceed with caution: 1. You’re very unlikely to find it anywhere as it’s the most coveted suede piece around, and, 2. If you are lucky enough to find it, you’re going to bump into at least four carbon copies of yourself the first time you wear it making you wish you’d kept the £200 in your purse.
So, in light of this, for really great unique leather and suede fashion pieces, my top tip is to try vintage and thrift stores first (make sure you check each piece thoroughly before buying). We’ve all got at least one leather biker jacket in our wardrobes but I’ve picket up some amazing ones in thrift stores, and the great thing is, you won’t bump into another version of yourself on the high street. Every time I go to the states, I come back with at least one great vintage leather or suede piece and last time was this super cute suede Pocahontas style fringed skirt. It cost me $60 (a snip at around £30) and it attracts compliments every time I wear it, plus it makes me feel like Carrie Bradshaw and who doesn’t want that, right?!
A black leather skirt is a really hard working, versatile option. If you haven’t got one of these in your wardrobe then you need one, pronto! Smart enough to be worn for the office but rock chick enough to be worn for a night out this is one item you’ll pull out of your wardrobe time and time again. This one is from Year One Collective, priced at £120, it’s great quality leather and if you’re patriotic you’ll like this one as it’s made by a British designer. Things to look for when shopping for a leather skirt: 1. A good strong zip – the last thing you want is your zip failing on you after a heavy dinner, and, 2. A split. Front or back it doesn’t matter as long as there’s a split. We’ve all seen that YouTube clip of the super glamorous girl who can’t traverse the staircase because of her unfeasibly tight skirt right? Don’t let that be you. River Island do a great leather skirt, it’s a repeat style which usually comes in to store around September and there are new colour ways added each year, this is last years red one and I’d highly recommend it, at £90 it’s a great buy but the downside is you’ll have to wait until later in the year to get it.
On the high street there are a gazillion options for a black leather pencil skirt, choose wisely. On the investment end of the scale Marks and Spencer do a beautifully made leather skirt for £149, perfectly cut and seamed to give a fantastic shape, it’s a great option of you’re flush. At the other end of the scale, there’s good old ASOS with a wide variety of shapes, styles and finishes. From real leather to PU they’ve got you covered and if you head on over there now you’ll find that a lot of these styles are in the sale just waiting to be snapped up.
Not a fan of skirts? Then maybe culottes are your thing. Since Spring Summer 2014 the trend for culottes has grown exponentially and now they’re everywhere. From New Look to Margiela, culottes are more than just a trend, they’re here to stay and with new leather and suede styles hitting the high street it’s easier than ever to tap road test this look.
My favourite leather culottes are from Topshop Boutique, buttery soft and smokey grey coloured, these culottes add a little luxury to any outfit, there’s just one rule with culottes: Always. Wear. Heels. On top anything goes, I like to pair mine with a floaty black camisole, again, to juxtapose the textures but you could pair these with anything from a band tee to a cropped tee and duster coat – as long as you remember the golden rule and always wear heels. These particular ones are pricey at £250 but River Island has some great PU alternatives for around £30.
This suede pair from Warehouse are amazing, this is a great example of the high street interpreting a trend really well. Pale in colour, wear with care. These are not for clumsy people, messy eaters or dirt magnets, but if you can avoid all of that then these are well worth a punt and are probably the best example on the high street. At £110 they’re not cheap but considering how well they’re made and the quality of the fabric, they’re hands down, my best buy. If you’re looking for a bargain then you could do worse than this pair which are currently in the sale at Topshop for £65.
A great way to nail the trend in one piece is to try a dress. Leather dresses have been around for ages, you may even already have one in your wardrobe, if you haven’t then your Mum is bound to so try her first. Suede dresses however, are a relatively new concept on the high street and with so many of them sent down the runways during Fashion Month, you’d be wise to jump on this trend now. My favourite leather dress is by Raoul, it was an investment piece at £695 but it’s my old faithful and something I come back to time and time again as it always makes me feel ‘dressed’.
There are a huge variety on the high street depending on which style you favour, ASOS has skater style, slip, pinafore, A-line and shift dresses available in leather and this one is my favourite, I’m awaiting my delivery but I know it will see me through the seasons and it’s a change from black. At £120 I’d say it’s pretty reasonable.
In suede the style is more seventies in feel, think dropped waists and huge pockets and you’re on the right track, exposed zips also work really well with this look. Mango does a great suede shirt dress but my best buy is this little beauty from Warehouse and at £110 it’s a complete outfit which isn’t too bad right? (It also comes in pink).
For Winter I’m a big fan of leather trousers and have two top picks: Marks and Spencer does a great recurring style and new colourways are stocked each season. The great thing thing about this pair is that the leather is super soft and the back section is ponte fabric meaning you don’t get the dreaded sag in the butt area and at £99 these are a steal.
Another of my favourites are the Paloma by Paige, worn by countless off duty models and celebrities these really are a style staple. I have these in black, green, burgundy and grey and I wear them all the time. More of a leather legging in style than a trouser they’re again ponte on the back and the front is structured to be uber flattering, they’re a bit of an investment piece at £350+. You can also buy this style in vegan leather (PU) if you prefer for £290.
We all know that good quality leather and suede can be expensive and that it needs to be maintained, if you can’t stretch to either of these fabrics then alcantara makes a pretty good substitute for suede and there are some decent vegan / PU options out there instead of leather. If you are opting for PU, bear in mind that it can, and will make you sweat so choose where you wear it and always try it first – if you can’t take the heat in a store dressing room then you’re probably not going to wear it out to dinner in the Summer.
In terms of jackets it’s simple – if you’re opting for suede then fringing is your best friend. The high street is full of fringed and tassled suede jackets in a variety of colours – If they’re wearing it in Nashville then it’s definitely ‘in’. For leather jackets, you can’t go wrong with a leather biker and that goes for any season. If you want to mix it up a little then try a different colour for Summer, the SS15 runways were a parade of bold colours with cobalt blue being a standout.
So, now you’re armed and ready to hit the high street with bells on. And probably fringing. But most definitely a leather biker…..