Plastic Fantastic

AW14 Polythene dreams

Text by Lucie Horton

Photography by Janneke van der Hagen

Styling by Sara Gilmour

The shiny black patina is unmistakable; the chunky silhouette almost comically familiar. It started, as usual, with Christopher Kane, the maverick designer infamous for his innovative use of materials, who sent girl after girl down the runway draped in a fabric that resembled the low-density polyethylene of a common bin bag. And he wasn’t alone: this season six other avant-garde designers also went plastic fantastic and created not only wearable, but beautiful and curiously fragile, sculptural dresses.

Christopher Kane is the master of this art. His collection was littered with black nylon. Straying dangerously close to ugly, Kane buffeted the cheap up against the luxurious, trimming dresses with butter-coloured mink and intricate lace. The conceptual currents underpinning the trend were not lost on Chitose Abe at Sacai, formerly of Comme des Garçons, who specialises in making the avant-garde wardrobe-friendly. Oversized puffer coats paired shiny nylon with shearling: fur-stuffed trash bags bursting at the seams. Raf Simons has been playing with sportswear and luxury ever since he sent trainers down his couture runway at Dior. He quilted his bin-liner nylon to create full-skirted dresses in classic Dior silhouettes as the bin bag went haute couture.

Ann-Sofie Back’s distorted utility wear featured a sleeveless nylon coat with thick plastic straps, and Gareth Pugh went white and sepulchral with Vilene interfacing, thick transparent plastic and clear polyethylene sheeting.

There is an art to elevating the cheap and disposable, and the bin bag’s repurposing is interesting – perhaps concealing more of a commentary on contemporary society than we may care to admit. Salvage punk seems to be having a moment, and while finding beauty in ugliness has long been a motor of fashion, will we be seeing bin bags on the red carpet come Oscar season? Certainly, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. 

Styling assistant Bobby Hook

  • Plastic Fantastic #3
  • Plastic Fantastic #1
  • Plastic Fantastic #2