How velvet has shed its winter coat to pile on the style

Fabric’s appealing opulence makes a bold comeback with celebrities wearing it in outfits and accessories for both day and night


PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 October, 2016, 4:02pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 October, 2016, 5:24pm

In fashion land nobody cares about temperatures and whether they disrupt a trend. If they can go barelegged in the snow in New York City in February, velvet in a warm Hong Kong October is no problem. Tilda Swinton was making the case for head-to-toe velvet in the dead of summer when she wore Haider Ackermann’s velvet suit in San Diego in July. And recently model Natasha Poly partied in the New York heat wearing an emerald velvet trouser suit by Frame. It may have looked impractical but such idiosyncrasy achieves a cool edginess.

Velvet in all its sumptuous glory is the fabric of the season. Giorgio Armani devoted a whole collection to chic black velvet. Saint Laurent and Vanessa Seward created chic tuxedo jackets in velvet, while Etro sent maxi skirts and loose burgundy trousers (the colour of the season) in crushed velvet down the catwalk. There were also vintage style velvet devoré dresses that haven’t featured on the catwalk since the 1990s.

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Velvet taps into many moods among designers: Roberto Cavalli, now designed by Peter Dundas (ex-Pucci), and Ralph Lauren embraced a boho decadence with their gold printed or embroidered velvet coats and trouser suits in regal purple. The addition of long skinny scarves at Cavalli makes it all a bit rock ’n’ roll. That ’70s vibe is echoed elsewhere in the tie-dye velvet maxi coat and suits at Raquel Allegra and the velvet platform sandals at Rupert Sanderson and Jimmy Choo.

Velvet clearly is the failsafe choice for eveningwear with a plethora of jewel dark velvet dresses (choose burgundy, ink or emerald rather than black) in the stores. Raoul’s draped wide-leg ink-velvet trousers are perfect for the evening but velvet is not just about nocturnal dressing; designers are giving the fabric a new daytime gravitas.

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Stella McCartney, for example, used amber and inky blue velvet for utility-meets-glamour puffer jackets over long velvet dresses. Emilio Pucci produced a sporty zip-up top that wouldn’t look amiss jogging the streets of Hong Kong, but in acid yellow velvet is perhaps more suited to clubland. Philip Lim made tracksuit style dresses in velvet and Giorgio Armani produced velvet tracksuits that are way too glamorous for the gym.

Some of the best-received pieces so far have been the relaxed rather than the regal looks including the velvet biker jackets at Miu Miu and the zippered bomber jackets at Givenchy. Clearly velvet is getting a daytime makeover.

Adopting ‘evening’ fabrics for the daylight hours is a mood that Lane Crawford has picked up on. “It is all about two colliding worlds that when juxtaposed create something really exciting and new,” says Kelly Wong, the general merchandise manager at the store. “The way designers have been mixing up sporty and utilitarian elements with boudoir references is the perfect example of the kind of newness and excitement that our customers are really looking for.”

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Lane Crawford has bought into pieces like wide leg velvet pants from T by Alexander Wang, the satin and velvet colour block dresses from Stella McCartney, and velvet bombers from Frame Denim and Sacai. Streetwear culture is a notable influence on Sacai’s designer Chitose Abe, who incorporated slogan-like gothic calligraphy and bondage strapping to her luxurious velvet pieces.

Even jeans are appearing in body-con velvet for winter at brands like M.i.H Jeans and Frame, or feature as black velvet patches on denim. “Velvet is an easy way to add a touch of luxe to daywear,” says Wong.

That also includes shoes with a number of brands like Guiseppe Zanotti turning out velvet sneakers as well as some sassy velvet thigh-high boots. Of course velvet sneakers are not new, Emma Hope has been doing them for at least 10 years, and Balenciaga, Balmain and Rupert Sanderson have had a lot of success with them in recent seasons, but they really slip into the mood this season.

Velvet boots, meanwhile, are a perfect match for the boho printed black dresses around this autumn with knee-high velvet boots at Saint Laurent and then some very sexy over-the-knee styles at Charlotte Olympia and Stuart Weitzman. Smart velvet bags are also top of the list right now at Miu Miu and Jimmy Choo.

Velvet’s appeal is obvious, but why is it such a hit now? The likely answer is that our love for relaxed comfortable easy utilitarian pieces, as proposed by directional brands like Vetements, is combining on the catwalk with a renewed love for romantic, nostalgic and aristocratic materials like velvet, brocade and black lace. As one buyer commented at the shows, “customers are looking for extraordinary pieces for everyday, all finished with that extra special something.” That extra special something right now is velvet.