Life & Culture

Here is the leather forecast


If, way back in February, on reading that "fetish" was a key trend for autumn/winter 2011, you decided this was a trend too far, your reaction, I suspect, was similar to most of womankind. Most of us would have rolled our eyes, dismissed "fetish" as a gimmick and turned our minds to more vital matters, like how fit Gary Barlow is looking these days.

Now, however, in the mellow light of autumn, "fetish" has been translated into a series of eminently wearable (we'll come back to that later) leather trousers, skirts, dresses, T-shirts, tunics and shell tops. And how delectable they all look as the temperatures drop.

The hotness of leather, fetish or otherwise, was pretty much guaranteed after Balenciaga, Celine, Chloe, Christopher Kane and Philip Lim, among other designers, sent sinuous, infinitely desirable leather trousers, dresses, skirts, T-shirts, shell tops and tunics down their autumn/winter runways.

But happily, for those of us who find Balenciaga's leather leggings (£995, at Matches) or Junya Watanabe's burgundy leather draped dress (£850 at Browns) endlessly covetable but punishingly expensive, the high street and more affordable brands also have some great pieces in leather.

M&S - which probably won't recover its fashion credibility until Marc Bolland decides Kate Bostock, ex Asda, is not the person to oversee the chain's fashion offerings - has nevertheless done some good leather pieces this season. These include well-cut leather skirts in black or tan (one slightly A-line, one pencil and one over-the-knee, all £99), as well as leather trousers (£99). The Autograph range also has a rather sassy shift dress at £110, but regrettably it is in in cobalt with red leather sleeves demonstrating another Bostock credo - its availability in just one, hard-to-wear, too memorable colour-way.

Topshop, Oasis, La Redoute and Viyella all have leather pencil skirts under £200, and Reiss has a caramel leather mini at £95. If you prefer a softer shape, Debenhams has a leather skater skirt in its Principles collection at £175; Label Lab has one at £150 and Topshop has a black midi at £200.

Topshop and Warehouse both have, short-sleeve shell tops in leather, and Mint Velvet has a half-sleeve version (£179 at John Lewis). Among the best leather dresses are a deeply Chloe-esque tan leather notch-neck, sleeveless shift by Mint Velvet (£225, John Lewis), a conker brown shift at Reiss (£169), a long-sleeve black, fitted dress by Mary Portas at House of Fraser (£300), and a half-sleeve black shift, £130, at Oasis.

There are good, skinny leather trousers at John Lewis (£199), Next (£125) and Warehouse (£45), and none of them is as hard to wear as they might seem. If you don't feel your hips and thighs are up to tight-fitting leather, just add one of the season's tunic-length tops or a long, retro sweater to make it work for you.

And to prove that leather doesn't have to mean a relentless diet of black and neutrals, J-Brand have the most insanely beautiful red leather jeans (£875 at Donna Ida); Mint Velvet has a red leather T-shirt (£179, John Lewis); Desa has a butter-soft T-shirt and skirt in burgundy (£229); Christopher Kane has a blue printed mini-skirt (£990, Browns); and, of course, there is River Island's gold leather pencil skirt at £75.

If for reasons of cost or conscience, you don't plan to wear the real thing, both Stella McCartney and the high street have alternatives for you in pleather - the euphemistic, now ubiquitous, term for PU or polyurethane.

The non-meat-eating, non-leather-wearing, vegetarian Ms McCartney has used it for a cashmere and pleather dress (£650 at Browns), while at the other end of the price spectrum, Primark has a half sleeve, tan shift (£25), Peacocks has a notch-neck shift (£28), and Oasis has a sleeveless one in black (£55). M&S, Topshop and Peacocks all have pleather jeans at, respectively, £39.50, £32 and £25.

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