Going beyond popular beliefs, latex clothing has gained new meaning in today’s fashion world. Balmain, a forerunner of this trend, introduced it to mainstream fashion with its Fall 2020 collection presented in Paris, and many international brands followed. Indian designers have also experimented with it, putting it on the shelves of major retailers.
Latex clothing is made from natural rubber. The milky liquid, which coagulates and hardens to form an elastic, impervious mass, is tapped by making careful incisions with small blades to make clothes. “Latex is a better solution than leather and PVC. It adapts better, creates less CO2 emissions, reduces the carbon footprint and subsequent dependence on animal and environmental resources, ”explains designer Akshat Bansal.
From latex pants and jackets to gloves, designers are playing with this durable fabric and changing the meaning of latex, which was synonymous with bondage and fetishism. At the end of the 19th century, the Scots created the rubber fabric for functional purposes for waterproof coats. However, it did not work well as outerwear. Latex fashion later reappeared in the late 1950s, when British designer John Sutcliffe created a catsuit, the prototype of the rubber fetish garment. It gained popularity in the 90s, as the era of pop culture gave birth to its myriad of forms. In Batman Returns (1992), Catwoman Michelle Pfeiffer brought it into mainstream fashion.
In the fall-winter 2020 collections, we have seen many designers playing with latex. Now, as we move towards sustainability after the pandemic, merging latex with a hint of drama once again seems to plunder the style radar. “Latex pants are part of our dream of escape in the midst of the pandemic. Its exaggerated and dramatic allure compensates for the trapped mundane life we live. Every time dark reality creeps in, latex makes an appearance on the trend counter, ”says designer Aniket Satam.
Often confused with PVC or even leather, this natural rubber is totally vegan, durable, fragile and difficult to work with. “Latex is a very delicate fabric … India is not used to it because of our climatic constraints. It is still used only for the ornamentation of the fabric rather than as an entire fabric. I see that it turns into accessories ”, explains designer Anand Bhushan.
The subversive connotation of these rubber garments has paved the way for women’s empowerment over the past year. It also represents the transformation and ecological aspects of fashion. Last month, after singer-songwriter Billie Eilish stood out during a shoot for a British fashion magazine, he gave the fabric new iterations – with gloves and stockings. Many celebrities including Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Kim Kardashian, Ananya Pandey, Kriti Sanon and Shradhha Kapoor have given a nod to this durable fabric. “Latex is a major craze that reminds us of our young and crazy old days. The fashion of the early 2000s is back, and leather / latex pants were big back then. Therefore, they are now coming back to your wardrobe. Social media also suggests that Gen Z is all about the Y2K aesthetic, which acts as a catalyst for making latex a staple, ”says designer Bennu Sehgall.