If you are female and reading this then, right now, there is probably at least a tiny part of you that is already lusting after a pair of Isabel Marant cropped red leather trousers.
No matter that you can’t afford them (they retail at about £15 00). Never mind, also, that you couldn’t get hold of a pair even if you had the cash (most sizes are sold out on Net-a-Porter.com and Matchesfashion.com has a waiting list).
Never mind the disparity between how you might look in them and how Kate Moss looks in the advert, or the fact that even if you managed to get hold of them and get into them, you might struggle to find a suitable moment to wear them. Leather trousers are the look of the moment. It might be a moment of madness, but it’s a moment nonetheless.
Recently, Victoria Beckham was photographed in the red Marant trousers, and Gemma Arterton was snapped in the black version. In the video for Country Strong, the single from her upcoming film, Gwyneth Paltrow is wearing Marant leather trousers with a silky grey Monroe tank and Stella McCartney stilettos.
Halle Berry has been spotted in a charcoal-grey pair of leathers; Elle Macpherson wears a red pair on the school run. Kate Moss, inevitably, was first, having worn a Balmain pair of luxe motorcycle-style leather trousers this year and last.
No longer the “ageing rocker”
About 18 months ago leather trousers said “ageing rocker”. Now, they are a Paris fashion week front-row staple. Last year the label was Balmain, this year it is Marant, but the look is the same: the much-imitated dishevelled chic of French Vogue’s Carine Roitfeld and Emmanuelle Alt. They have gone from being a telltale symptom of a midlife crisis to the grown-up, luxe alternative to the skinny jean.
“I wear leather trousers more than jeans, these days,” declares Polly Vernon, the deputy editor of the Observer magazine. “I’m slightly over jeans. They’re just a bit drab. Leather trousers are just as easy to wear, but have more drama.” Angela Buttolph, the editor of the Grazia Daily website, has a pair from H&M “that were £100 and are awesome. I can’t take them off.”
When Bridget Cosgrave, the fashion director of Matches boutique, first put the Marant red leathers into the store, she was cautious, but people loved them.
“And the red — which seemed more of a risk — was the biggest hit. We had a waiting list immediately.” Net-a-Porter has had similar success, shipping the same trousers to customers in 40 different countries.
Leather trousers can never be just about fashion. There is, as Vernon delicately puts it, “a duality in the way men and women respond to them. To women it’s a fashion thing, but to men they are flagrantly sexual.”
Risky and sexy
Buttolph agrees. “Well, my boyfriend really likes them. Really, really likes them,” she tells me when I ask how people react to the look. But leather trousers are not just risque, they are risky as well. “There is a mutton dressed as lamb issue,” says Buttolph. Vernon admits she was “tentative at first, because I was worried about looking a bit Nineties supermodel turned mum”.
Moss is 36. Paltrow is 38. Halle Berry is 44. Elle Macpherson is 47. Victoria Beckham is 36. There is an undeniable theme here. Rocking a pair of cropped leather trousers is a fashion statement that says “I’ve still got it”, “it” being, in this case, both the fashion chops and the body.
(At Matches, the leather-trouser customer is as often in her 30s or 40s as in her 20s, says Cosgrave.) But the endorsement of Roitfeld and the Paris “It” crowd has rescued the leather trouser from looking, as Buttolph says, “desperate or cougarish”.
That stigma is gone, says Vernon, though she recommends dressing leather trousers down, with a slightly oversized grey marl T-shirt or an oversized fluffy jumper, “and something classic. I like them with a trench”.
Never, ever a stiletto, which looks “ghastly”. Moss and Macpherson most often team theirs with blazers. Buttolph channels what she calls “a French Vogue look, fashion editory but a bit racy. A drapey Alexander Wang-ish top and Converse for day or a peep-toe boot for evening.”
Personally, the tiny bit of me that wants a pair is getting a tiny bit bigger every day. —