Leather: the rebel without a cause

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Ever since Marlon Brando swaggered into town wearing a black biker jacket, and Emma Peel karate-kicked her way through The Avengers in a shiny black zip-front catsuit, leather has been perceived as dangerous and kinky. But this winter, the struggle is over and the leather rebellion is no more. Leather trousers are now as commonplace in the wardrobe of the Sloane Ranger as in that of the Hell's Angel.

Agnes B, which makes neat, prim clothes, sells a lot of black leather - including, this winter, a fitted double-breasted coat for around pounds 700. Hanging on the rails next to a pretty floral dress, all naughty associations immediately disappear.

The most recent forays into leather at the collections for spring/summer 1996 prove that the fabric is no longer for rebels without a cause. In New York, Donna Karan's DKNY line made strong use of the material, but in colours not normally associated with leather. Her simple mod trousers and tunics came in the prettiest, girliest shades of pink, white, butterscotch and minty green, allowing the designer to turn the toughest of materials into something soft, pliable and thoroughly desirable.

Even Ralph Lauren, he of the classic navy trouser suit and glitzy Oscar evening dresses, sent out a collection of tight leather trousers in canary yellow, bright orange, cherry red and electric blue.

And then there was the most innocent and unthreatening of leather at Anna Sui, the downtown New York designer who leads the way in mix-and- mismatch dressing. Her leather jackets came in the palest buttercup yellow or pearlised pink, and were worn with schoolgirl shirts and sensible plaid skirts.

In Paris, Martine Sitbon took leather to the disco and came up with hot pink jeans and skirts that shine in gold. All good clean fun.

Ann Demeulemeester devoted a high proportion of her collection to black leather and still managed to make it dangerous, although the connotations were more fashion victim than S&M. And Helmut Lang, the modernist designer whose use of leather still has a daring edge, has turned his attention to an altogether more conservative and unkinky fabric - lace. Shirley Conran has a lot to answer for.