Neoprene wetsuits are unflattering on even the most lithe and limber of surfers, so how has the rubbery, synthetic fabric become a favourite on the catwalk? Over the past few seasons, scuba-ish materials have moved from the functional – wetsuits and laptop cases – to a key style staple.
One of the first London advocates of the trend was Irish wunderkind J W Anderson, now chief designer of Spanish house Loewe as well as his eponymous label. The rigid nature of neoprene lends itself perfectly to the designer’s structural silhouettes, allowing him to continue innovating with unusual cuts. From the thick quilted vests of his early collections to the sporty bombers and minimal shifts of his more recent collaboration with Topshop, neoprene has become one of his signatures, leading the way for a new futurism on the catwalk.
It can also be found toned down on the high street. Think neoprene sweatshirts in oversized cuts, partnered with flippy scuba skirts, or this season’s ubiquitous wide-legged culottes.
In pictures: Neoprene fashion
And if sportswear feels a little young? Take note from Roksanda Illinic, whose spring/summer 2014 collection gave neoprene a ladylike sensibility, using bonded scuba in bright canary yellow to craft full, calf-length skirts alongside neat boxy blouses.
A more literal take on the trend was seen at Tommy Hilfiger, where an abundance of scuba styles made their way down a sand-strewn catwalk.
For the fun and the fearless, neoprene has made the giant leap from functional to fashionable.