The plastic inflatable bangle: simply a must for shiny, happy people

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Indy Lifestyle Online
We were once as inflexible in our dislike of plastic as plastic itself. It was nasty, tacky, and, to invoke its slang meaning, "fake". That was until Sixties and Seventies retro legitimised it again. Cult London shop TomTom first reminded us of how quirky and fun original Sixties and Seventies plastic furniture can be. Now, shops such as Oggetti Alessi, which once specialised in dauntingly "grown-up" china and glass, stock funky, frivolous plastic goodies.

It's not only the home that's welcoming back shiny, happy plastic. Judging by Janice Taylor's popular PVC and moulded Perspex bangles, rings, necklaces and belts, jewellery designers may be poised to embrace it, too.

And about time. Just as designer black shows no signs of giving up the ghost, so silver has been the easy jewellery of choice for as long as most of us can remember. Taylor's designs are not only original and irreverent, they are also very contemporary in that their colours and shapes refer to the look and mood of Sixties and Seventies space-age furniture. Her inflatable bangles suggest that, somewhere along the line, she was smitten by the experimental blow-up furniture of the Sixties (for example, Italian designer Zanotta's classic Michelin man of a chair, Blow). "Futuristic furniture might have been very trendy in the Sixties," says Taylor, "but some of it was timeless so it has lasted well."

Clearly, Taylor also has a soft spot for the space-age Perspex jewellery that was so in vogue in the early Seventies - the uncompromisingly modern kind you can imagine finger-on-the-pulse Bond girls wearing with a devastatingly simple halter-neck dress for a date with 007.

Taylor studied painting and sculpture in her native New Zealand before moving to London where she got hooked on making jewellery. Although her ideas have always been innovative, her first designs looked nothing like the hard-edged jewellery she produces today. First came a collection of necklaces consisting of an intricate cobweb of semi-precious beads that covered the entire torso, "I wanted to design something that was half- way between jewellery and clothing," she explains. "The natural extension of that was to make body jewellery, which is when I thought of doing cane shin pads. The cane was woven in such a way that the pads were stretchy and moulded to the body."

For one so passionate about the heavily synthetic space-age aesthetic, didn't using natural materials go against the grain? "Not at all. My work always picks up on what fabrics are fashionable at the time," says Taylor. "Two years ago, everyone was wearing linens and natural fibres, so my designs then had a more natural look." Now that people think plastic's fantastic, she is, of course, in her element. Her current highly polished range, available in zesty limes, oranges and yellows, couldn't be more in tune with this summer's much-trumpeted fashion for juicy, citrus shades. Not surprisingly, London shops like Browns, Liberty, American Retro and Koh Samui have snapped up Taylor's wares.

Taylor stresses that she wants her designs to be seen as extrovert and fun. "I like jewellery to look cartoony and very comic-strip," she says. Recalling brightly coloured lilos and children's arm bands, her inflatable bangles, from pounds 28.00, have kitschy, seaside overtones. Available in mad fluorescents, many of them also look tailor-made for raves. A midriff- encircling "necklace", for example - a fluorescent Perspex band on a slinky chain to be worn around the waist - has been a hit with American Retro's club-fiend customers. Just as idiosyncratic are Taylor's neck bib (a transparent choker that looks like a miniature baby's bib, from pounds 45.00), clavicle pendant and multi-coloured candy-stripe Perspex knuckle-dusters. Made of superlight materials, they are also very comfortable.

Taylor concedes that although its more respectable now, plastic jewellery still isn't taken seriously by some fashion cognoscenti. "Some people think of plastic as throwaway and trite," she says. "To give it more credibility, I'll couple it with silver pins or an elegant snake chain in silver-plated nickel." Not that Taylor need worry about her designs lacking credibility or of being pigeonholed as kitsch. For starters, she has an eye for unusual colour combinations. One of her belt buckles, for example, teams a loud egg-yolk yellow with a quiet grey, while one of her bracelets is made of two interlocking semicircles, one in a mellow flesh colour, the other in a garish fluorescent green.

Looking ahead a bit, for autumn/winter (she brings out two ranges a year), Taylor plans to replace summer's day-glo brights with lapel pins, chokers and chunky bracelets in classical tan, amber and lacquer red. She will also be using Bakelite Perspex to create a Forties flavour, while sticking to Seventies modernist shapes. "I'm interested in how the Seventies were inspired by different retro styles, one of the main ones being Art Deco," says Taylor. "I like to sandwich these different influences."

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