THIS ELECTRONIC VERSION MAY DIFFER SLIGHTLY FROM PRINTED VERSION
LEFT: A model sports a black leather coat designed by American fashion designer Tom Ford for Yves Saint-Laurent.(PHOTO)ABOVE: A model sports a leather dress by Lolita Lempicka.(PHOTO) (Associated Press Photos)
When you think of a warm-weather wardrobe, leather is not the first thing that comes to mind. Linen, yes. Cotton, yes. But leather?Yet many designers' spring collections feature the cold-weather staple and are touting it as seasonless.
Leather garments are popular everywhere from designer collections to big retail chains, like Banana Republic and Ann Taylor, and in every conceivable shape, including coats, shirts, pants and dresses.
David Stewart, manager of corporate communications at Kenneth Cole, says the spring leather styles are warm-weather friendly because they are breathable and lightweight. He notes that many of the clothes feature perforations and mesh, so they can be worn comfortably in the warmer months.
'For the end of February, March, April, May, leather is definitely still a vital part of a wardrobe,' Stewart says.
Kenneth Cole's spring line includes white leather pants and a short jacket with tiny eyelet cutouts, a red patent leather jacket and an olive green leather skirt with a front slit.
Max Azria, the designer behind the BCBG label, says leather has the same seasonless qualities as denim.
'It's very easy, like jeans. You can wear it under snow or on Miami Beach,' he says.
Azria adds that the style of the garment is what makes it season-appropriate. Women won't be burning up in the very short leather skirts or sleeveless dresses shown at the BCBG spring show.
Many of Danier Leather's garments use a rough-edge construction, so they don't need to be lined, according to Jeffrey Wortsman, CEO of the leather design and manufacturing company. Moreover, the leather is shaved to be thinner.
The colors also make the clothes more spring-like. Danier uses shades of purple, blue and beige along with the more typical black, brown and red.
LaVelle Olexa, senior vice president of fashion merchandising at Lord & Taylor, says technology is making leather more user-friendly and more practical than it has been in years past.
'There was a time when leather ... would show the imprint of the knee when it started to stretch out,' she explains.
Manufacturers have responded to the need for a leather that can keep its shape longer. DuPont recently introduced leather with Lycra, which it said allows the leather to stretch and recover.
Olexa also attributes the popularity of leather to the need for wardrobes with pieces that can be worn year-round.
'With so many people traveling, they may experience a multitude of climate changes. It's becoming increasingly important to have a wardrobe that transcends seasons,' she says.
Kenneth Cole's Stewart admits, however, that people might abandon their leather goods come midsummer.
'In the dog days of July, anything other than linen is sort of out there.'