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Alice Fisher on style: suede

Suede will be everywhere in 2015. This year the soft and pliable leather isn’t just for shoes, jackets and bags, it’s for smart tops, skirts, shift dresses – even leggings. So I just want to check, before we get started on how to nail this trend, that no one out there runs their hands over a bit of suede and thinks: “Ew, that’s what I imagine a dead old man feels like.” No? Not at all? Definitely me neither. Brilliant. Let’s talk suede.

Spring 2015’s take on this fabric is led by the dominant influence of 70s clothing on the new season. At the shows there were fringed waistcoats and bags at Alberta Ferretti, safari jackets and trenchcoats (seen at Chloé and Burberry respectively) and great pastiches of the patchwork dresses and skirts created by Bill Gibb in his heyday. These appeared on many a catwalk, but the most memorable were in suede at Derek Lam.

If, as a designer, you want to ape these retro styles then there’s a limited range of fabrics you can use to create the necessary balance of structured stiffness and movement. Velvet and denim – those other 70s staples – come close, but nothing beats suede for its droop and shape.

This time round it’s really pretty, too. As well as the toffee and caramel shades traditionally associated with this fabric, now there are also beautiful pinks, violets and greens. I wish I was the sort of non-spill, no-drip person who could wear this pale pink dress from Topshop, especially as it’s a really good price, but I think I’m going to have to leave it to the people who don’t spend half their lives on their hands and knees doing up a toddler’s shoes.

I know already, though, that there’s no way I’ll get through the year without buying at least one of these 70s button-through skirts. Whether A-line or pencil, it’s one of my favourite skirt styles. There’s something very appealing about a long line of buttons. They’re there to be unbuttoned and that idea of constraint and potential release is provocative. Plus, you can unbutton the top ones in private if you eat too much at lunch.

Though it looks beautiful, I’m not going to pretend that this soft leather is easy. It’s more expensive than leather and, when it comes to wearability, I think the polite phrase is that it doesn’t breathe very well. This means it can get bloody hot and whiffy if you’re not careful. It’s a pig to look after, too. It stains, it scuffs and, although it’s apparently possible to do something clever with vinegar to remove marks, we all know that’s not going to happen. Instead, your dry cleaning bills will be whopping.

But, in the right hands, suede makes for magical clothing. The fabric’s nap (the fine hairs covering the surface) has such a beautiful matt finish and the very fact that it’s so difficult to look after imbues any wearer with an air of sophistication. Getting dressed shouldn’t always be the path of least resistance, a despondent compromise. Suede really is worth the faff.

Follow Alice on Instagram @aliceefisher

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