In 1960, the leather design came into its own, enjoying tremendous worldwide popularity. While Bonnie Cashin continued to be at the vanguard of leather design in the United States with her combination ensembles of leather with a fabric and knit, European designers, such as Nina Ricci, Manuel Pertegaz, Rudi Gernreich, and Yves Saint Laurent took leather to the level of couture. Meanwhile, an abundance of leather clothing flooded the market, due in part to the hippie movement. Small boutiques, featuring handmade leather clothing and accessories that were fringed, beaded, braided, hand-laced and painted, prospered.
In 1964, Nina Ricci designed this floor-length leather evening coat. The very simple shape is complemented by the use of striking gold embroidery.
Viennese designer Rudi Gernreich was well known for working in alternative materials and creating far-out fashion. In 1966, he took to the jungle with his fun stenciled, hair-on calfskin suit.
In 1967, Yves Saint Laurent created his Africa collection and in 1968, introduced the safari suit into high fashion. This is the 1967 forerunner of the look, created in sleek, polished black leather.
Since much of the highest quality leather was produced in Spain, it was only natural that Spanish designers used leather in their collections. Barcelona’s Manuel Pertegaz has a modern approach to fashion and in 1968 created a pair of brown leather chaps attached to a belt.
The 1970s Throughout the twentieth century, fashion trends trickled upwards as often as they trickled down from the heights of couture, and the 1970s were no exception. While some designers borrowed from the hippie trends of the late 1960’s others realized that adding leather garments to their collections would attract a more sophisticated customer. In doing so they repositioned black leather from ‘rebel status’ to fashion ‘must-have’ in every woman and man’s wardrobe.
Anee Kleins high-waisted black leather skirt of 1970 offered a perfect interpretation of current fashion trends and helped to upgrade Klien’s image at the time.
Patchwork, very popular in the late 1960s, used leather scraps to create the look that was quite popular with the hippie crowd. By the 1970s designers such as Adolfo interpreted the look for the high-end market, taking advantage of the different colors with which leather could now be tanned.
As leather was fast becoming associated with slick, modern style, some designers, such as Giorgio di Sant’s Angelo, went in a different direction, creating casual looks that included this 1978 embroidered suede Pocahontas dress, inspired by Native American costume.