There is something about 1970’s Leather (and Fashion)
Maybe it’s the long sleek lines, the standout collar treatments, the way it really allowed people for the first time to really express their individuality with something more or less off-the-rack.
In the late 1960’s a lot of fashion expression was hand-made and individually created, often by adding on to, and playing with existing pieces.
This continued throughout the 1970’s – Debbie Harry of Blondie brought this handmade aesthetic right into the 1980’s punk and new wave with her self-designed and handmade stagewear.
(OK- keep in mind, the Late 1960’s is basically where the 1970’s style starts, Fashion wise….but for simplicity’s sake I am going to lump them together here! )
The 1970’s was probably the first time you could find more individual and unique looks off-the-rack, at sort of a more mass market level. (although nothing like today’s mass market)
Add to that, the very late 1960’s and early 1970’s in particular was sort of a heyday in Leather techniques – for garments, especially.
You had ground breaking leather artist Fong Leng creating the most incredible and sculptural leather couture art-wear pieces in Europe. It is worth doing a search of her work – it’s really, really incredible. Fong Leng was also blessed to have a client/sponsor who wore these incredible show stopping creations exclusively. Mathilde Willink was sort of the Lady Gaga of her day, except it sounds like she actually supported the artist and paid for her clothes, which I doubt any celebrity does much of today.
And here in the US there was East West Musical Instruments Co. doing a more mass produced version of wearable leather art.
And let’s not forget very Early North Beach Leather, well before it’s 1980’s zenith under Michael Hoban’s sensual design sensibility (which helped to create and usher in the age of Super Models) and a far, far cry from what the line embodies today. (Today it’s known as West Coast Leather) Those beautiful oversized catalogs from their 1980’s heyday are still collectors items.
Overall, leather was starting to be treated more as a “fashion” fabric, instead of being relegated to just outerwear, workwear and shoes. By the 1970’s leather was being incorporated into more and more fashion – which was also becoming more interesting as the influences of the Late 1960’s seeped into mainstream consciousness. Fashion designers were using it not just as a full statement but as patchwork and appliqué and trim.
From stitching to fringing to appliqué and lacing – the array of leather techniques being utilized at this time were really eye opening.
I had this incredible Suede suit of a beautiful distressed looking tawny suede, that was appliquéd in a solid tawny leather in a scroll like pattern that had a long line double breasted jacket and these incredible custom metal snap closures – I will never forget that suit- sadly I never photographed the pants. The stitching on the appliqué was also decorative- the leather techniques used together on that one suit were just artwork!
Some other pieces I’ve owned over the years – just some examples of the wonderful array of leather work of that era. And there are so many others I had to pass by. I don’t own any of these any longer, the photos are all I need.
You can see that 1970’s leather excites me and to this day inspires me. I keep finding myself going back to the different techniques and lines of that era as inspiration in my own work. I don’t expect this will ever change.