It’s as if she’s floating on air, suspended,” says Donatella Versace, waxing poetic on the effect achieved by perching her model atop crystal-clear platform heels, as she did for her spring 2012 collection. Around the foot swirled a strappy, ethereal sea horse surrounded by studs, and under the soles, seven solid inches of good old-fashioned plastic.
Versace wasn’t the only designer going the transparent route, using touches of acrylic—also known as Lucite, Perspex, Plexiglas and so on, depending on the trademarked supplier. The clear stuff had a major moment during the spring, pre-fall and the most recent fall collections, turning up in big bangles at Balenciaga, on handcuff clutches at Jimmy Choo and on the heels of shoes at Stella McCartney, Fendi and Dries Van Noten. “I found something a little magical about it,” says Van Noten of the Plexi he used for heels. “Because there is a transparency to it, it looks like they are walking on their toes, which is quite nice, that feeling. And you have that edgy thing. We love to combine it with a normal shoe, a normal boot, in a normal color—but you have to give that unexpected feeling.”
The clear vision continued for fall at Chanel, where Karl Lagerfeld put transparent heels on the boot-pump hybrids in his mineral-inspired fall collection, and at Louis Vuitton, where Marc Jacobs took a craftier tack on the look. In fashion parlance, that all adds up to a trend, but the fact is that acrylic has become a standard material at the luxury level. Alexander McQueen used it on shoes in his stunningly romantic spring 2007 collection. Miuccia Prada showed acrylic sandals and bags dripping in chandelierlike crystals in her spring 2010 Hawaiian lineup.
If not as commonplace as leather or metal, the material—and its sleek, futuristic look—has been consistently on the rise. Chemically, acrylic is the synthetic polymer of methyl methacrylate, or MMA. Developed in various laboratories in the Twenties, it didn’t become commercially available until the Thirties.
In 1933 Rohm and Haas Co. brought acrylic to market under the trademark Plexiglas around the same time ICI began producing Perspex in the U.K., while DuPont trademarked and began manufacturing Lucite in the States. The U.S. military made industrial use of the material during World War II, employing it to fabricate windshields, gun turrets and airplane noses. It wasn’t until the Fifties that acrylic entered the fashion arena, most prominently as plastic handbags.
Janice Berkson, an avid collector of Lucite bags and owner of Deco Jewels in SoHo, detailed the history of vintage plastic handbags in her book Carry Me! 1950s Lucite Handbags, an American Fashion. Berkson explains that while the American economy was booming at the end of WWII, leather, suede and metals, which were restricted during the war, were still scarce. Handbag firms had to be resourceful. In the late Forties, when Will Hardy joined his father’s company, Handbag Specialties, he started working with acrylic salvaged from damaged airplane noses, incorporating Lucite frames into the collection.
He designed a Lucite jewelry box and brought it to the buyers at Saks Fifth Avenue, who told him to put a handle on it and they would sell it as a bag. Thus, his label Wilardy was born. At the time, there was a big demand for the tortoiseshell look, which other firms, including Tyrolean and Llewellyn Inc.—which employed the tagline “Lewsid Jewel by Llewellyn”—catered to with a striped Lucite. Eventually designers expanded their offers to include mother-of-pearl finishes and a variety of colors so women could match their bags to their shoes, a popular trend until the Sixties, when Lucite was replaced by its lighter, more pliable sibling, vinyl.
“After 1961 or 1962 is when they absolutely stopped making Lucite,” notes Berkson. “It was primarily a 1950s thing.”
My character, Dinah Madani, is just the coolest, [most] badass woman imaginable," says @amberroserevah. The actress stars in @marvel's newest series on @netflix, @thepunisher. To prepare for her role, Revah sat down with Homeland agents to get a real sense of with Dinah's day-to-day life is really like. Read our full interview on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
A scene from the 91st annual @macys Thanksgiving Day Parade. The parade, which boasts 50 million TV viewers and 3.5 million on-site spectators, is considered one of the largest and most watched parades in the world. (📷: Jason Szenes/EPA-REX)
The circus came to @bloomingdales 59th Street on Tuesday night and lit up Lexington Avenue with acrobatic dancers, death-defying knife throwing, sword swallowing and aerial acts with no net. The 45 minutes of theatrics built up to unveiling the holiday windows depicting @swarovski crystal-encrusted circus pieces and scenes from “The Greatest Showman” – songs from the soundtrack included. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: Joshua Scott)
The psychedelic fashion that pervaded the ’60s is back with an exhibit at the @museumofcityny. “Mode New York: Fashion Takes a Trip” chronicles the changing styles from 1960 through 1973 and features designers such as @ysl, @oscardelarenta and more. The exhibition, which is on display through April 1, is organized into four periods: First Lady Fasion, Youthquake, New Bohemia and New Nonchalance. Pictured here is model Pat Bardonella during the Garvey Day Parade in 1968. (📷: @kwamebphoto) #wwdeye #wwdfashion
“People should be a lot more honest in expressing both the dark and light of themselves. We need to give each other the space to do that because it’s the only way we can grow and evolve,” says @noelwells of her new film “Mr. Roosevelt,” which is largely based on her own struggles. Unexpectedly leaving @nbcsnl in 2014 after just one season, Wells felt set back in her self-esteem and career trajectory. She quickly refocused her energy to more personal projects, which led to the completion of “Mr. Roosevelt.” Read the rest of WWD’s interview with the “Master of None” actress on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
@barbrastreisand is giving fans a chance to see her perform up close in a new concert series, which makes its debut on @Netflix today. From behind-the-scenes takes to her concert performance in Miami last December, the two-hour streaming special captures Streisand in her element. Pictured here is the singer/actress photographed for WWD in 1963. (📷: Palmieri Tony) #wwdeye #wwdarchive
@chanel and @pharrell dropped what’s being dubbed as the world’s most exclusive sneakers yesterday. The Adidas Originals NMD Hu, which Williams designed in collaboration with Chanel and @adidasoriginals, has a waiting list of over 120K people who pre-registered online at chanelatcolette.fr –– and only 500 pairs are on sale. The singer predicted the resale value of the shoes could reach $40K. Read the full interview on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdfashion (📷: Dominique Maître)
@imanshumpert is diving deeper into his creative endeavors and relaunching his clothing line, Post 90s, and is helping to raise money for the hurricane victims in St. Maarten with a jersey he’s designed with his brother. The Cleveland Cavaliers player talked to WWD about kneeling during the national anthem, working with fashion brands and how he wants to be more than an @nba player. Read the interview on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: George Chinese)