Recent trends like midriff-flossing and cut-outs suggest that designers really want us to flash the flesh. A great half-way house is second-skin mesh.
Mugler is keeping several celebrities in haute mesh. Creative director Casey Cadwallader has continued the legacy of the late, great Thierry Mugler by creating innately sexy clothes, crafted using advanced fabric technology. “So much of Mugler is about making sure that the clothes aren’t restrictive, and that different curves can fit the garments in different ways,” he told Vogue of his spring/summer 2021 showcase, which saw Alek Wek, Dominique Jackson, Bella Hadid and Hunter Schafer wear his second-skin designs.
Small-scale brands, including independent Depopers and Etsy sellers, have also been peddling the mesh movement. Type “mesh” into the search bar on either platform and you’ll be served myriad pre-owned and one-of-a-kind pieces, often spun from colourful printed materials.
Lisa Danbi Park started using mesh as a way to layer artwork close to the body when she was making her graduate collection at Central Saint Martins. Now, she counts Dua Lipa, Kendall Jenner, Billie Eilish and SZA among her fans. “The [pieces] often [use] imagery that helps describe stories or memories I want to share in a more subtle way.” Slinky graphic gloves are her speciality, paired best with her ruched tops.
Auné Collections is another great option for handmade-to-order mesh pieces. Founder Xenab Lone launched the brand in February 2020 following the success of her Lisbon concept store, Auné. “I decided that I wanted this to be a made-to-order brand, focusing on making clothes that I would love to wear myself and designs that would empower others regardless of what size or shape they are,” she tells British Vogue. “Also, with sustainability in mind, I wanted to make sure all manufacturing was in-house or locally produced and order quantities would remain limited, making each piece precious and thoughtful.” Like Lisa, opera gloves are a signature style. In April 2021, Beyoncé wore a custom Auné Collections look, comprising a bandeau dress and matching opera gloves.
Rather than relying on standard dress sizes, Xenab requests the exact measurements of every customer ensuring a snug, flattering fit. “I love the versatility in terms of being able to make something that is empowering and sexy, yet comfortable. The fact that mesh feels like a second skin and can be layered under or over garments is great.”
Precise measurements are key for fellow independent designer Tara Hakin. Hailing from Belfast and working in East London, Hakin guarantees the perfect fit by working closely with her customers. In-person appointments are preferable, but if a client is based overseas she has mastered a failsafe method. “I will use padding techniques with my mannequin to ensure it will fit their body proportions and measurements how we would like it to,” she explains. “The silhouettes for mesh pieces are also reserved just for mesh, too. I listen to my material, so that sheath dress you saw in mesh isn’t going to be replicated in, say, jersey or fused wet-look textile.”
For photographer Ana Larruy, the founder of Clan, the prints came first. “My mum gave me the idea of printing [big-format images] in fabric,” she says. After modelling printed mesh on her body, she continued to experiment and project her personal photographs onto clothing. “When I started the brand it was a way of honouring my heritage – I’m the fourth generation of a family dedicated to the textile industry; my great grandparents had a small workshop in the back of their garden where they started weaving elastic fabrics. This was a way of keeping the tradition alive in a different format.” Every time she creates a new piece – on a spontaneous rather than seasonal basis – she finds a picture and samples it on fabrics.
Vintage mesh is popular, too. Jean Paul Gaultier’s mesh creations are like gold dust on resale sites. JPG’s ’90s-era Cyber Baba and Tattoo long-sleeve tops – loved by Kendall Jenner et al – are sold for upwards of £700 on Vestiaire Collective, while a scroll of 1stDibs reveals similar mark-ups.