Serena Williams stepped off the court and onto the runway to open Vogue World in New York in September, she did so in a lustrous custom Balenciaga tank dress and cape, the shining silver laminated jersey emphasizing her every powerful step. And who better to espouse one of the season’s most exciting trends than the tennis legend who always changed the game? As Qatar steps into the global limelight this month, it seems only fitting to celebrate with a new take on glimmering fashion.
More liquid than sparkling, shiny lamé shapes and molds to the wearer in an ode to movement and modernity. It’s a look that works particularly well with silver – less gaudy than gold, the hue evokes mercurial qualities fit for both elegance and celebration. “In fashion, silver screams young, ultra-modern, and avant garde, especially with its bold metallic and reflective features,” says Qatari designer Yasmin Mansour, who founded her eponymous luxury womenswear brand in 2014. “It can easily elevate any look, making it more revolutionary and youthful.” This spirit of innovation was on show on the recent catwalks, with Fendi, Jean Paul Gaultier, and Valentino morphing 21st-century shine into offbeat silhouettes. Think of Nicole Kidman wowing the crowds at Paris Couture Week in a liquid look at Balenciaga, her star power complementing her sweeping silver gown, or Sandra Oh at this year’s SAG Awards in a tiered Carolina Herrera dress. At the Emmys, Quinta Brunson’s custom Dolce & Gabbana gown pooled at her feet like bronze lava, while on the Cannes red carpet, Maria Borges stunned in a crimson Ashi Studio gown, its subtle shimmer reflected in her strappy silver sandals.
Less obvious than glitter but more eye-catching than matte, shine is deceptively simple, yet unabashedly glamorous. It crackles with vitality and lures in all eyes. Doha-based designer Hend Al Rumaihi, who creates luxury modest wear under her Hend Rumaihi label, thinks striking silver is a strong statement if done in a tasteful way. “It’s a dynamic color that represents a creative and futuristic take in the fashion world,” she says. Unlike its gaudier cousins sequins and glitter, glossy lamé isn’t readily associated with pomp and parties, which means it hasn’t oversaturated the visual consciousness. It still holds the same futuristic appeal it’s had since humans first looked up at the gleaming moon, bringing to mind modernity, innovation, and forward-moving energy. Says Al Rumaihi, “It offers a new element, while giving a unique touch of light.” Polished metallics have the uncanny ability to look fresh yet fluid, especially when used in unconventional combinations or shapes. Also at Cannes, Maggie Gyllenhaal in Dior Couture updated flowing gold by pairing it with sheer ecru and a red lip, while Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu wore a Maison Rabih Kayrouz top and skirt in subtly shining black leather, updated to resemble more screen siren than biker babe. Proving that gleam suits utilitarian shapes as well as evening wear, Léa Seydoux stepped out in burnished gold Louis Vuitton shorts and matching knee-high boots at the Toronto film festival.
While liquid shine has distinct futuristic connotations, lamé fabric can trace its history back 4 000 years to the Middle East. Royals in ancient Assyria wore fabrics woven with thin gold and silver threads, giving it a regal shimmer. It eventually made its way to Europe, where it was embraced by the nobility and called “cloth of gold.” Fast-forward to the 20th century and the flappers of the Roaring Twenties, who reinvigorated the glossy fabric for their decadent parties. It stayed a favorite throughout the decades, creating icons along the way – witness Marilyn Monroe dipped in a gold gown by William Travilla in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953). Lustrous shine’s associations with Hollywood continued delivering such dazzling looks as Leslie Caron in Gigi (1958) and Sigourney Weaver in Ghostbusters (1984). These days, however, it is no longer precious metals being used to create sheen, but synthetic materials or colored aluminum. The thread is covered with plastic for strength before being woven into reams of fabric. Designers return to it season after season, always reinventing molten luminosity in new ways. For her second Skims swimwear collection, Kim Kardashian introduced sleek rose gold, silver, and gold pieces that look almost melded to the body.
Haya Al Adsani, the designer behind Qatari brand Harlienz – one of the first brands from the state to show at New York Fashion Week – incorporated subtly shimmering silver into her latest collection because it’s “a cool tone that resembles sophistication, elegance, and glamour,” she says. “It catches the attention, especially when used in an abaya.” Al Rumaihi agrees, suggesting that a hint of shine can elevate any outfit. “Don’t be afraid to make it fun and creative – that’s what fashion is about, after all,” she shares.
Originally published in the November 2022 issue of Vogue Arabia