Modest Summer Synthetics

It’s not as impossible as it sounds

Words Amanda Randone • Artwork Nour Algharabally

From top left: Faux pearl clip by Simone Rocha. Flower perspex heels by Simone Rocha. PVC and faux pearl headband by Simone Rocha. Floral embroidered tulle coat by Simone Rocha. Lunchbag 30 in PVC by Simon Miller. Checked vinyl coat by Mansur Gavriel

While summer is for shedding those extra layers of chunky knits and quilted outerwear, we’ve got our sights set on an unexpected fabric category to keep in your outfit rotation over the next few months. So set aside your cottons and linens this season, because we’re getting serious about synthetics.

Caroline Issa wearing Kassl. Shop the brand

First, it was the buttery vegan leather of Nanushka’s beige trench coats and matching cropped pants. Then, it was glossy vintage appeal of Simon Miller’s nylon accessories. Add the structural designs of the latest must-have handbags from Cult Gaia, and it’s clear that durable materials like PVC, neoprene, acrylic, and vinyl—not exactly textures that scream here comes the sun—are favored fabrics for summer. And as impossible as it might sound, we’re here to guide you through tackling this key trend without overheating.

Synthetics are more prevalent in all corners of the industry as the use of fur heads towards extinction. With fashion house heavyweights pledging to ban fur altogether, designers are turning to animal-free alternatives and creatively integrating them into newer collections. Gone are the days where synthetic fabrics were limited to skin-tight pants and stretchy workout gear—this style has evolved into a diverse textile genre that is as suitable for modest dressing as it is for yearlong wear.

“There’s no getting away from the fact that wearing head-to-toe synthetics is not ideal for warmer temperatures,” says The Modist’s creative director, Sally Matthews. She does, however, suggest relaxed fits and easy layers when incorporating these fabrics into your lineup of warm weather attire, especially considering the potential sheerness of more breathable fabrics. “Working in lightweight jackets is a great way to wear the look as the temperature rises and they provide extra coverage where required.” Think Mansur Gavriel’s checked vinyl coat caped over a smock dress (for “fashion props and extra ventilation,” Sally says), or the loose silhouette of a white nylon skirt by Tibi.

Accessories are the easiest way to adopt the look without wearing synthetics directly on your skin—a danger zone if you’re more prone to sweating. Elevate your go-to outfit in a playful Maryam Nassir Zadeh PVC wedge or with a vegan leather belt bag (Nanushka’s croc-embossed iteration is on the top of our list). A pair of Midnight 00’s kitten heels wrapped in all their ruched vinyl glory is the perfect statement shoe this season, and Tabitha Simmons’ clear-paneled flats can be worn under kaftans for an ultra-feminine yet effortless feel. Pro tip: “Opting for a chic neoprene boot that doesn’t gape can make all the difference to a hemline being wearable or not,” Sally suggests. So as summer draws near, slip on a new pair of shoes and step outside of your comfort zone with this daring trend.

All of the brights, courtesy of Tabitha Simmons and Alexandre Birman

Synthetics? Simple

Working in lightweight jackets is a great way to wear the look as the temperature rises and they provide extra coverage where required.

Lunchbag 30 in PVC by Simon Miller.

PVC and faux pearl headband by Simone Rocha. Floral embroidered tulle coat by Simone Rocha


The names featured in this article do not automatically endorse The Modist, or any products shown. 

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