Representing the creative future

Antiviral fabrics, cottagecore, and the return of the apron

How are fashion brands adapting to the demand for protection and what do students make out of it?

Aprons have been around forever. The most diffused kind is the classic bib: knee-length, equipped with neck-straps from which a large size cloth hangs to cover the chest. Waist aprons, smocks, and cobblers are also variants of this garment that have long been associated with a dreary kind of domesticity. Yet, it seems that 2020, the year that saw the breakout of a global pandemic, brought an interesting innovation in protective equipment, and what seems to be a comeback of the apron.

Responding to the demand for protective wear, big fashion houses are updating their materials. The Albini Group, which supplies materials to brands including Prada and Tom Ford, launched a new Viroformula fabric in May 2020 that “protects against viruses and bacteria thanks to cutting-edge technology.”

The ViralOff technology from Polygiene is a textile treatment that kills 99 percent of viruses on the surface in two hours.

Diesel quickly followed suit after the announcement: the company revealed a collaboration with Swedish firm Polygiene to treat a number of its Spring/Summer 2021 denim styles with an antiviral injection. The ViralOff technology from Polygiene is a textile treatment that kills 99 percent of viruses on the surface in two hours. It didn’t take long for entrepreneurs to spot a business opportunity, and companies like BioRomper were born. The company concentrated its resources on a single product: an antimicrobial jumpsuit that prevented cross-surface contamination when traveling. A garment that was both fashionable and functional: the romper’s sleek, stretchy fabric has a fashionable feel, and the antimicrobial finish helps to keep germs off of chairs, headrests, and other surfaces.

A laser-cut leather pinafore dress appeared in Maria Grazia Chiuri’s Dior A/W 21 collection and Simone Rocha and Ferragamo also presented a mix of uniform staples: clean white tops, deconstructed pinafore aprons, lunchbox-style bags, and chunky rubber-soled brogues.

Designers like Phillip Lim were able to pick up on the trend. Lim launched Live Free: a more affordable, direct-to-consumer range featuring Fuze Biotech, a safe textile-enhancing technology that not only removes bacteria but also speeds up cooling and drying, in November 2020. Most recently, a laser-cut leather pinafore dress also appeared in Maria Grazia Chiuri’s Dior Autumn/Winter 21 collection, with Simone Rocha and Ferragamo also presenting a mix of uniform staples: clean white tops, deconstructed pinafore aprons, lunchbox-style bags, and chunky rubber-soled brogues. These pieces can be immediately associated with Cottagecore: a burgeoning subculture that celebrates rural domesticity and has racked up over 71 million TikTok views and 141,000 Instagram posts throughout the pandemic. The New-York based brand Batsheva and its nostalgic pinafore dresses have proven a hit with Cottagecore fans, becoming the epitome of the trend.

As we continue to indulge in creative activities in lockdown, aprons are also becoming the quintessential quarantine ensemble: whether it’s experimenting with risky recipes with disastrous outcomes, planting tomatoes, or tie-dyeing, this humble uniform made a fashionable comeback into our lives at some point in 2020.

Central Saint Martins young designers have experimented with aprons and PPE (personal protective equipment) during one of their BA Fashion and Print projects. According to a few of these bright young things, the apron could be one of the 2021 forms of protective wear that has emerged from the pandemic.

“There is something freeing in returning to this extravagant, regal, and unconfined silhouette that feels like it fits in the past.” – Tilda Fuller

“I think it’s inevitable that many references to PPE will be made in the fashion world. They have already started with designer masks and such things,” Curtis Nash, second-year fashion and print design student at Central Saint Martins, commented on the current rise of the trend. “Many people already have some type of jumpsuit, pinafore, or dungarees in their wardrobes, but I’d like to see more interesting takes on them hopefully blossom because of this.” But what about aprons? “I doubt the apron specifically will see a rise in trend, but if it does, then us, print students, will be ready,” he stated in response.

Workwear and aprons have discretely informed particular trends, especially when it comes to top-stitching, straps, or silhouettes.

Tilda Fuller, a classmate of Nash’s, believes that “There is something freeing in returning to this extravagant, regal, and unconfined silhouette that feels like it fits in the past.” According to Fuller, this subverted stance on what it means to be ‘female’ today, “Feels a reclamation stemming from times of suppression, now making a new statement.”  Workwear and aprons have discretely informed particular trends, especially when it comes to top-stitching, straps, or silhouettes, Fuller thinks. The designer is also fascinated with what she describes to be this triangular, shapeless, and oversized apron-esque silhouette appearing in dress currently.

Central Saint Martins Fashion Print students first revived the notion of the apron right before the virus officially shut down UK universities in February 2020. ‘BE ADVENTUROUS WITH YOUR APRON’ was spelled in capitals on the project brief titled ‘A is for Apron’, led by tutors Natalie Gibson, Brian Harris, and Rita Kumari.

The modus operandi of the extravagant bubble that is Central Saint Martins, is known to challenge what’s highly functional and mainstream in favor of the conceptual and surprising. Students from the BA Fashion Print pathway designed the most untamed versions, dusted off, and subverted the traditional silhouette of what is accepted – as early as the 12th century – as the ultimate protective-wear staple.

The aprons featured, with their whimsical prints inspired by the wildest forms of imagination, challenge obsolete preconceptions: they’ve been liberated from function and have been colorfully celebrated by design students as a true fashion statement.

Siyi Chen: The ‘Into the Wild West’ apron
Cherie Chun: The ‘Bloody-Cherie’ Apron
Curtis Nash : “The Quadrille” apron
Yuet Ting Ng: The ‘Intellectual’ Apron
Serena Mangiatordi: the ‘South Italian Sciura’ apron
Thea Si “ The Shadow Dancer” apron
Tilda Fuller the “ Housewife Cool” apron

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