Linen on the catwalk

09 July 2023

  • Fashion
  • Linen

A luxurious material since ancient times, linen and the world of luxury are reconnecting. Flax, as a plant fibre grown in Western Europe, embodies important virtues for designers concerned with environmental impact. Extremely versatile, it opens up unlimited possibilities.

Linen on the catwalks of fashion designers
copyright Chloé Tagwalk

Linen and luxury: a renewed relationship since 2020

In summer 2021, the Alliance for European Flax-Linen & Hemp commissioned its second study from Tagwalk, whose search engine sifts through all of the fashion and accessories shows in Paris, London and Milan to identify the main seasonal trends. The goal is to measure linen’s impact on the luxury market using 200 million data points - a large number even for 2020 - when searches for linen fabric increased by 25% compared with 2019.

Linen measured in collections

The figures are quite telling: in 2021, there was a 102% increase in linen looks on catwalks, or twice as many as in previous seasons, a trend corroborated by another study the following year. 

In addition, 49% of fashion designers in the catwalk calendar had created at least one linen look for their collection, and 64% of them did so for the first time - like Dior, Louis Vuitton, Chloé and Fendi. 

Défilé Louis Vuitton lin été 2022 copyright Louis Vuitton Tagwalk
Look Louis Vuitton - Spring/Summer 2022
Lin Chloé été 2022 copyright Chloé Tagwalk
Look Chloé - Spring/Summer 2022

Ever since, linen has been the darling of fashion designers. As Alexandre Capelli, the LVMH Group Environmental Director and a guest at the June 2022 Linen Day, puts it:  “Linen is the only natural material that corresponds to the four pillars of the group’s Life 360 sustainable strategy, which aims to reconcile eco-friendliness and creativity in the areas of circular design, traceability, biodiversity and climate.”

Linen is the only natural material that corresponds to the four pillars of the group’s Life 360 sustainable strategy, which aims to reconcile eco-friendliness and creativity in the areas of circular design, traceability, biodiversity and climate.

Alexandre Capelli, LVMH Group Environmental Director

Linen’s luxurious history

For European flax fibre, this marks a return to the big stage, rather than a debut appearance. As the first textile developed by humans around 36,000 BCE, linen has been associated with luxury since ancient times. In 2012, the Luxes exhibit at the Musée des Arts décoratifs served as a reminder of the fact that although linen is not always immediately associated with splendour, it has actually always been intertwined with it. Linen embodies elegance in the two pieces on display at the museum exhibit: a linen lace and a silhouette by designer Simon Porte Jacquemus. 

Jacquemus explore le lin copyright MAD Paris L.Boegly
LUXES! The exhibition at the Arts Décoratifs! by Loïc Prigent

Linen and slow luxury

From this season, by putting on a majestic catwalk show in the south of France, the designer led a modernist trend placing nature and region at the heart of the creative process. Used in its natural state, linen that is suitable for tailored pieces and generously cut dresses is used in perfectly cut suit jackets, dresses with spaghetti straps and impeccable drape and loose-fitting trousers in a natural colour palette reminiscent of nature and plants. Creative directors appreciate the European heritage of linen, its light yet textured feel, its round drape and timeless elegance. 

Linen and blends

Linen is also the ideal choice for a creation that is fairer, in sync with the seasons and connected to soil and regionality. But linen is also the product of an agro-creative fibre that lends itself to all kinds of blends. This is what inspires the Italian house of Fendi to combine linen with other noble materials in its search for innovation and excellence. It can be spotted in many delicate, feminine silhouettes decorated with lace on blouses and dresses, and also in tailored pieces alongside leather on cream-coloured jumpsuits. Although the colour palette remains relatively neutral, the jumpsuits are a bold choice with variations of knits. 

Linen in colour

The large fashion houses are also interested in linen for the way in which it absorbs colour and its vast creative potential. At Dior, linen is treated like a painted canvas and decorated with mosaic patterns. The Avenue Montaigne-based fashion house also uses linen/cotton blends in its denim pieces, such as this flared mid-length skirt and matching blouse with an ornamental motif.

Genderless and sportswear: all-terrain linen

Versatile linen is also appreciated by designers for its genderless side. At Maison Margiela, it is used with materials such as wool or satin and appeared in suit jackets and black and white looks for summer 2021. 

And for many seasons, linen has also been included in sportswear by major brands due to its breathability: the Lacoste polo is made of cotton/linen piqué fabric, and some down jackets also include linen in their composition. Linen can be worn in both summer and winter and has of course entered men’s collections, for example with designer Jan-Jan Van Essche who presented a supple blend of linen and merino wool from Arles during the Pitti Uomo fashion show. 

Since the fashion houses that participate in the seasonal catwalk shows set the creative tone for the entire ready-to-wear market, brands are following in their footsteps by including linen in their own summer 2023 collections. We are also reminded of the designer Isabel Marant, who shows every season, as she was the first to popularise linen about 15 years ago, when she introduced her white and cream-coloured ultra-soft linen T-shirts. She continues to offer the same style in a variety of colours.

Le lin pour l'homme - Officine Generale SS2022 copyright Officine Generale Tagwalk

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