Leather? For summer?
That actually is groundbreaking. Or maybe gutsy is a better word?
Whatever you call it, leather is banished in the heat for good reason. Just the thought of it cues my sweat glands into overdrive.
But recently I came across the perfect leather pants and decided to defy my body chemistry. Said pants checked all the boxes: classic color, great quality, cropped cut (I’m short!), and consciously designed in Austin. I had to have them and there was no way I was letting these bad boys hang out in my closet until solstice subsided.
So, challenge accepted. I was going to break this stuffy fashion convention without having a Ross Geller moment. To prove it, I styled two looks during Austin’s sweltering afternoon heat on the steps of the Power & Light building, my favorite art deco marvel.
Here are my tips for making leather work in summer. Plus a little bit about SixChel, a female-helmed, indie brand that’s part of the emerging sustainable fashion scene here.
Emphasize It With Fur
This look is for the bold, Gucci-minded gal who sees leather pans and thinks, “Pssh, I can handle that with my eyes closed. Have you seen the size of the nalgene I carry?”
If this is you, take this bold idea further by adding some fur and really blowing some minds this summer.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. “Peta would throw 10 buckets of red paint on me in that!” But there is a way to wear these fabrics in an ethical way.
Choose leather wisely
The best options, in my opinion, are real sustainable leather that is surplus (leftover from agriculture) or vintage or vegan leather that is biodegradable (i.e. NOT PU, PVC, or ‘pleather’). You can also look for new-age leathers that are grown in a lab or made from pineapple or orange fibers but these are scarce on the market right now. More on this in my leather post.
An ethical note: SixChel’s pants are vegan leather sourced from Italy. While this is not the most sustainable option, it is ‘cruelty-free.’ However, if the environment is your main priority, I suggest looking at SixChel’s other pieces that are made from eco-friendly Tencel and hemp. I stand by my endorsement of these pants because this is the designer’s first collection and she has shown a strong commitment to continuous learning and improvement when it comes to her supply chain and materials.
Opt for faux or vintage fur
You can incorporate this through small accents (like the ones on my heels) for the summer season. For starters, faux is obviously a good option, but if you’re not ethically opposed you can find vintage furs from thrift stores that will often last you a lifetime. And you won’t be generating any new harm, market demand or animal cruelty. Also, Alpaca is a super sustainable fiber option. Huma Blanco is my ethical favorite brand that makes furry shoes with alpaca.
Style tips for keeping it cool
Try wearing a bathing suit as a top underneath your leather pants. If you get a little sweaty, hey, you’re prepared with an appropriate backup outfit! As for the fur, you don’t have to wear it on your body. Tie a scarf on your beach bag or purse or look to incorporate fur into your accessories wardrobe. Think earrings, shoes (again, huge right now), and hook charms.
Balance It With Beachy Basics
Granted, fur isn’t for everyone. Maybe you’re more of a traditionalist who thinks simplicity is the ultimate sophistication (Da Vinci said that, not me).
You probably already have a pair of leather pants that are sorely underutilized. Take them (or SixChel’s) into summer by adding one of the season’s most coveted flouncy white tops. If you really want to be on point, look for broderie anglaise or eyelet fabrics that are diffusing the vintage markets from Italy right now.
Also, please don’t wobble around in stilettos in the summer. One challenge at a time! Opt for subtle mules like these from By FAR and let the leather do the talking. You can add a beachy bag that borrows from Cult Gaia’s aesthetic and you’re set. It’s a look that’s not too defiant but different enough to set you apart from the dreaded ‘basic’ label.
Style tips for keeping it ethical
Depending on where you are it’s easy to find all these leather ‘add-on’ items at secondhand or vintage shops. This way you’re only buying one new item (or building from something already in your closet) and minimizing your impact with new items. I found my bag and blouse at Buffalo Exchange on the same day.
For a white blouse inspired by this look, I love Piecology Vintage. Score one by stalking their IG stories.
A Snippet About SixChel
I met Dina Chavez, owner and designer of SixChel, right before our Fashion Revolution event last year. We clicked initially about our commitment to transforming fashion. Dina also embodies everything I love about Austin. She’s warm, thoughtful, and prioritizes collaboration over competition.
Keep an eye on SixChel as the sustainable fashion community develops in this city. Dina is a rising star.
- Female-owned and managed.
- Built on sustainability. Dina used Factory45 as an incubator to start her capsule line. Currently, she uses Tencel, hemp, organic cotton and vegan leather in her line and continues to incorporate more sustainable practices as she grows.
- Clothes with purpose. After working in costume design and fashion for years (her biggest land was creating Grammy looks for Texas musicians), she was moved to make apparel that’s made as ethically and sustainably as possible.
- Body-Positive. Dina is committed to changing the negative imagery and dialogue in the fashion industry that misrepresents women and leads to self-consciousness. She celebrates uniqueness in her design, imagery and messaging. SixChel is offered in a wide range of sizes and designed to be universally flattering and comfortable.
Sign up for her emails at the bottom of this page to get a $50 gift card.