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Will linen conquer the fashion industry?

By Julia Garel

Jan 22, 2021

Will we all be dressed in linen for the next few seasons? According to a recent report from the search engine Tagwalk and the European Flax and Hemp Confederation (EFCL), that could just be the case. In December, Alexandra Van Houtte, founder of Tagwalk, spoke during a webinar organized by the EFCL. There she promoted this European fiber and announced the positive figures of its use by international fashion houses and brands in the spring season of 2021. Linen is thus gaining ground in the fashion industry.

For this report, Tagwalk analyzed more than 200 million data and the first result to emerge is that a whopping 25 percent more linen was used in 2020 compared to 2019, all materials taken together. Even more surprising, 64 percent of the brands in the report used the material for the first time (Dior, Thom Brown, Fendi, Louis Vuitton) and nearly a quarter of these brands were luxury brands. Among the major fashion houses (Prada, Acne, Miu Miu), 16.1 percent of their collections contain linen. Overall, linen has jumped +102 percent on the runways of SS21 and 2.3 percent (220 looks) versus 1.2 percent (129) for SS20. All in all, linen is growing enormously in popularity, both with luxury brands and the other fashion houses.

Among the wide range of examples, Alexandra van Houtte takes that of Fendi and her SS21 collection. The teams of the Italian fashion house processed linen in different, creative ways. For example with delicate embroidery, feminine in midi dresses and wide pants, but also responding to the genderless trend with oversized and sharp designs.

Also at Maison Margiela, of which John Galliano is the creative director, linen debuted on the catwalk and accounted for 27 percent of his looks. Linen was combined with other materials such as mohair, wool and satin.

Minimalism, workwear and tailor-made clothing

The report also emphasizes the versatile side of linen. The material is no longer limited to romantic and bohemian styles. This season, linen played on current trends such as Minimalist (10.4 percent of looks), Outspoken Colors (9.5 percent), Androgynous (6.6 percent) or Workwear, (4.7 percent) - and became applied to less-anticipated styles such as Bespoke Clothing (28.9 percent of looks, +48 percent vs. 2020). Interestingly, linen is not used in the same way for men and women. "Clothing with linen in it for men is much more present in the winter than that of women," Van Houtte explains during the webinar. For women, linen is more often used for the summer collections. A striking difference, but it is a habit that, according to the figures of the study, is about to change. Another clarification regarding the men's lines: Only five brands had linen in their men's collections by the spring of 2021, for about 26 percent of the looks, the report says.

Linen: between innovation and accessibility

In addition to the ecological benefits of the fiber, "linen is accessible to everyone, it is the material that everyone can afford," says van Houtte. Marie Emmanuelle Belzung, General Delegate of the EFCL, who was present at the webinar, gave the example of Uniqlo: the multinational company cooperates with the EFCL and offers good basic linen items at a price of 34.90 euros, of which the fiber Cultivation took place between Caen and Amsterdam. In addition, van Houtte notes that the brands don't emphasize the sustainable side of linen in their press releases, "I love it, it's just the standard," she adds. Finally, Marie Emmanuelle Belzung talks about the comfort of linen. "We will certainly one day come up with a sports and leisure product with linen as the main ingredient". Innovation in the linen industry is precisely one of the main reasons for its use by brands. Two very strong advances have been made in recent years, notes Marie Emmanuelle: knitted and washed linen, which we were accustomed to seeing in bed linen until then.

This article was originally published on FashionUnited.FR, translated and edited to English by Kelly Press.

Image: Oysho webshop (2019)