Fashion doesn’t always exist in its own bubble – these designers used plastic wrap to prove it.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

With photos of mounds of plastic waste frequently appearing on our social media feeds and anti-drinking straw sentiments running high, plastic is decidedly un-fantastic right now. Which might be why the controversial, non-biodegradable material was recently used in the statement-making runway shows of two famously thoughtful menswear designers, although not in the way one might expect.

Having made the news last August after his eponymous brand was acquired by the Ermenegildo Zegna Group, American designer Thom Browne set the stage for his Fall/Winter 2019 show in Paris by covering the chairs and runway in bubble wrap. Challenging gender codes was the focus of the collection, which included opening looks created using the same air-pocket-filled plastic wrap: Dresses, paired with gloves and pharaoh-style hats, were followed by ensembles comprising jackets and cropped trousers. While the material was not used to express overt environmental concerns, there was an element of upcycling to it. Browne told reporters: “We use the bubble wrap for shipping collections back and forth.”

Over in London, English designer and winner of multiple “Menswear Designer of the Year” awards Craig Green closed his show with several bright plastic looks. Although the material used for tops and trousers resembled bubble wrap, he revealed that they were bin liners that had been “obsessively elasticated” to look smocked. Like Browne, Green was inspired by the notion of overturning traditional notions of masculinity, with a collection dealing with “the idea of fragility and how emotion doesn’t mean weakness”. No need to worry that you’re expected to wrap yourself in plastic next season – such runway pieces are used to make a statement rather than drive sales. But, in a time of growing social awareness, it’s designers who say something with their clothes, who sell.