Leather Looks

New takes on the signature stylish trend

Seen as a symbol of rebellion and toughness, leather is a perennial favorite fashion material. It’s especially trendy this fall as designers delve back into the leather-driven eras of glam rock, disco and ’80s chic.

While leather shows up most often in the standard form of bags, shoes, leggings and jackets, there are a few innovators incorporating new looks and ingenious uses for the tried and true material. British-Italian outfitter Belstaff has taken leather from its original motorcycle jacket inception and turned it into all-encompassing military, Hollywood and political apparel. Belgian designer Natalia Brilli offers a leather skeleton rock band art installation – and other just-as-unconventional modes of leather expression.

These are two names to watch for today’s leather aficionado.


Harry Grosberg of the English Midlands founded Belstaff in 1924. The company began as a manufacturer of men’s and women’s waterproof garments. With its patented “Wax Cotton” material, hailed for being both waterproof and breathable, Belstaff found a niche in specialty high-tech motorcycle wear.

Belstaff’s reputation for quality outdoors apparel moved into aviation in the 1930s. The company’s aviation designs, in fact, still resonate today, as some of Belstaff’s original 1930s pieces were replicated in design and materials for the 2004 Leonardo DiCaprio film The Aviator.

In the 1940s, Belstaff debuted the Black Prince motorcycle jacket and the Trialmaster jacket. The former became the bestselling waterproof jacket of all time, with more than 40,000 Black Prince motorcycle jackets having been produced in the 40-year period since its 1943 release. The Trialmaster became a pivotal piece for the company when revolutionary leader Ernesto Che Guevara wore the jacket on a motorcycle journey through Latin America.

Belstaff’s collection design shifted to the hands of Franco Malenotti, an avid motorcycle racer and son of an Italian film producer, in the 1990s. Malenotti’s high-fashion eye resulted in a total redesign of the once functionality-based Belstaff – jackets and accessories became chic, sleek and worthy of Hollywood’s elite.

Today, Belstaff is run by Malenotti’s sons, Michele and Manuele. Belstaff leather has been featured in films such as Leatherheads with George Clooney, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button with Brad Pitt, Public Enemies with Johnny Depp and the new movie Amelia, which will feature Belstaff’s re-creations of leather pieces that aviatrix Amelia Earhart wore.

Belstaff also designed jackets for the 2009 G8 summit in Italy, which were signed by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Natalia Brilli

Designer Natalia Brilli is a Belgian native who studied at the Institut Francais de la Mode, Paris’ famed fashion school. When combined with her additional theater background in scenography – she also attended La Cambre, a visual arts school in Brussels – Brilli’s fashion accessories take on an ornate, ironic and thoughtful sensibility. The Victorian era and Darlo Argento horror films she is inspired by also permeate the monochromatic, and sometimes macabre, pieces in her line.

Brilli specializes in encasing various everyday items in lambskin – jewelry, skateboards, musical instruments, watches and wallets, among others. All items are leather-bound by hand, using a technique developed in the 1930s and ’40s. These pieces take up to several days to create.

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