High fashion rarely makes it into the tabloids. After all, red-tops – like their milky counterparts – are skimmed, light and designed for morning tea, not for getting deep about trompe l’oeil. If a runway look or ready-to-wear piece does make it in, it’s usually of the mad hatter variety, side-eyed in a stubby sidebar, like Jack Irving’s tentacle spawn or Loewe’s elfin trainers.
These write-ups often miss the point of daring and experimental styles completely. Occasionally, though, they’ll hit the nail on the masthead. In other words, yes, Nicole Kidman’s Balenciaga couture dress, while made of coated taffeta, looked like a massive sheet of very chic tin foil.
Demna Gvasalia’s couture show wasn’t short on talking points. By now, most of us have seen Kim Kardashian’s much-memed walk, the horny, fetishistic gowns and the brilliantly outrageous Mercedes face shields that really did prove F1 is totally in right now. Equally leftfield was Kidman’s dress: a wrap-around, metallic asymmetric number crinkled like a huge emergency blanket, or crumpled sheet of Bacofoil. (Note: elsewhere in the collection, Gvasalia used actual aluminium for the crumple-look tees – just one of the ingenious techniques in the 59-look collection).
Tin foil fashion is having a moment, and it’s not just via our favourite fashion hellraisers at Balenciaga.
Material boy Marc Jacobs used the shiny stuff in his recent AW22 show for a literal tin foil hat, a potential reference to the chosen headwear of internet conspiracy theorists. Included in his show notes, the madcap material was the perfect foil to Jacobs’ crackers silhouettes. Elsewhere, Doublet swapped Barbie for barbie, building on its BBQ theme with a tinfoil-look and burnt-edged jacket, while queer pioneers Lazoschmidl went glitzy with self-proclaimed tin-foil pants.
Over at Moschino’s AW22 show, Jeremy Scott designed a shiny tray-turned-top. Junk modelling made chic, if you will. Loewe debuted silver bow heels from the same season, and Aries’ creative director Sofia Prantera’s favourite piece from her SS22 collection was “the crushed foil print, developed by metal rubbing and crushing tin foil under a photocopier.”
Foil’s big in the beauty world, too. Versace went for a shimmery gold foil look for its Men’s SS23 show, while Ciara accessorised her hair with silver foil at the Met Gala this year (according to this TikTok trend, it can sort out flyaway hairs thanks to static – bonus).
So why are runways now looking a little like The Shiny Show? Well, Space Age designers loved metallic looks in the ’60s, and that whole next frontier aesthetic is rising in popularity right now, thanks to the likes of Moschino, Fendi and Gucci playing with sci-fi, retro futuristic themes.
In the ’60s, Space Age fashion represented an optimistic, extraterrestrial vision of the future, one that never really happened because, well, the metaverse took over instead. Shimmery metallic looks from the likes of Andres Courreges and Pierre Cardin reflected newness, merging together human and machine.
Foiled looks now, though, are knowingly tongue-in-cheek; less forward-looking and more taking us to our real life straight-to-DVD version of Back to the Future: a kitsch retrofuturism in our age of constant revivals. Moon Boots, once grounded on space race gear, are now part of a Y2K comeback. We dreamt of androids, but got Androids instead, and we’re still using the exact same Bacofoil to wrap our sarnies as we were back in 1962, when it first came onto the scene.
“For years we’ve seen foil fashion hit the catwalk to shock and awe,” a Bacofoil spokesperson told THE FACE. “One of the key trends this AW22 is shoppers choosing function alongside fashion like never before. So why not foil? Fashionistas alike can stay warm and fresh in the winter whilst making sure the spotlight strikes them in a crowd.”
Spotlight striking indeed: foil, when it’s not at the forefront, also makes a great backdrop. Enter, as with all good-weird things in fashion, Maison Margiela. For MM6, the house covered a pub from floor to ceiling in tin foil, reflecting the foil effect looks from the collection, and feeling a little like uni house parties of by-gone eras, when cheap digs were covered in Poundland rolls of foil.
Fashion design duo Gui Rosa and Harry Freegard might have a clue, though. They did exactly this at their flat-cum-studio. “The tin foil flat wasn’t my first foray into foil, however perhaps it was the crescendo of my foil exploits,” Harry says.
“The foil flat manifested initially as we were hosting an intimate park side soiree. Overcome with festive spirit, I covered every square inch of our flat in tinfoil; walls, book case, picture frames, tables, chairs, champagne flutes, and naturally the floor, too. Even Blade, [designer] Masha Popova’s Italian greyhound, attended wrapped in foil that night.”
It wasn’t a flash-in-the-pan thing. “After the party, we decided to leave it up. I found it looked terribly chic. It soon became the backdrop for many photo shoots and Zoom meetings,” Harry says. And what does he think of Kidman’s dress? “Gorgeous woman and shiny dress. Age old formula. What’s not to love? Metallic is a neutral with personality.”
Gui and Harry aren’t the only fashion grads to see the chic in tin foil. Pauine de Blonay used aluminium foil for her BA graduate collection (alongside a wild mix of silk, leather and metal) back in 2019, while Gloria Jane Royer upcycled emergency blankets into shimmering dresses.
It’s also been used by TikTokers replicating couture at home, with creator Corey O’Brien already remaking Kidman’s dress with a load of wrap. “The second I saw Nicole’s dress, I knew exactly what I was going to do,” he tells THE FACE. “I’ve used aluminium foil in my TikToks before, however nothing to this extent and I must say I love how it turned out. It’s amazing how an item in your kitchen can be used for some high fashion looks.” And why does he think it’s a vibe right now? “It’s definitely something that has a futuristic space age feel, but it also keeps our leftovers intact so it’s an interesting thing.”
As kitschly futuristic as it might still feel, foil is pretty democratic. Few commodities are as un-USP-able as tin foil. Aside from length and that cool cutter, it literally does what it says on the tin, and unlike almost any other basic commodity imaginable, there’s pretty much nothing that sets brands apart.
Plus, it’s sustainable. Tin foil is recyclable forever until it’s contaminated, meaning it might be the key material for scaling up genuinely conscious fashion. Hell, it can even help you out with the cost of living crisis by increasing the efficiency of your radiators or, in some sort of meta moment, help to unscrunch itself.
Is there anything this heaven-sent wrap can’t do? We’ll leave this one to Bacofoil: “we can’t promise it’ll stop those 5G radio waves!”