Photograph by Beatriz Puppo Amo
Functionality tends to surpass form when it comes to gloves. Maybe you would don a pair when the temperature drops, for doing your dishes or sorting out the garden. Although you might be wearing a cashmere pair with touch sensor technology and your favourite winter coat, it’s likely your gloves are hardly an outfit defining accessory. Until fairly recently dress gloves were relegated to the realm of costume, fancy dress (all you Halloween Audrey Hepburns and Jessica Rabbits out there) and some rather fabulous drag. Although traditionally worn with formalwear, even at white tie dress-coded events gloves are generally no longer compulsory. Slowly but surely gloves have crept back onto the runways and red carpets, and the emerging designer Taylor-Bea Gordon has built her brand T Label on their ultra-glamorous charm.
The history of the accessory can be traced back as far as antiquity (they’re cited in Homer’s Odessey), but it wasn’t until the 13th century that gloves became a symbol of status and elegance and fashionable accessory. Queen Elizabeth I set a new trend for gloves in her reign, opting for styles that were lavishly embroidered and adorned with jewels, which propelling gloves into the forefront of fashion. It was only with the social upheaval of two World Wars that gloves began to fall out of favour. With rationing, gloves were considered unnecessary unless functional so became utilitarian and standardised in design. Aside from a brief renaissance in the 1950s, gloves have remained on the sidelines of fashion making appearances only at special occasions or for entertainment.
Gloves have been popping up on the catwalks as a styling statement over the last few seasons. For Karl Lagerfeld’s SS19 Chanel show many of the looks were styled with co-ordinating fingerless driving gloves, studded pairs popped up at Prada, neon snake print at Off-White and translucent monochrome pairs peppered Max Mara. For AW19, gloves picked up the gauntlet to challenge socks for the crown for designer accessory of the season. Balenciaga showcased their outfits with coordinating and contrasting leather gloves, whilst Balmain opted for ruched black leather pairs that covered the entirety of the arm until almost the shoulder. Marine Serre made a case for funky gloves, in her signature crescent moon or trippy witchy swirling print and ruched gauzy pastel silks appeared at Fashion East designer Yuhan Wang. During the Cruise 2020 collections that gloves became increasingly prevalent. At the Louis Vuitton, Moschino and Gucci shows, the majority of looks were finished with a pair.
Whilst on schedule brands are making a foray into the accessories, smaller brands are also coming into prominence for their gloves. Take Amato, the New York-based accessories house established in the seventies that produces their gloves at a small factory Naples, have been featured in the pages of the top glossies and are appealing to a new generation through Instagram. The other side of the Atlantic, the emerging British designer and London College of Fashion graduate Taylor-Bea Gordon has carved out a niche for her brand T Label with her statement gloves via social media.
“When I was making my graduate collection last summer I was set on having gloves, one of my teachers said they are the hardest thing to make and to focus on the garments instead. I’ve had stubborn moments going through education where I want to prove I am capable of more,” laughs Gordon. “I was set on learning and owning this skill.” And owning the art of glove making, she has. Inspired by films and the 1920s, Gordon’s signature ‘Ray Gloves’ are a riff on opera gloves that come to just over the elbow, ruched with an excess of fabric that seemingly snakes around the arm in an organic petal-like manner. Created in sheeny satins, barely-there silk organza, taffetas and net have gone on to capture the attention of multiple stylists.
“I started by designing garments and measuring reaction from social media engagement,” she adds candidly. “The followers of T LABEL[‘s Instagram] reacted so well to the ‘Ray Gloves’, which I took as a sign that people are really excited about the return of this accessory.” The appeal of Gordon’s gloves can be found at once in their updated romanticism but also into the performative-cum dressing-up element, they verge on experiential as a piece of clothing as they are so far removed from something worn on the day-to-day. “I don’t know what styles are due to come back but I think it’s natural that all of us occasionally like to dress up or feel good about what we are wearing,” she continues. “I believe, when used in the right way, gloves can be very delicate and feminine whilst having a theatrical and empowering edge in ways other accessories cannot.”
Photograph by Beatriz Puppo Amo
With the success of her gloves and first two collections of “Romantic Wear”; inspired by films, fencing sportswear and the silhouettes of the 1920s, Gordon has left her job at Alexander McQueen to relocate back to her native Birmingham to focus solely on T Label. Gordon’s clothes and accessories are all created using dead-stock fabrics, upcycling textiles, experimenting with natural dyeing techniques and reusing damaged or unwanted garments. “When you’re a start-up brand it is very easy to control this, there are no operational habits in place and you can create a responsible way of working from the earliest stages,” she explains. “A circular way of sourcing and making garments is something every brand should be implementing now.” Within the next year, Gordon is set to release her new collection in November and has hinted at collaborations with emerging creatives, as well as new drops of gloves and launching her online store.
In tumultuous times (and hell knows what’s on the horizon), we often return to the known, classic and established. Following that logic could glamorous gloves be here to stay? With gloves being donned at increasing numbers of red carpet events and by influencers alike, perhaps the perception of gloves as an antiquated accessory is shifting. Kim K your infamous sofa look was truly ahead of its time.
Photographs by Beatriz Puppo Amo.