In 1984 Natasja Kinski stole the hearts of an entire generation sitting in the cubicle of a peep show dressed in an unforgettable pink jumper in the mirror scene in paris, texas (Wim Wenders). That long sweater, which fit her like a dress, had a fluffy and romantic fabric, and synthesized in one garment the duality of the character, stuck between the vulnerable and the harshness of life. That sweater was angora, probably synthetic.
That same year, Miuccia Prada officially decided that nylon was a fashionable fabric: until then, the big brands and designers had looked at it with disdain, but she knew how to sense the future of that fabric. He uploaded it to the Prada catwalk in the form of black backpacks that are still cult today but beyond the success with this accessory, he did something that would change the rules of the industry forever and allowed the explosion of our furry sweater: by then it was already known that nylon, lycra and polyester, mixed with other fabrics such as wool, angora, silk or mohair, made fabrics significantly cheaper, but now one could boast of it. This is how the synthetic angora, also known as angorina, was born, a fabric that found in the sweater the perfect garment to vary its aesthetics and that ended up dominating the way of dressing Western adolescents in the 90s.
The mystique for angora sweaters came from decades ago. Back in the fifties, Marilyn Monroe and Janeth Leigh were the first to turn the classic low-neck sweater into the epitome of “modest clothing”, the kind that ended up being anything but modest in the collective imagination. Her angora sweaters, clinging to her tiny waists and enhancing the shape of her chest, had an important charge of sweetness and sensuality. In the following decades, the silhouettes relaxed and it was not until the late eighties and early nineties that the furry jumper found new uses and meanings. In 1994 Richard Avedon photographed Nadja Auermann, Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer and Stephanie Seymour dressed in miniskirts and angora jumpers for the Versace campaign. A fashion review in The New York Times she was eyeing the return of the sexy furry sweater: “If the slip dress was a timid summer flirtation, winter has become a bit more explicit. Welcome back to the sweater girl of the 1950s, with the full, hairy bosom of her clad in deep angora.”
The garment became most ubiquitous in the years that followed: Liv Tyler embroidered in Empire Records the dream uniform of many American teens with a cropped baby blue fluffy sweater teamed with a matching plaid pleated skirt and with, of course, a pair of decade-favorite combat boots. This sweater was also the look of Alicia Silverstone, at the height of her fame thanks to the movie clueless, and reached a new level of presence when Salma Hayek appeared on the red carpet at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival in an angora cardigan with only two buttons that revealed part of her neckline and abdomen. By the end of the decade, pop culture turned to the rave aesthetic, and interestingly enough, this oh-so-romantic and even cheesy jumper made its way to the aftersthe rave and the polygon subculture. To do this, he left behind his sweetest tones and embraced all kinds of acid and neon shades, and began to combine it with very low-waisted pants, exposed thongs, exaggeratedly wide jeans, and platforms. Blends of polyester and acrylic were perfected over the years to accommodate the proliferation of the jersey. fuzzy and, in the process, redefine it: you could find an angorina sweater in the halls of a high school, in the parking lot of an electronic music club, or on a red carpet at the same time. It was the perfect antidote for anyone who did not want to surrender to the minimalism of the time.
From omnipresence to oblivion (and its current synthetic resurrection)
Known for its softness and fluffiness, angora is warmer than wool and softer than cashmere. It is also recognizable with the naked eye by its halo, a light fluffy atmosphere that gives it a feeling of delicacy, warmth, and romanticism. But the most important thing is that it is a natural fabric: the hair of Angora rabbits, which are sheared four times a year to obtain the material. The case of the angora is a perfect example of how animal skins went from being a necessity to a status symbol, only to be canceled due to the mistreatment they have entailed.
That is where the less beautiful story begins: a recent investigation of PETA made public the suffering of animals to obtain this fabric and as a result dozens of fashion brands banned the use of angora, including H&M, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Armani, Burberry, Gucci or Valentino, but also chains such as H&M and Zara . PETA visited dozens of rabbit farms, mostly in China, to collect data proving the suffering, mistreatment and pain that rabbits were subjected to in order to extract the angora.
The synthetic angora, the one that dominated in the 90s, did not become popular so much because of its respect for animals (the fashion industry had not yet started the process towards more respectful practices with animals) as for other advantages: in addition to providing cheaper raw material, can be mixed with other fabrics (such as wool, polyester or cotton), easy to wash and care for, resistant to moths and fungi, unaffected by sunlight, keeps its shape and it does not wrinkle and can be washed in the washing machine without problem. Among its disadvantages is one of its great clashes with today’s mentality, and that is that it is an unsustainable fabric since it is derived from petroleum.
In any case, that stuffed sweater identified the late nineties, and the Y2K aesthetic seems to want to recover it. In her Fall Winter 2018 collection for Balenciaga, Demna Gvasalia brought back a very turn-of-the-century fuzzy sweater, fluffy, shiny, and made with polyester, in an acid green colorway. In the following season, Spring Summer 2019, it was Marine Serre who made her particular version of the artificial fur sweater. It cannot be a coincidence (it never is) that two of the creatives who are defining the aesthetics of this decade have reimagined this same garment, nor is it by chance that the angorina effect is the favorite of many influencers on Instagram. We will have to see if he comes back.
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