How designers are reinterpreting mesh

Mesh is this season’s coolest fabric – in more ways than one, says Tom Stubbs

Ermenegildo Zegna mesh-knit jumper, £950
Ermenegildo Zegna mesh-knit jumper, £950

Designers are mashing it up with mesh this season, deploying the fabric in many guises and gauges well beyond its technical and sporty associations. Much of its new appeal is as a subtle under-layer, adding an interesting edge to shirting

Clockwise from top left: Katharine Hamnett cotton T-shirt, £98. Dior Homme technical-jersey tank top, £730. Missoni nylon field jacket, £970
Clockwise from top left: Katharine Hamnett cotton T-shirt, £98. Dior Homme technical-jersey tank top, £730. Missoni nylon field jacket, £970

Take the round-neck mesh tops on Salvatore Ferragamo’s runway, which were styled under contrasting solid shirts. The house has a long history of using mesh – founder Salvatore used it during material shortages either side of the second world war – and this season it appears in black, white and “rye” woven mesh tees (£415), and a natty cotton-mesh shirt (£415).

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Elsewhere, mesh adds subtle texture to classic styles, such as Dunhill’s four-button placket polo shirt (£250) in wool/silk in blue, black and white. “Contrasting mesh with luxury materials delivers classic formality with a sense of nonchalance,” says creative director Mark Weston.

From left: Stone Island polyester jacket, £350. Sunspel x Lemaire mesh T-shirt, £130
From left: Stone Island polyester jacket, £350. Sunspel x Lemaire mesh T-shirt, £130

Mesh is also at the centre of Sunspel x Lemaire’s new capsule collection. “Sunspel has a history of using mesh for undergarments,” says Lemaire creative director Christophe Lemaire, “so we visited its archives for inspiration. Henley T-shirts and tanks in amazing vintage mesh were our starting point.” Oversized T-shirts (£130) come in cinnamon, light grey and midnight blue. There’s also an oversized tank top (£120), perfect for layering under open shirts, with knitwear and even tailoring

From left: Salvatore Ferragamo mesh T-shirt, £415. Dunhill wool/silk-mix polo shirt, £250
From left: Salvatore Ferragamo mesh T-shirt, £415. Dunhill wool/silk-mix polo shirt, £250

This method of layering takes its cue from Jamaica, where loose, mesh marinas – knitted tank tops resembling fishnets – are worn, often under shirting. Katharine Hamnett uses organic-cotton mesh for her T-shirts (£98) and breathable linings in sportswear jackets. “I think of it as fishnet for men,” says Hamnett. “Cool for you, cool for the planet.” There are sporty ideas from What We Wear, too, including mesh vests (£200) with detachable sleeves cut with a football-style profile.

Ten C nylon anorak, £750
Ten C nylon anorak, £750

Speaking of sportswear influences, I rate Missoni’s spring motocross-themed collection highly. “It’s inspired by a passion that runs in my family – rallies,” Angela Missoni tells me. “We envisioned dressing my nephews for ’70s Paris-Dakar rallies.” An army-green nylon mesh round neck (£680) with house multicolour “space-dyed” stitching is styled over patterned shirts. A short-sleeve shirt (£690) in a cotton blend with multicolour racer-flag motifs is a special piece in a collection full of similarly deft touches. The field jacket (£970) in army-green, high-performance nylon mesh is my favourite. The material also exposes the structure of the jacket, so some areas are semi-sheer, while the pockets, shoulders and collar appear solid. 

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This effect is also seen at Ten C. “We used a sheer monofilament nylon mesh for the Tempest anorak to illustrate the beauty of its construction,” says co-creative director Paul Harvey. The anorak (£750) is effectively an “opened” version of the classic pullover field smock, with an extra-large hood. “It’s challenging working with transparent fabrics as every seam, detail and finishing has to be perfect since nothing is hidden.”

Further sports crossover comes from Stone Island, which has a jersey and mesh jacket (£350) in fluoro-polyester yarn. Its machine-knitted and seamless design feels modern, yet the cut still has a vintage tennis-jacket feel. 

“I love this technical fabric and its performance, which adds lightness and breathability to tailoring,” says Ermenegildo Zegna artistic director Alessandro Sartori, who uses the fabric for jumpers (£950), parkas, shorts and jackets, including a single-breasted one (£2,400) in loganberry red, made from technical square mesh. He has also used perforated calfskin for drawstring trousers (£4,760) in pistachio and a leather crewneck T-shirt (£3,800) in taupe. 

As with Ferragamo and Zegna, Dior’s mesh was used as a layering tool, this time rendered in technical jersey (£730) and worn underneath tailoring and casual jackets. These pieces occupy the very fine end of mesh’s spectrum and prove just how versatile a fabric it is.

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