One of the pleasing things about the Anni Albers retrospective at Tate Modern (until 27 January) – and there are many – was my discovery that the artist had woven metallic thread through a selection of her textiles, including a free-hanging room divider from 1949, on loan from New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The influential artist had succumbed to the allure of Lurex, incorporating it into her modernist project.
I grew up in a seaside town, and a deep-rooted fondness for end-of-the-pier sparkle is hard to shake off. Over the years, I have stockpiled a fine collection of both vintage and modern Lurex knitwear. An array of shimmering metallic tops is stored in a see-through box on a shelf in my wardrobe, giving the impression of a glittery cross-section of the earth’s layers. For me, the beauty of the metallic yarn shines through whether it’s on the body or off.
Adding a little bling to the basics is the key to achieving low-key style with an elegant twist. At this time of year, however, there is a need to tread carefully – downplay the shimmer and shine with understated elements. Lurex is a showbiz staple and, whatever the occasion, one standout piece is enough. Offset a metallic jacket, such as Blazé Milano’s silver Lurex blazer (£1,170) or Saint Laurent’s trimmed Lurex blazer (£2,245), with a basic T-shirt and a pair of faded black jeans. Temper a sparkly sweater with a pair of chic tuxedo trousers: Chloé’s ribbed, silk-blend Lurex sweater (£650) and black ribbed rollneck (£850) are similar to a couple of my vintage favourites. And, of course, for superior shimmer knits, Missoni is the place to go: consider a draped Lurex cardigan (£775).
Sparkle and shine add energy to a simple outfit. Missoni’s gold, Lurex wide-leg trousers (£840) are straight out of Studio 54, but juxtaposed with a sharp, tailored jacket they could well make the boardroom-to-cocktail-bar dash. If that feels too much of a stretch, the good news about Lurex knitwear is that it’s easy to roll up and pack and has excellent crease-resistant properties. Similarly, try Roland Mouret’s Lurex-jacquard full Mulligan skirt (£1,295) with an oversized white shirt. Or go for a perennially elegant black tuxedo and a pair of Aquazzura’s Lurex heeled pumps – Net-a-Porter has a pink slingback version (£530). My personal favourites are the Powder Puff flat mule (£440), perfect with a pair of Capri pants and a cashmere sweater.
For a more space-age vibe, Balenciaga’s Speed trainers (£565) are available in sparkly stretch knit and give a tailored trouser suit a sporty twist. And the Golden Goose Deluxe Lurex and leather high-top sneakers (£345) would dial down an elegant silk midi dress. And should a fun Lurex stocking filler be on the cards, try Isabel Marant’s Lurex Mileya socks (£45) to jazz up an everyday outfit.