“With the fine summer weather and warm evenings, linen is the obvious fabric to see you through the next few months. Light, elegant yet with a deliciously natural feel to it, linen lends itself well to light weight summer dressing,” reasons Mumbai-based designer Archana Kochhar, who recently launched a collection called Barcode that comprises linen shirts and kurtas. It’s a given. From that little black dress to a formal business suit, from summer shorts to a casual shirt, linen can be adopted in any style, shape or design. The versatility and lightness of the fabric makes it one of the most sought-after fabrics for hot and humid months. Echoing Archana’s views is internationally acclaimed designer Hemant Sagar, who creates clothes under his brand Lecoanet Hemant along with his French partner Didier Lecoanet. “Linen is a perfect material for summers because of its unique stiffness, not loved by all. If cut properly, the natural stiffness keeps the garment a bit away from the body, and leaves an airy, lofty feeling, making it perfect for a warm day,” he says.
Linen, not cotton
Linen is often confused with cotton, owing to their similar texture. However, it is a lesser-known fact that both fabrics are different and have their own properties. While cotton is procured from the cotton flower, linen is a fibre that is extracted from flax, a grass-like herb. “Linen is a natural fabric manufactured from the flax plant, and is being used for clothes since a long time now. There is natural shining in such clothes, so wherever a linen cloth is refined, it never loses its natural shine,” explains designer Rocky S, who uses linen in his collections.
Although people have begun to experiment with shades when it comes to linen, designers and stylists feel that the natural fabric looks best in pastels like blue ivory, beige, ice-cream pink, buttercup yellow and of course white. Floral prints add an edge to the fabric as well. However, designer to some of Bollywood’s biggest names, Manish Malhotra feels that if you’re not very comfortable with the wrinkles on your linen shirt or pants, you should go in fordarker colours. “Pure linen wrinkles very easily. Heavier linen wrinkles less than the lighter weaves, and darker, solid colours tend to show the wrinkles less than whites or stripes. So that is suitable if you don’t want the wrinkles to show so much,” he adds.
Unisex it up
Another benefiting property of linen is that its versatility makes it equally apt for both men and women. So, while an evening dress and casual resort wear looks well in linen, so do men’s shirts and trousers. “The thought that linen was traditionally worn mostly by men is a notion. Linen is the most comfortable fabric to wear and looks good in each and every setting. Men and women can both wear it and look trendy, stylish and comfortable at the same time,” shares Malhotra. Linen’s versatility finds support from Rocky S as well, “During beach weddings and in sporty action, even women can wear men’s linen garments. Linen drawstring pants are very informal and make for a contented selection, this summer season.”
Get the lowdown on linen
>> Linen is one of the world’s oldest fabrics, dating back over 4,000 years.
>> The word ‘Linen’ has been derived from the Latin ‘Linium Usitatissimum’ (flax plant); it is a completely natural resource. Hence it is considered eco-friendly.
>> The production of linen fabric uses five to twenty times less water and energy than the production of cotton or other synthetic fabrics.
Linen care matters
>> Dry-clean your linen wear, but many experts feel that a careful hand wash in lukewarm water and mild soap will suffice.
>> Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for clothing care.
>> Ironing linen while it is still damp is the key to eliminating wrinkles. Place your steam iron on the cotton/linen setting and iron linen clothing inside out to prevent the development of sheen on the fabric.
>> If you don’t intend to wear your newly-pressed linen garments immediately, hang it in your closet, allowing some space around it to avoid it from getting crushed and rumpled by other closet inhabitants.
Celebs walk the linen line
Even the Egyptians and Napolean sported linen!
A photo released by the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities on April 12, 2009 shows a wooden coffin containing a linen-wrapped mummy found in a necropolis, southeast of the pyramid field of Lahun, in Egypt’s Fayyum region, about 130 kms southwest of Cairo.
A picture taken on November 23, 2011 in Paris shows a linen nightshirt that Napoleon Bonaparte wore during his post-Waterloo exile on the South Atlantic island of Saint Helena, prior to be sold off. Embroidered with a “N” monogram under a crown, the nightshirt estimated between 40,000 to 50,000 euros will be sold off by the Osenat auction house on December 4, 2011 in Fontainebleau, outside Paris. Pics / AFP