Why the world has gone wild for reversible sequins

The addictively tactile discs are everywhere – from T-shirts to lunchboxes. Now they have reached the world of contemporary dance. Why are we so obsessed?

If you know a teen, chances are you have bought them something sparkly in the past couple of years – and not only if they are a girl. From Next’s boys’ sequined T-shirt that flips between my craft designs to Paper chase's rainbow-encrusted notebook (stroke it and the whole thing turns silver) or Sainsbury’s black and gold reversible sequin lunch bag, these addictively tactile surfaces are everywhere.

Flip sequins – AKA floppy, or reversible sequins – have become the fast fashion world’s ultimate tool for creating what is known as an “elevated basic”. “We are living in very simple, minimalist times,” says Jaana Jatyri, of the Trend Stop trend casting agency in London. Take a plain T-shirt, pop on a pink sequined heart that turns purple when you touch it, and you’ve got yourself something special - although covered in what might end up being a single-use plastic waste.

But where did it come from? The news site Fox reported in November that a Chinese patent for a “moveable sequin embroidery composite structure” appeared in 2011, but Jatyri suspects it was a Dutch children’s clothing brand that first began playing around with flip sequins. Their enormous popularity, she says, is simple; they are, essentially, wearable toys.

Their appeal isn’t just as a fashion item. Visitors to Toronto last year revealed in the multicolored madness of an 80ft-long flip-sequin tunnel in the city’s Deer Park area. Designed by Studio F Minus, it glistened with 14m sequins. Its display was short-lived, but they intend to reuse the fabric for future installations. 

Now, flip sequins have reached the world of contemporary dance. The latest cerebral production by Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater Wuppertal, seen at Sadler’s Wells recently, featured a cohort of male characters crowded around a statuesque female dancer dressed in flip sequins. When the men ran their hands up and down her body, the inky black of her slinky dress showed the brilliant gold trace of handprints.

At the end of the show, a spotlight was pointed at a large black and gold sequined canvas that was being slowly lowered. The light caught the tiny discs to dramatic effect. I was in the audience. People gasped. It was nothing short of mesmerizing.

  • This article was amended on 4 March 2019. An earlier version said the sequin tunnel designed by Studio F Minus had a short-lived existence, resulting in it being covered with a lot of single-use plastic. While it is no longer on display in Toronto, the creators intend to reuse the fabric for future installations.


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