Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Retailer designers part two: celebrating Britishness

Maybe it was the polished approach to commercial fashion that appealed at the Jaeger and Paul Smith shows, or maybe it was the furore surrounding "celebrating" British fashion at Number 10 Downing Street on Monday night - either way it's something to be applauded when major labels such as these British stalwarts send out utterly wearable, utterly on the money collections that women can actually wear.

Jaeger London
has quickly become one of the most successful higher-end, premium retail collections around and its presence on the London Fashion Week schedule is testament to the label's wide appeal - both for the mass market and designer crowd - and the fact that it thinks like a retailer not a designer. Belinda Earl, GCE has turned the brand into a highly desirable fashion offering while designer Karen Boyd delivers seasonal must-haves that manage to interpret rather than follow current trends.

Product-wise it's all about the signature slick tailoring in cool cottons and chic double faced canvasses - outlined with black bindings for extra graphic modernity. There is a softer side with floaty and romantic sprigged tunic blouses, billowing sleeves, fluid maxi dresses, flirty voile minis and a full range of trouser shapes; from the fashionably slouchy peg leg to the sportive crop and the bold sweep of a wide palazzo or a floral printed harem pant. With an overall theme of raffish British elegance and a romantic notion these are instant "buy now" hits. No wonder it's one show that attracts the rare US buyers in town this week.

Meanwhile traditionalist Paul Smith wouldn't dream of sending a non-commercial collection down the runway and with this approach he seems to be a designer thinking like a retailer. His spring 09 collection was inspired by an exhibition of British Orientalist art that just closed at the Tate Britain museum, and it was a cultural hybrid where classical English florals mixed with Raj-era style tailoring, clearly meant for hotter climes. Highlights included kaftan-inspired long cotton dresses and fluid harem trousers. The blue painted-on gingham check had a faded-in-the-sun appeal, turban head-scarves and linen scallop edged coat dresses were lightweight and formal attire for the summer social season. These gardenia print chiffons and black lace edged full skirt dresses are womanly and commercial all over the world - Smith's success across Asia and increasingly the US show his attention to the "money shots" when it comes to design. And it's no wonder his take on recession dressing will enable him to continue to have mass appeal: "we focused on scarves as the main accessory this season, because when times are tough women cut back - and there's a million ways you can use a scarf!"

1 comment:

Rollergirl said...

Love, love, loved the Jaeger show. SO clever! Paul Smith was a bit blah much as I love him and his brand. I hated those scarves, I thought they were TOO commercial!