The Real Christmas Jumper | The Aran Jumper

Word to the wise: no one feels fun and festive in an itchy acrylic sweater with 3D felt antlers.

The Christmas sweater of 2015 is an altogether more appealing proposition: the Aran knit. That deliciously cosy, creamy coloured cable-knitted sweater that whispers good taste – and this season no cold-winter wardrobe should be without one. “It has stood the test of time because it’s chic and practical,” says Michael Kors, who included  an Aran with elbow-length sleeves and a sweet Peter Pan collar on  his autumn catwalk. “When the temperature dips, everyone wants a knit that looks good and feels amazing. The Aran is a lasting  design of beautiful craftsmanship and texture; it’s universally flattering and is incredibly versatile, too; it works well with almost anything.”

Michael Kors

Michael Kors

A brief history: the Aran sweater dates back to 1892 and takes its  name from the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland. Traditionally knitted by the wives of fishermen to keep their husbands warm and dry at sea (they are usually made from 100 per cent wool that retains its natural lanolin, making it water resistant), the various patterns signified the village where the fishermen came from. Also, every weave relates to the fishing world: the cable indicates a fisherman’s ropes; the honeycomb knit symbolises the hard-working bee; the basket weave represents a basket brimming with a bountiful catch; the zigzag stitch recalls the twisting pathways along the cliffs; and the diamond design is a sign of wealth and prosperity. Years later, the style crossed the Atlantic to Hollywood, where Aran sweaters soared in popularity during the Fifties and Sixties, endorsed by Steve McQueen and Grace Kelly.

The knitting needles went into overdrive this season. Arans were everywhere: spotted at Valentino, where creamy, slouchy styles boasted a graphic black triangle intarsia; at Altuzarra they took on a shade of dove grey and were tucked into racy pencil skirts; while over at Max Mara, toffee-coloured and oversized styles proved just the ticket under one of the house’s famous camel coats. There were highly worked styles, too, like those at Alexander Wang – the cool girl’s Aran – which were studded and threaded with silver chain; at Delpozo, where Josep Font whipped up a masterpiece bursting with shaggy fringe and woolly coral-like curls; and over at Sacai, where Chitose Abe concocted something entirely new from the humble Aran knit, splicing hers with crisp white cotton shirting and elongating the style into a sweet kick-skirted sweater dress. But if it’s tradition you’re after, look no further than & Daughter, the family-run luxury knitwear label set up by former fashion PR Buffy Reid and her father, which offers several Aran styles, from shrunken to outsize to patchwork, all in 100 per cent British wool yarn  and made in Ireland.

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Altuzarra and Valentino

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Isabel Marant and Sacai

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Alexander Wang and Max Mara

“There are iconic garments such as blue jeans, the white T-shirt and military jacket that are so well achieved you will never tire of them, and the Aran knit belongs to that category,” says Isabel Marant, continuing, “I love its efficiency; it’s warm, comfortable and made out of rough wool that lasts for ages.” Her redux this season takes shape as a shrunken sailor sweater complete with glossy black shoulder buttons. “My mother has always hand-knitted. Since I was a child she knitted me amazing Aran sweaters. I still have some of them and they still inspire me.”

Nostalgia chimes with other designers, too. “During my late teens I would steal my father’s original Aran sweater,” says Louise Trotter, creative director at Joseph. “It was hand-knitted, heavy and slightly scratchy, but it could be styled with everything. Although my father is no longer here, his Aran sweater  is one of my few keepsakes. It’s  still in my wardrobe 20 years later,  a cherished piece waiting to be passed down to my daughter.”

Head to Joseph and you will find Louise’s latest design, which takes shape as a deconstructed layered patchwork piece complete with cables, cardigan stitch (a Joseph original) and stretched-out sleeves for a borrowed-from-the-boyfriend vibe. “Personally I can’t wait to wear it,” she adds. “It will be my winter comfort blanket.”

Felt antlers not included.


Autumn/Winter 2015-16 Altuzarra

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Joseph Altuzarra has been taking to the New York Fashion Week schedule for five seasons now with investment from Kering behind him. And it’s serving him well – each season his aesthetic moving on and stepping up into something more refined and more luxe. This collection was an absolute case in point: flamboyant, sinuous and sexy, this was an incredibly seductive collection.

Sexy high boots, we’ll take them; pie-crust ruffles on white lace dresses that were barely dresses at all, yes please; fluting pencil skirts that splayed playfully around the knees, definitely. It was all cut beautifully and just as much as it was sassy, it came with a repressed primness – those high ruffled collars that hinted at Victoriana strictness.

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Altuzarra had cited Truman Capote’s social swans and Gloria Vanderbilt as muses. “I was interested in American High Society in the Seventies and the aesthetic dialogue that it fostered in design, fashion and art,” he explained. And with this suitably fashionable and social fairytale in place, he added his own interest of eclecticism spanning the Sixties to the Eighties, as well as a dash of contemporary culture – the latter of which kept it all in wearable check, and made the use of slits, sequins and lace, velvet and devoré, and pie-crust collars all the more clever and enticing.

This was a new take on the lady of the manor.

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Feathered Feet

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Who needs practical shoes anyway?

At Altuzarra and House of Holland, designers Joseph Altuzarra and Henry Holland posed a much more lively solution for those days when you feel like getting dressed from the bottom up: feathered, open-toe sandals. At Altuzarra’s Resort showing, hefty servings of vermilion and jet plumage pooled around models’ toes—a new take on swanning around, perhaps? The designer’s femmes weren’t the type to be precious with their heels, however. Instead, he showed them with a variety of styles, including an office-appropriate white suit, a cocktail-ready dress with a slit slashed up the thigh, and a beachy marigold dress with frayed edges, suggesting that a feathered foot works in any scenario.

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Over in London, Holland mixed Peruvian textures with “Cali skater girl” vibes for a bright, patterned collection that had no shortage of his signature flair. His feathered shoes tended toward ombré, with purple fading into magenta, and electric blue giving way to shocking pink. The most memorable pair, though, came in a jolt of neon green. Appropriate for the foothills of Peru or the skateboards of Venice Beach? Maybe not. But Holland’s clique of British It girls will no doubt be wearing them this season. And if posh New Yorkers and fun-loving Brits can agree on feathered feet, then maybe it’s time for us all to give the trend a try.

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Spring/Summer 2015 Altuzarra

imageimageShe’s an expensive creature the Altuzarra woman. Just look at her in that rich tobacco suede shirtdress. Evenwhen she adopts a touch of seersucker pastel gingham, it’s done so in a lean pencil skirt suit and comes over as more pristine than picnic, because well, everything is this woman’s wardrobe is pristine: from the series of lattice leather vests and pencil skirts (meticulously bonded and grommeted together by hand and worn with nothing underneath but a monied suntan) to those silky shirt dresses with slits up to there (few could execute such slashes without proceedingsturning unsavoury).

Altuzarra is expert at dressing his woman. Those shirt dresses are a favourite of his, so too those wrap-around skirts with ribbon streams and ties, and disrupted blanket stripes on slubbed linen car coats. “Rosemary’s Baby and Barry Lyndon were the starting points for this collection,” reveals the designer. “I became interested in the idea of a sinister and undone prettiness and romance, ill-fated and doomed.”

Certainly there was a romance to his series of wafting eveningwear; wisp-thin and sail-like in volume in a manipulated ikat print, and elsewhere, slithers of black silk slip dresses were trimmed in tiny dangling seed pearls; Altuzarra said he wanted to evoke ideas in 17th century jewellery and adornment.

A triumph.

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