Autumn/Winter 2015-16 Louis Vuitton

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PARIS Fashion Week might be winding down but the clothes on the catwalk just kept getting better. Three seasons in and Nicolas Ghesquiere is undoubtedly feeling more confident in his Louis Vuitton artistic director role – this a collection that continued to combine that clever blend of savvy, rock ‘n’ roll and retro that so belongs to his girl and bring with it a real sense of him, what he did back in his smash-hit Balenciaga days.

He and Hedi Slimane are both designers that very much cater to that certain breed of “cool girl” and while Slimane sticks to his guns of an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy, Ghesquiere gave his girl a whole new wardrobe this season. It felt fresh, it felt exciting and there was a lot to love – mental shopping lists were being compiled here, starting with the vanity case bags that so suitably riffed on the luggage heritage of the house, and ending with the retro shaggy coats that had a wonderful passed-down feel about them, the light catching them in such a way that a yellow fleck had a lovely aged quality as though the pieces had once belonged to your very cool mum back in the day.

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In between and it was about cute ribbed knits with peekaboo cut-out décolletage details, their edges gently curling up, one covered in diamante. There were the most perfect leather miniskirts that came with two-inch incisions slicing into them – it was about that level of detail, that all made it dreamy.

Chain belts dangled with silver medallions and the signature Damier Louis Vuitton check was transposed in fuzz on skirt and jacket looks to feel really special. Tailoring throughout was impeccable and that opening series of super shaggy jackets was all about a wonderful enveloping volume, a supersized nod to Margot Tenenbaum perhaps.

Still complete with Ghesquiere’s magic touch, it had moved on – more of him coming through to great and covetable effect.

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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 DKNY

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THERE was a certain back-to-school cool going on at today’s DKNY show – the collection full of bright blocks of colour in sweatshirt, blazer and pleated or asymmetric skirt formation. Cobalt blue, turquoise and red, it was a solid and easily wearable offering with the make-up – eyeliner drawn all around the eye – proving to be the most adventurous and intimidating element. Collars were high, hems undecided and sleeves long and pulled over wrists so that there was a feeling of transition throughout – one part schoolgirl to one part grown-up but not quite sure which yet. It made for fun and awkward charm. Pay close attention and there were bejewelled slithers on those school skirts and pleats elsewhere faded to sheer.

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Autumn/Winter 2015-16 Whistles

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Whistles is a contemporary fashion brand, based in London.

Led by inspiring CEO Jane Shepherdson, Whistles encapsulates an intelligent sense of design with timeless and luxurious pieces. Collections are modern and laid back with an attention to detail and quality.

Chief Executive at Whistles, Jane Shepherdson is the figurehead of our brand. Originally from Bristol, she studied in London and worked as Brand Director at Topshop. With an uncanny ability to know what women want to wear, she has been working her magic at Whistles since 2008. Here, we find out a bit more about her world.

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Can you describe what you do at Whistles?
The most important part of my role is to establish the direction, the aesthetic, and what the brand stands for. The designers and buying teams create each collection, and I keep checking in with them to ensure that we are all still working towards the same vision. They’re totally involved in what they are doing, but I can be objective, and from that position, I can see the shape of it – the big picture, as it were. The role also involves making decisions on where and when to open new stores, both in the UK, and abroad, and how best to invest for the future.

What would you say the Whistles aesthetic is, then?
It’s an effortless way of dressing. It is unique, there’s an insouciance to it, a sort of ‘I just threw it together and it worked’. That’s what we try to encapsulate. It is easy and laid back, but also luxurious.

Is that quite a modern way of dressing?
I think it is. We try to create collections that tell a story through design, fabric and colour, but also where each piece stands up on its own, and can be worn in a myriad of different ways. It isn’t too formulaic. Each season we decide what will be the most covetable pieces that anyone would want to own.

They’re pieces women can slot into their wardrobe…
Yes, that’s important – but we also want to provide solutions. Often, if women are going to some kind of event, they panic and buy something totally out of character. What we try to provide is a dress that is special but interesting and contemporary as well. It might be a purple lace number but it will have pockets or a big thick zip down the back. They’ll be something about it that will look cool rather than overdressed.

Have you seen women wearing Whistles on the street?
I increasingly see women in Whistles. I love it – I always want to say ‘I know where you got that.’ I was at an event recently and happened to notice the woman in front of me. Right from the shoes up, every single thing was Whistles. I tapped her on her shoulder and said ‘you like Whistles, then?’

Is it inspiring when you see real women wearing it?
Oh yes, I love to see how different women style our clothes, as it is a brand that can be worn in so many different ways. I love that each summer, I notice Whistles dresses from two or three years ago coming out. That means they weren’t just one season, trend-driven items. They stand up on their own and have a timeless quality.

How else do you keep up with what women want out of their clothes?
I spend a lot of time out visiting the stores seeing what they look like and experiencing what customers experience. Because however much you look at numbers or a sample on a rail, there’s no substitute for being in the shop and seeing it as the customer does. I watch people, I butt in, I start serving.

So you could be in a Whistles store and be served by Jane Shepherdson?
Definitely. There’s nothing I like more than asking people what they think of things.

Is there anyone you have in mind when thinking about the Whistles woman?
We love Sofia Coppola. She’s creative, intelligent, stylish, very understated, confident. You have to admit she is pretty cool! We always think of women who are creative and intelligent as well as being stylish. That’s quite important – Whistles is an intelligent choice. We’ve been described as ‘the thinking woman’s fashion brand’, and we quite like that.

How do you feel about being a role model to younger women in fashion?
Young women in this industry need female role models, so although it feels a little odd, if I can help more women to realise that they can achieve their ambitions, then it is worth it. This industry employs over 80% women, and yet in the boardrooms, they make up less than 10%. It’s women’s fashion – it just doesn’t make sense to me. I am always keen to talk to students, both to offer them advice, but also to hear things from their point of view.

Did you always know you wanted to work in fashion?
Yes, but I knew I couldn’t design. I think when I was about 14, my mother, who was a Biochemist, said one of her students was a buyer and described what it was. It really clicked with me, I had no idea that jobs like that existed. I thought ‘yes! that’s what I want to do!’ I was 22 when I got my first job in fashion. I had really short hair, and my favourite outfit was pair of DMs, black tights with a pair of brown velvet hotpants and a vintage jacket.

While your style may have changed, you still love fashion. What keeps it exciting for you?
I think it’s the ever changing nature of it, the way that trends develop and grow, that nothing is certain. Fashion is the thing that gets us up in the morning – interpreting trends and creating something unique that will work for a Whistles customer. That’s really exciting and that’s what I think is really intelligent design. I love that.

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