A mean and moody theme saw a dusky palette dominate streetwear trends at To Be Confirmed (TBC) and The Park as the UK young fashion industry confidently ushered in a more grown-up aesthetic.
It was most notable on heavy-knit button cardigans and on outerwear, where leather and pea coat styles were key. Both categories have more expensive product and with buyers searching for commercial big ticket items it was important that these did not alienate the thirty- and forty- somethings still buying into street and denim-driven brands.
Both categories also featured heavy knits and leather jackets for both men and women. But TBC in particular was heavily weighted towards menswear, with brands like Blend and Chilli Red choosing to show their counterpart womenswear ranges at Pure instead.
Another non-gender specific trend to emerge was the use of metallic touches on sweats and tops, including studs, Lurex yarn on knits and gold and silver foiling on both men's and women's styles. Colour injections came via 1980s-style bright graphics on hoodies, sweats and T-shirts.
Elsewhere, the uniformly muted colour spectrum gave the impression of a simple look dominating the styles. But on closer inspection there were details aplenty, from elaborate embroidery on denim to multi-panelled shirts and multi-pocket leather jackets with biker details - all designed to help indies keep the high street at bay. At The Park, repeat prints and complex graphics featured on sweat tops and lightweight nylon jackets.
Overall, the mood at the two shows was one of cautious optimism. Exhibitors expressed a guarded confidence for both the show and the season ahead. Visitors were also upbeat and, with some retailers claiming to have had a good year's trading, things are brightening up for UK young fashion retailers - even if the key trends are not.
The absence of the denim giants at TBC and The Park meant jean styles were slightly off-centre and quirkier than the clean, raw look that held sway at Bread & Butter Barcelona. The strongest design twist to emerge was the use of elaborate embroidery on back-pocket details, seen at Blue Guru, Two Angle, Luke and Ringspun, while subtler versions featured at Oxbow and Chilli Red. Coloured, patterned and foiled denim came in skinny silhouettes for both men and women at People's Market and Dr Denim Jeansmaker, creating a directional look. In terms of shapes, skinny styles still featured at many brands, but straight-legged looks were dominant.
Leather jackets were big news for both men and women. Dominated by black, the flying jacket and biker styles were most popular, featuring at Cast Iron and Les Temps des Cerises, while Luke's buttery smooth option offered a softer silhouette. The main alternative to leather came from woollen, military-inspired styles, with reworkings of the sailor's pea coat in a palette of black and grey. Staying with the military theme, camouflage jackets were once again popular among streetwear brands, this time opting for more detailed versions of the classic camouflage print. Technical fabrics were also a popular choice, ranging from quilted styles to lightweight nylons.
Knitwear looks likely to be big business for autumn 07, thanks to a smarter aesthetic and more mature streetwear styling. Many retailers at TBC were interested in layered looks using fine-gauge knitwear. But while there was some fine-gauge on offer - seen at Vacant and Dark Kindle Light - it was the heavy button-through that conquered. Long lines and shawl collars were key at Aem'Kei, Hurley and Farah. Sealkay and Triplestitch offered examples of texture, particularly in cable knits, with leather buttons a key feature. And while most labels went monotone, Money livened things up with heavy branding.
Shirts remained a key category for men. Mod-inspired silhouettes with tiny collars came in plain and micro-patterned styles, from satin weave checks and tiny ginghams to the muted pinstripes used at Tootal, Baracuta and Modern Amusement. Colourful lumberjack plaids offered a contrasting trend, in bright red at Pace and Penfield, yellow at Blood & Glitter or grey at DIE and Sealkay. Men's and women's graphic print T-shirts and hoodies came with subtle foiling and lightweight studs for a glitzy appeal at Worn By and Ripstop. Lurex yarn was knitted into women's tops at Insight, which continued the 1980s look most prevalent in the use of bold repeat graphics, as seen at Volcom, RVCA, Pseudohero, Gentle Fawn and Wasting My Time.
WHAT THE BUYERS SAID...
Duncan Michie, owner of Manhattan, with branches in Slough and Hemel Hempstead
"I've come to TBC to find a couple of specific things, such as a commercial take on the traditional pea coat. But to be honest I preferred the old Tobacco Dock venue - it was easier to navigate. In terms of trading, this year has been better than the previous two, but to me the market still feels fragile."
David Weeks, buyer at Xile in Edinburgh
"Luke's jackets are probably the best things here, because they come in easy silhouettes at competitive price points. The days of £200 to £300 jackets are over - apart from leathers, jackets will only sell at about £100 to £120. One True Saxon is also getting it right with a collection that's easy to wear and simple. There's no cut and sew, so the lads like it."
Darren Conway, buyer at south-east mini-chain Choice
"I come to TBC to sort out some of my in-season buying and I'll be seeing brands such as Two Stoned and UCLA. Otherwise I'm happy with what we've got in the store already, although we are accessorising like mad. Brands like Duchamp and Mulberry are going well for us. It's been a good season and high price points are working well."
Tim Keating, co-owner of Drome in Liverpool
"TBC is always a good show to come to. I haven't really picked up anything new yet, but it's important to see what's going on. The move to this venue is OK - I don't think it will make much difference in the long run, but it is a good location. The Park is nearby too, but I'm not sure that I'm going to visit it."
John Illingworth, menswear buyer at Psyche in Middlesbrough
"We've just come to TBC for a look around. We are reinforcing and topping up our offer after Pitti Uomo and Bread & Butter Barcelona, and on the whole we are edging away from the really casual stuff. Instead we're aiming to develop the smarter, layered look that's proving popular in menswear."
Adam Kelly, buyer, House of Fraser
"We've come later in the day so it's not too busy here, which makes a big difference - you actually have time to look at all the product properly. There are lots of brands that we deal with here and it all looks quite good. I definitely prefer this location to the Tobacco Dock venue, where it was last season. This is much more central."
Michael Hayes, general manager and Ian Theasby, assistant manager at Sa-kis in Sheffield
"We've come here to find points of difference - we've got our core styles catered for already. But a couple of brands, such as Money and BallerR, are looking great. They are a bit different from the smarter look that is still strong at a lot of labels."
David Holland and Sean Ward, co-owners of Bespoke Boutique in Norwich
"We're opening next month, so we've come down to get ahead of our autumn 07 buy and look for new brands. It's all pretty impressive, but unfortunately a lot of the labels here are already represented in Norwich. Despite that, the show itself is brilliant. We went to Margin but the show wasn't relevant for our store."