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Brands play it safe for spring

Spring 09 suiting trends continue to embrace the grey shades that have dominated the past three seasons, with retailers and suppliers saying their customers are not prepared to move on too quickly from styles they have only just begun to understand.

While designers are introducing looser silhouettes on the catwalks of Milan and Paris, the most commercial looks in the UK remain focused on slimmer 1960s-inspired looks.

The overall mood will again be dominated by grey suits, updated for spring with silver-grey fabrications, black and white checks and subtle pinstripes. Hidden details and subtle fabrications are used to appeal to retailers looking for safe commercial options.

Matt Rawlings, director of Coes of Ipswich, said: “Design-led labels have been showing shorter, slimmer blocks with narrower lapels for some time, but this is something we are all going to be seeing more of next spring. Even the more classic manufacturers have developed blocks along these lines and so we will probably dip our toe in the water here by way of an experiment. Whether our customers like this look remains to be seen, but we have to try.”

Remus Uomo designer Keith Houston said the slim silhouette has bedded-in for menswear. “We’re doing low-rise trousers with tapered legs teamed with a cropped jacket in a single button. The slim silhouette is the definitive fashion style at the moment in tailoring and with so much going on with the silhouette the fabrics are less garish. You’ll struggle to find a bold pinstripe. Instead there are subtle microstructures, usually in light grey with silver and with chintzed, metallic finishes,” he said.

Jason Gerrard, director of agency Geko Fashion Marketing, which represents brands including Without Prejudice and Bäumler, said: “It’s not about playing safe – in fact that is the worst thing to do because it is crucial you excite the customer. But at this level of the market you have to give the market enough time to let a look develop for two, three seasons.”

He added that the slimmer silhouette was the dominant look for tailoring brand Without Prejudice, but said that in terms of the colour, there was a move to blue away from grey.

For contrast, the headline trends from this season’s Pitti Uomo menswear show in Florence, revolved around white tailoring, bright highlights and Portofino-style Riviera looks.

Etienne Gouws, brand manager of Italian tailoring label Facis, said: “The Mediterranean influence is back. There is a lot of linen, seersucker, soft shoulders and deconstructed tailoring. It is a commercial look and is what a lot of people want from their classic tailoring in the summer months.”

Raj Jain, owner of Review menswear in Surrey, said it was about striking a balance: “With the Riviera style you are at the mercy of the weather. So you back these styles a little bit – something in the window perhaps, to let customers know you are on the ball, but otherwise in this economic climate it is important to play it safe.”

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