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John Lewis aims to transcend seasons with new brand

John Lewis has launched an “affordable luxury” womenswear label to tap into a backlash against fast fashion and help the retailer to tackle the unpredictability of the British weather, its fashion and beauty buying director, Ed Connolly, has told Drapers.

John Lewis Modern Rarity

John Lewis Modern Rarity

Created by head of buying Jo Bennett and head of design Iain Ewing, Modern Rarity will launch online and in stores on September 8. The autumn 16 collection will comprise 90 pieces, including tailoring, separates and dresses.

Prices will range from £50 for a jersey roll-neck to £900 for a long shearling coat. Key pieces include wide-leg herringbone trousers (£120) and a military style full-length camel trench coat (£550).

With an emphasis on sophisticated silhouettes and premium fabrics, such as Italian-spun cashmere and heavyweight sand-washed silks, Modern Rarity is being billed as the “antithesis to fast fashion”.

The aim is to transcend the seasons, Connolly told Drapers: “Fashion will always be dominated by the weather, so we’re not moving away from having seasonable pieces, but we wanted to introduce more items that can be bought and worn regardless of the weather. They can be worn year round, but also for many years.

“It talks to a move away from disposable fashion. We’re trying to think about fewer, better pieces.”

John Lewis will invite guest designers to collaborate on each collection of Modern Rarity. For autumn 16, it will feature shirts designed by Palmer Harding (London Fashion Week designer duo Levi Palmer and Matthew Harding), priced at £100 to £150.

It has also introduced into the collection a floral print from its archive in Berkshire that dates back to 1883 and has been re-imagined for autumn 16.

“We want to give customers a reason to buy every single item in the range,” explained Connolly.

“People care more and more about provenance, about quality fit and tailoring. If we can tell that story we know we’re on to a winner. We think people will want to come to John Lewis to buy a certain piece, which will then anchor the rest of their wardrobe.

“We believe it will change the dynamic on the British high street. The label offers a new way of shopping for women, moving away from the two-gear dynamic of spring and autumn to focus on timeless style.”

Ed Connolly

Ed Connolly

Ed Connolly

We believe it will change the dynamic on the British high street

Connolly has been focused on developing John Lewis’s womenswear proposition, particularly its own brand offer, since he took over his current role in June 2014. This will be a continued priority over the next five years, he confirmed.

Modern Rarity will be John Lewis’s second biggest in-house womenswear brand after the John Lewis range. It will have newly designed, dedicated store fixtures.

However, Connolly insisted its introduction would not have a dramatic impact on the third-party proposition in stores.

“Branch by branch we will look at the space, and the balance of own label and third party. Modern Rarity is a new brand that will require shop fitting, so it will take up some space, but some of that will come from our own brands and some from third party, as part of the natural evolution of our offer.”


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