Jigsaw's new creative director Louise Trotter is keen to stress that her first full collection for the retailer is all about an evolution, rather than a revolution, of its quintessentially British style. She may be right, but the preview of Jigsaw's autumn 07 range, held last week at the Bond Street store in London, has already stirred up the interest of the fashion press.
Consumer magazine and newspaper fashion editors polled by Drapers on the merits of the autumn offer were positive, with most saying it had a much-needed contemporary edge.
Trotter's design pedigree is a good fit for the retailer. She spent eight years as buying and design director for Whistles, followed by a stint in the US as vice-president of womenswear design at Gap, head of womenswear at Calvin Klein and a design role at Tommy Hilfiger.
She says: "The aim was to make Jigsaw's collection feel fresher and more contemporary. The brand has heritage. It's not just another high street label - there is an authenticity and a wealth of inspiration to draw upon. The fact that the brand's DNA is still tied up with founder John Robinson and his wife Bella's way of living has made it easier.
"I spent a lot of time looking at our old look books. I wanted to restate who the Jigsaw customer was and focus on strong pieces that can be worn in different ways. But above all, the new direction is about a fresh, English look. It should be effortless."
Trotter says she also focused on textures, handle and feel. "Although we still have a lot of soft pieces, we have introduced more structure and concentrated on key items such as the perfect pea coat, trench coat and duffle coat. We've looked at the cut and fit without changing the sizing, to make it a little sharper."
For autumn, the retailer has introduced two separate trouser fits. The Hampstead is a classic fit with a little more turn on the hip and thigh, while the Brompton is slightly lower on the rise and straighter in the hip and thigh.
Jigsaw has also looked carefully at its pricing to make entry prices competitive, while taking the opportunity to bring in a few more premium elements at the top of the range.
It is not just the collection that has a more modern feel. The store's packaging has also been revamped for autumn, with new carrier bags, wrapping and garment labelling. Managing director Charles Atterton says: "We have kept the Jigsaw font, but put it in silver against grey on paper carriers. It's a tweak rather than a major overhaul. We have freshened things up."
The retailer has taken the opportunity to refresh some of its key London stores in time for the collection's arrival. "Branches including Kensington, Brompton Road and Westbourne Grove have already been updated, and we will do one or two others," says Atterton. "It's not a major refurbishment - instead, John Robinson and Louise have looked at the stores and suggested a few key changes. It's about giving them a bit of TLC."
It will be interesting to see how Jigsaw's customers will view the changes. But if the consumer press reaction is anything to go by, the retailer could be onto a winner.
THE FASHION EDITORS' OPINION
Leanne O'Shea, deputy fashion editor, Drapers
"Jigsaw has managed to retain its brand signature while paving the way for a more fashion-forward customer base. Mixing its country heritage aesthetic with more contemporary silhouettes, key looks include tulip skirts in metallic fabrics with printed silk camisoles, and delicately dyed circular-cut skirts teamed with boyfriend-style oversized knits. A black leather smock-style dress is directional, while typically English-style pieces - from double-breasted wool coats to velvet Peter Pan-collar dresses - remain classic buys. The retailer has also upped its game on the accessories front, with oversized coloured totes making the best statement."
Stefan Lindemann, shopping editor, Grazia
"The collection is new and fresh - it has matured and comes across as chic and Parisian. There have always been little tucks here, little beads there, and the retailer is still doing this, but now the features are more subtle. It has picked up on the trend for tunic and shift dresses and even features a great leather dress. The accessories are excellent and are more in tune with the whole collection. It has taken much of its inspiration from the catwalk."
Carolyn Asome, deputy fashion editor, The Times
"I'm impressed - the collection has a much more distinct identity than over the past few seasons. The retailer was beginning to merge into [Jigsaw sister fascia] Kew. Jigsaw has always pushed boho - when that trend moved on, its challenge was finding a way to update it. This season's stuff was nice."
Liz Thody, fashion director, Easy Living
"I've been raving about the Jigsaw collection since I saw it - the retailer has upped the ante since the new fashion director came on board. There are some interesting details that make the range look expensive and special - zips on the outside, for example. For years, no one was getting excited about what Jigsaw was doing. While it is not radically changing or alienating its customer base, the collection now has more fashion elements. The clothes aren't hugely trend-led, but the pretty details make it more interesting."