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Still smoking

A smoking ban did little to dampen energies in Paris, with collections at Who's Next and Pret a Porter's Atmosphere slickly combining innovation with commercial sensibilities

Contemporary womenswear brands in Paris rolled out a parade of clearly identifiable trends. For buyers it means autumn 07 could not be more straightforward.

Till-ringing categories such as dresses were given another big outing, with almost identical style references to the shapes seen for spring 07 and even autumn 06. The smock silhouette continued to command rail space, and noticing the consumer preference for combining the silhouette with leggings, thick tights or jeans, designers shortened hemlines, blurring the distinction between dresses and tunics.

Tunics provided plenty of merchandise options for autumn 07 and should appeal to stores buying for younger shoppers. The flirty hemlines on show were ideal for teaming with leggings, while airy tunic and smock shapes were flattering for almost all body shapes. With the democratic appeal of the trend, it is little wonder that consumers have warmed to smocks and that brands in Paris elected to gamble on the trend's mileage for another season.

Demure alternatives, relevant for a broader age range, also made an entrance, with structured shapes and knee-skimming hems presented with 1950s references. Think figure-hugging lines, slim elbow-length sleeves, structured bows, satin and tweed. It was prim, but more wearable than autumn 05's ladylike theme.

Coats, a sore subject due to the mild autumn 06 weather, which forced a few too many onto last season's Sale rails, re-emerged with gusto for autumn 07. The 1960s provided the backdrop with Peter Pan collars, voluminous sleeves and subtler cocoon shapes in a palette dominated by black. But there were some alternatives for buyers, with jackets and chunky knits leading the way. Jackets were cropped, with double-breasted styles and leather both stepping forward.

However, knits ran closely behind dresses in Paris as the big product for autumn. A sensible choice for buyers looking to avoid a repeat performance of last season, autumn 07's chunky longer knits will be an easy alternative, perfect for a mild autumn teamed with leggings and skinny jeans.

DRESSES

The dress has been a commercial must-have for the past three seasons and brands banked on this continuing for autumn 07. Smocks remained important, but a more structured 1950s-inspired silhouette emerged as a grown-up alternative. Elsewhere hemlines were rising, blurring the boundaries between mini-dresses and tunics. Designs were mostly in single colours, but tweed and a few bold prints crept into favour.

TOPS

Moving away from relaxed jersey layers, tops took on a more refined look in Paris. Taking their lead from dresses, smock styles were plentiful in either satin or cotton designs. Making a fast reappearance, pussy-bow blouses were another big story, while small repetitive prints, most striking as red on white backgrounds, were prolific. As a result, embellishments were low key, mostly consisting of subtle beading and lace.

JACKETS

It's been a couple of seasons since jackets were a key autumn outerwear choice, but they made a return for autumn 07 in Paris. Offering a dressier alternative to the chunky knitwear trend, styles mirrored the key coat trends, with 1960s-style Peter Pan collars and loose silhouettes coming through in classic wool and blends. Leather also made a comeback and is likely to be one of the more directional looks for autumn.

KNITWEAR

As a substitute to heavier-weight coats which failed to set sales alight in autumn 06, chunky knitwear came to the fore with belted cardie styles and longer-length designs proving big favourites. Knitted cable dresses were offered as warm single-layer alternatives for when temperatures are not quite so chilly. Hemlines flitted between short and sassy to longer, sophisticated looks.

COATS

They may not have flown off the rails last autumn, but coats continued to channel the look of the moment, with 1960s-inspired silhouettes leading the way. Sleeves were a key concern, whether bracelet length or puffed from the elbow. Besides the parkas and fit and flare styles revisited for another season, more directional 1960s-inspired styles were also in evidence, including a collarless shearling with chartreuse leather pockets.

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