Marks & Spencer menswear has moved on dramatically for autumn 11 with a Ralph Lauren meets Hackett-vibe, embracing home-spun fabrics to celebrate the retailer’s authentic British heritage.
This was one of the most consistent menswear collections seen at M&S in recent years, which was no bad thing. However, depending on how the range is presented in store, it may take the core M&S shopper a little time to move as quickly as some of this range has.
It wasn’t as if M&S was breaking the mould trend-wise - far from it, many of these looks were done by its young fashion equivalents last autumn - so the timing is right now. Individually the pieces were brilliant while the slick press campaign (see pictures) is sure to garner massive attention. As it stands, this imagery won’t be going into stores though. The key thing now is to tell the older gent that behind the fresh styling, M&S is still delivering great classic menswear and wardrobe staples.
All of the sub-brands from Blue Harbour to Collezione, embraced the use of British wool and tweed, while there was an emphasis on attention to detail which made the range scream a clear message of quality.
Blue Harbour featured a great Harris Tweed jacket with storm tab under the lapel, which will retail for £200. A tumbled suede version of a Barbour jacket was also important and a navy Goverall-style duffel coat was also strong. A tweed gilet - a modern shape - made sure the range didn’t veer too far into grandfather territory.
Fisherman knits in cream were great, though will probably prove more commercial in other colours.
Menswear design director Tony O’Connor said that the retailer was the largest purchaser of British wool but that M&S had not yet told the customer that. He added: “The use of British wools and tweed like Harris Tweed adds real credibility.”
Tweed will drop in store for October.
Cord formed the backbone of the retailers’ trouser offering and came in plenty of shades. O’Connor said that wearing cords with a blazer offered the customer a more casual option to a full tailored suit. “It’s a massive season for cords. They look more relevant than ever,” he said.
O’Connor also pointed to his “ode to Halston”, which styled a sharp grey Collezione checked blazer over a black roll neck and black cords for a nod to the 1970s trend.
Within North Coast, M&S’ “denim” brand, the British heritage story continued. Best were the furry-lined cardigans which will double as outerwear including a chunky black cable knit. There was also a tumbled furry-lined plaid shirt and some good marl sweaters.
Meanwhile M&S will introduce Limited casualwear for the first time next season having tested formalwear last autumn. The result included litho printed tees for wear under smarter blazers and military coats with faux-fur collars.
Knitwear was also important including a tobaccos cable knit jumpers and a grey two-tone rib knit. Both will retail for £39.50, which is at the higher end of the price architecture under limited.
Even Collezione, M&S’ more traditional sub-brand, had embraced heritage albeit with a sophisticated, luxury handle. Camel coats were really important and again the co-ordinated blazer and trouser look was backed ahead of a head to toe suit. Grey was an important accent colour.
Within suiting the double-breasted blazer was embraced but had been cut on a slender block. O’Connor said that far from the perception that db jackets were unflattering, the new versions actually had the opposite effect. It was true to say db blazers looked incredibly fresh but whether men can be persuaded into them remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, probably the most important part of tying the menswear offer together, came in the form of accessories. Men’s footwear looks to have had a major overhaul with its sub-brands finally getting there own identity. Conker-coloured hiking boots came within North Coast while desert boots formed part of Limited. Elsewhere there was a clear nod to traditional Northamptonshire footwear with brush-off and burnished finishes as well as brogues. Hopefully this will lead to less duplication next season.
Luxury-look leather luggage such as holdalls also did wonders for the overall feel, helping M&s to nudge Ralph Lauren territory.