Marks & Spencer unveiled its autumn 11 collection, the first full fashion season under new chief executive Marc Bolland, yesterday. Read on for an in-depth look at its next-season womenswear and lingerie, which interpretted the catwalks of Burberry Prorsum, Marc Jacobs, Louis Vuitton, Giles and Celine for next season.
M&S’s autumn 11 womenswear was divided into five main trend stories at its autumn11 press show yesterday: Historical Romance, Masculine/Feminine, Retro Glamour, Luxe Craft and 1960s Pop.
Each sub-brand took a view of every trend but was diluted or minupulated to serve its target shopper. For instance, Limited Collection targetted the youngest, most-trend led customer, while Per Una delivered the trends clearly but for an older, but fashion-aware group.
The broadest trend story and probably the most successful for it. Historical Romance harked back to both the 1940s and 1970s and threw in a bit of dandyesque goth for good measure. Faux fur and outwear were huge within this.
Absolutely outstanding were the Japanese-inspired prints which came on origami-fold jackets worn belted over a clashing digi-print skirt and faux-fur stole. This was easily the most stand-out outfit of the show.
Wide-leg black on camel-print palazzo pants were also strong while a pleated sage and rose printed tea-dress was a definite best seller thanks to its universal appeal - it was almost as iconic as the sell-out grey polka dot frock that Sam Cam wore a few seasons ago. These looks all summed up the 1940s vibe perfectly.
Less successful was the 1970s end of the story, which was very in-your-face with a top-to-toe purple tunic and trouser set and a Halston-esque satin purple kaftan dress. A snake print shirt dress which hit mid calf was slightly better, if an awkward length. Polka dot shirts inspired by Marc Jacobs were more commercial styles.
Another best seller was the black lace Edwardian collar dress, which will retail for just £99 and which was worn with incredible designer-look floral hosiery. This is the party dress of the season. It features on most of the promotional press material and leads the sub-story through a houndstooth dress with lace inlay, reminiscent of Chanel, and sequin-taped stretch trousers. Overall, M&S had clearly looked to the likes of Giles and Julien Macdonald for inspiration here.
Felt wool hats were huge within this story, with 1940s cloche styles and wide-brimmed 1970s styles. Expect hats to filter into the mainstream next season.
VERDICT: This is the sales winner, thanks to its emphasis on pretty prints and feminine fabrics such as lace. It is easy to understand and its individual pieces are easy to wear. It was styled superbly at the press show too. Drapers hopes M&S is brave enough to show the customer how this look can look too and that the retailer has the guts to back the more risky pieces in depth.
This story focused on brights and 1960s silhouettes. Standout pieces included an orange cocoon coat with black buttons, clearly inspired by Buberry Prorsum’s London Fashion Week show in February.
Other highlights were a cobalt blue round-neck arran knit, and a drop-waist coat with large window-pane checks. A toned down version of the 1960s trend included a tobacco-coloured cape worn with a zebra print mini-skirt and opaque tight - probably the most commercial outfit from this trend story. Less commercial but press-worthy was the plastic disc tunic and skirt, which sits under Limited Collection.
A blue tunic shaped dress with long tan leather sleeves looked like a strong seller.
Neil Hendy, joint head of womenswear design for the retailer told Drapers that bright outerwear had sold very well in recent seasons. He added that the strength of sales in coloured bottoms this season had led to the retailer putting in repeat orders on sell-outs, which will drop in stores within the next fortnight. “Our customer loves colour and it is so on trend for summer [we decided to carry it through],” he said.
VERDICT: Autumn is a clear outerwear season again and colour sells at M&S. This story will no doubt feature heavily within M&S’ advertising campaigns - a simple but effective way to update a wardrobe. Cobalt blue and tobacco will be where the volume is though rather than the bright oranges being pushed at the press show.
This story was all about layering, and was anchored by long, drapey knits, particularly strong when in gilet shapes. Much of the knitwear could also be worn as outwear due to its heavy gauge-nature. This was a clear daywear trend.
At the younger end of the spectrum a lopped gilet was worn over a tribal-print top - a move on from the tribal trend already in store this spring. It was worn with suede shorts and thick wool tights. Much of this story was styled with thick socks, leg warmers and boots, which were ankle-length or slouchy.
Hendy said that this was “about the seasons blending”. It will likely form the bridge from the shift from transitional to full autumn collections.
VERDICT: Perfectly Per Una. A highly commercial story, which will appeal to a spread of ages and body-shapes, but which will win most favour with the over 40s, the key customer group at M&S.
Probably the most surprising of the trend stories, M&S has worked hard to interpret the neutral palettes and classic adrongynous shapes seen on catwalks such as Celine.
This was all about camel and nude shades, almost an antidote to the 1960s Pop story.
Standout pieces included a double-breasted mannish covert coat, made with a luxurious alpaca-mix yarn, which cried out to be pawed. It was styles with slim-fit maroon trousers.
It also featured collaraless jackets and loose-block tailored blazers, which are likely to be bought to wear over more feminine body-con dresses.
A version of the autumn 10 Burberry leather-sleeved trench was also here - 12 months down the line.
VERDICT: This might be smack on trend but will M&S’ older customer understand it? Masculine isn’t where the older woman wants to go, nor should she. Apart from selected coats, Drapers can’t see this winning a huge proportion of spend.