M&S’S crys­tal ball shows spring’s wardrobe sta­ples

The key to laid­back style? A wardrobe that does the hard work for you, says Emily Cronin

The Daily Telegraph - - Fashion -

There’s no place for mono-taskers in a multi-task­ing world – least of all in our wardrobes. That’s the mes­sage be­hind Marks & Spencer’s spring-sum­mer 2018 wom­enswear ranges, which take ver­sa­til­ity as their north star.

In a mar­ket where we are all re­luc­tant to part with our money, the M&S de­sign team added value by cre­at­ing pieces that pull at least dou­ble duty. A python-green parka comes with a snap-in, snap-out char­treuse quilted lin­ing and trans­former sleeves ( just pull the tog­gles to cinch them to the el­bow – hi-tech, no?). There’s a min­i­mal leather jacket – boxy, olive green, with patch pock­ets on the chest – which wouldn’t look out of place on a rail in Joseph. It’s fully re­versible, the navy leather sec­ond op­tion go­ing some way to­wards jus­ti­fy­ing the £249 price tag. They’re even pitch­ing sleek black swim­suits as bod­ies to wear, come sum­mer, with a bias-cut skirt, or maybe un­der a silky, py­jama-style trouser suit.

“We want to show ver­sa­til­ity and how you can wear pieces in dif­fer­ent ways,” says Quer­alt Fer­rer, the re­tailer’s “I’ll have what she’s wear­ing” de­sign di­rec­tor. “So you can re­v­erse the jacket. You can wear a smart coat in a much more in­for­mal way, with a nice denim wash and a crisp cot­ton shirt. It’s easy to mix.”

Mix­ing, of course, is M&S’S rai­son d’être. Shop­pers who walk into one of the brand’s 70 top stores fo­cused on buy­ing new school uni­forms for the chil­dren have been known to come away with glitzy ear­rings and a nice cash­mere roll-neck jumper for them­selves, too. Ex­ec­u­tives know this, not­ing that lately shoes have been par­tic­u­larly good at get­ting shop­pers through the doors – and in­spir­ing them to “ex­plore the rest of the brand” once they are.

What else in­spires women to shop? Sparkle, as the mag­pie the­ory of re­tail would have it. The new col­lec­tion prom­ises a hit of the glit­tery stuff via a see-now, buy-now col­lec­tion of partywear. The Evening Edit con­sists of metal­lic flo­ral jac­quard skirts and dresses, a black-and-gold calf-length ki­mono (though it would be even bet­ter – less Hefner – if it stopped at

the hip) and a gold Lurex crew-neck that you can just pic­ture wear­ing with jeans on Box­ing Day. Grad­u­ate Fash­ion Week award-win­ner Claire Tagg joined the M&S de­sign team to cre­ate the col­lec­tion over a three­month sec­ond­ment.

“Her hand­writ­ing is very evening wear and it was just what we were look­ing for,” Fer­rer says. If you haven’t yet sorted your out­fit for the work hol­i­day party, you’re in luck – the col­lec­tion is avail­able now in the Mar­ble Arch store and on­line.

But the lion’s share of the col­lec­tion will drop into stores grad­u­ally from Jan­uary. Two-in-ones aside, highlights of the new range in­clude the asym­met­ric-hem silk skirts, blaz­ers with sleeves de­signed to be pushed up to the el­bow and – even­tu­ally

– airy sum­mer dresses (be pa­tient, these land in

March). Along with ver­sa­til­ity, an­other fo­cus was fab­ric, so there are sig­nif­i­cantly more pieces in pure cot­ton, linen and silk than in past col­lec­tions. In place of this sea­son’s ruf­fle sleeves, there are gen­tly puffed shoul­ders and ex­ag­ger­ated cuffs. And the trench coat – a bright spot in re­cent M&S col­lec­tions – isn’t go­ing any­where next sea­son.

Spring 2018’s edi­tion comes in clas­sic khaki, and is free from adorn­ment be­yond the ro­man­tic bal­loon sleeves.

There are ter­rific colours, too, mov­ing from aubergine, ever­green and navy in the ear­li­est drops, through to egg-yolk yel­low and peach – freshlook­ing with cin­na­mon and mer­lot. If the col­lec­tion could have done with edit­ing out a few of the ubiq­ui­tous el­bow or wrist frills, it’s also un­de­ni­ably premium-look­ing. Nowhere more so than in the ac­ces­sories. M&S has been a fash­ion in­sider’s se­cret weapon when it comes to ear­rings for some time. That will con­tinue thanks to the graphic enam­elled ear­rings (An­nie Costello Brown-like) and tor­toise­shell hoops – all the bet­ter for now com­ing with sen­si­tive skin-kind ti­ta­nium posts and backs.

The sur­pris­ingly light glove-style shoes in lemon, cream and laven­der look like a bulk buy.

In M&S’S most re­cent earn­ings re­port, the re­tailer’s cloth­ing and home di­vi­sion reg­is­tered an “en­cour­ag­ing” 5.3per cent uptick in full-price sales, with like-for-like sales clock­ing a smaller-thanex­pected 0.7per cent de­cline. CEO Steve Rowe has made re­vamp­ing the cloth­ing busi­ness his top pri­or­ity since he took charge.

He’s stream­lined the num­ber of sub-brands (Indigo and Collezione, RIP) and re­duced the num­ber of pro­mo­tions in a bid to re­train cus­tomers’ price ex­pec­ta­tions. The next step in the strat­egy is a new drive to­ward “fo­cus­ing on fam­i­lies”.

“It shouldn’t be dif­fer­ent sto­ries for menswear and wom­enswear – it’s a fam­ily,” Fer­rer says. “The wom­enswear and lin­gerie con­cept should join up with other busi­ness units, so you can go to M&S and find some­thing that’s right for you, your husband, your chil­dren and your home.” But with an em­pha­sis – they hope – on you.

‘You can wear a smart coat in a much more in­for­mal way, with a nice denim wash’

Min­i­mal: a boxy, olive green leather jacket that works twice as hard be­cause it is fully re­versible (£249)

Be­low: M&S Col­lec­tion, top £25, skirt £39.50, bag £69; right: M&S Col­lec­tion, jumper £25, skirt £35, bag £35, boots £69; far right: dress £79, ear­rings £9.50, shoes £25, all

drop­ping Jan/feb

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