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
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