AW18 key items: Coat wars
Oh for the days when parkas reigned supreme. It was all so easy back then as the parka took a starring role in any outerwear strategy while ‘traditional’ coats were, well, a bit too traditional to generate excitement.
Today though, everything's been shaken up and outerwear choices are a lot harder. The recent AW18 shows certainly rammed that message home. Many labels were outerwear obsessed, which may not come as a shock given that these were autumn and winter shows. But after quite a few seasons in which product was much more transitional and targeted at global shoppers who don't have to worry about the weather, it did come as a surprise.
So what did the shows offer us? A big trend for traditional mannish overcoats cut in ways that didn't feel very traditional. Puffers, continuing their cool key item comeback. And blanket wraps. Remember them? Those leftovers from the late 70s and the 80s that simply haven't been around for absolutely ages? They now make up a crossover category from the capes that are always bubbling under and the ponchos that ebb and flow on the trend front. Then there are ultra-fuzzy textures, faux fur that is clearly not real and even real furs trying to get away with looking as faux as possible.
And that's not to mention shearling. It was big news on the runway, but we’ll save that for a more shearling-focused trend piece.
The traditional overcoat (pictured top) is big news for the season ahead. It will be a brave move for the high street to pick this one up given how resistant many consumers are traditional coating. But it's less of a brave move at the higher end where the customer is always looking for something new and different from what the mainstream is wearing. These coats really are overcoats - that is, they'll go over everything (with the odd exception where they’re cut long and skinny, 1970s style.)
For the most part they're wide and roomy, sometimes too wide to be practical with shoulders that you'd struggle to squeeze through a doorway. They come in power colours or more muted traditional tweeds and checks. Designers also play with materials, using contrasting fabrics and patterns in one piece.
This traditional coat can be found in all lengths from 1960s-style car coat-length to floor-sweeping, as mentioned. And they come with furry collars too. But the best stick with their traditional roots, coming in a masculine style with their tweaked, generous proportions ending anywhere from mid-knee to mid-calf.
The puffer has made a big comeback in recent seasons and that comeback is continuing. It’s found in the season’s favourite blacks and whites, as well as power brights, and fabrics chosen for maximum shine. Designers are thinking differently with new proportions and cuts and also playing with pattern and material contrasts. This is an easy commercial friend to pick up and run with and also crosses over with the equally commercial quilt trend that has been resurfacing regularly in recent seasons. It's also a reflection of how casual high-end designer dressing has become in recent years.
Fun and fuzzy
The fondness for shearling this season means fuzzy fur textures are unsurprisingly big news. But it's not all about shearling as wild and wacky faux fur textures allow designers to have fun with outerwear. Think ultra chubby, playing games with colour, maximum contrast of materials, furry trims on woven coats and jackets, and even the highest quality woollens made to partially replicate fun furs. It's interesting that this trend is so strong at a time when many labels are declaring themselves to be fur-free. At times it's hard to tell whether the materials used are real fur or not. But perhaps that's the point as we move back to a situation where real fur is being frowned upon rather than coveted as in recent years.
The blanket wrap, thrown artfully over the shoulder was a staple of the late 70s and the 80s but has been unbelievably uncool ever since. And of course, when anything gets that anti-cool, then it's ready to step forward as the next big thing. And so it is for autumn as designers wrap us in cosy woven and knit blankets that are big enough to cover everything and keep out the cold. However, it’s not alway the most practical option. Anyone with a backpack will look like they have a hunchback while cross body bags will invite plenty of questions along the lines of “when is it due?”
Cloak and swagger
The blanket trend also feeds into the ongoing interest in capes. These are a regular feature of winter runway shows that there were more of them this time. In shearling, faux fur, woollens and even puffer style, they came in all lengths. While they're not likely to be the season's top outerwear trend, there are enough consumers who have a particular fondness for capes to keep demand going, with the young shoppers, who don't remember the last golden age of capes several decades ago, most likely to pick up on the trend.