For a brief moment earlier this year I actually believed I might get away with not having to buy an entire wardrobe this autumn/winter. "At last!" I said to myself as catwalk trends unravelled featuring old favourites of mine, such as a camel coat, shiny black equestrian boots, a tweed jacket with suede elbow patches and a black leather A-line skirt, "time to buy that new car". I soon realised, however, that just because designers such as Phoebe Philo and Victoria Beckham had decided to reclaim a few cool old classics doesn't mean I'll be any better off. Quite the reverse.
The more versions I see of the sort of pieces I've grown so fond of rolling into boutiques and being featured in magazines - often under the headline "crucial" - the more I see them for what they are: new. And boy, do I want them. Even if my tired old black leather biker jacket did have floral embroidery in the shape of tiny thistles, violets and roses on it, like Christopher Kane's must-have, autumn/winter style, it wouldn't pass the test. You see, unless it's box fresh this season, it really isn't in fashion.
I suspect right now there are lots of designers and retailers wondering why they didn't think of it before. Vintage is so over. There isn't really such thing as a classic any more because "classic" sounds old. And of course, the only thing worse than old clothes are cheap clothes. I'm not surprised those rumours about Karl Lagerfeld creating Chanel handbags for H&M turned out to be just that (in fact, he's doing a Lagerfeld bag for the Italian label, Hogan). It would have been daft to even begin to create a Chanel handbag out of fake leather.
The news that the Lanvin designer, Alber Elbaz, will create an up-market line for the Swedish chain (available November 23, 2010) fills me with trepidation. Can Lanvin, which is not only renowned for tricky precision cutting and swathing but also its use of luxurious fabrics, pull this off at high-street prices? Primark and other value stores might have got away with it for a while, but this season is definitely not about celebrating copies.
All of the current top 10 designer hotties - from the Burberry aviator jacket to John Galliano's astrakhan gilet - to those niche labels such as Isabel Marant all have something in common besides having the sort of price tags that would make an oil baron blanch. Their cost not only reflects a hefty mark up, and the fact there will not be many made, but also that they are crafted from prized fabrics in small ateliers by trained craftsmen. They contain the sort of unique design details that cannot be copied. That's not to say that copies will not emerge. They will in their thousands before inevitably becoming landfill. Copies will only serve to elevate the real thing (or the woman wearing it) to an even greater social status.
Take black leather, which is definitely enjoying a fashion moment. I've done countless photographic shoots over the years, particularly the type where you use a designer version from Gucci or the equivalent, then compare it to a mid-market brand and finally toss in a nubuck or fake leather to make the point that anyone can afford it. The point that I feel comes across is this: nothing looks cheaper than a cheap leather jacket.
What makes the current Celine collection look so marvellously expensive - colour aside, because as we know, camel and taupe always look classy - are the fabrics it is hewn from. Those leather T-shirts and trousers are the best possible advertisements for a French house founded on fine leatherwear. For accessories it's also a case of box-fresh-only too. Statement pieces - lady-like handbag, skinny belt - act as vital punctuation to pull off seasonal looks.
My tip for those who simply cannot afford a splurge on Lanvin (that's the real Lanvin, not the H&M version) is to team a dusted-off classic such as a biker jacket with something brand new, say, a longer length skirt. Secondly, invest in Rouge Coco No. 21 lipstick in the shade of Rivoli (used at the Chanel show), and if you are rocking the longer skirt, wear a pair of putty silk knee socks by Maria La Rosa. This way, you get to wear your (old) kitten heels or pointy-toe court shoes (which are back on trend in a big way). If anyone asks, just say it's all Prada.
Works every time.