Get caught up in the spin of the new season
The start of August might sound a little bit soon for getting to grips with new season fashion trends but you know what they say about early birds and worms. Besides, the pre-collections have arrived.
These don't merely provide a tasty snack before the serious mainline collections are served up in September, they hint at what will be the most important piece(s).
Late July into early August is now considered a critical retail period for global destination shopping capitals such as London, which is currently swelled by fashion-loving tourists from the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia (who are giving Paris a wide berth because of new laws against veils that cover the face).
I can't remember ever seeing a more appetising (or advisory, from a style perspective), display than I did on a pre-holiday expedition I made to London's Knightsbridge last week.
Expecting to come home with a bikini and sparkly sandals, instead I managed to blow my winter budget on three pre-collection pieces - not so much crucial for my imminent vacation as to see me well into next spring, I hope.
The items were a short, tasselled cashmere cape from Claudia Schiffer's new collection (which is inspired by the school run but anything but mumsy, she told me when I interviewed her in Paris); a canary-yellow knife-pleat midi by Chloé (more forgiving than a pencil skirt) and a pair of Isabel Marant tasselled cowboy ankle boots (funky and yet comfy).
As I shopped I remembered the words of that great font of fashion wisdom, Anna Wintour, editor of American Vogue - which has the largest circulation of any fashion magazine on the planet (it is read by one in 10 American women). She made the point recently that designers don't have to re-invent the wheel every season, more like put their own irresistible spins on whatever are the key pieces of the season.
Loyal customers, she stipulated, become so because they sense an affinity with a designer who reads their minds and understands their lifestyles. What women want, says Wintour, is a new take on something they've had a lot of wear out of in the past. Doesn't that make perfect sense?
For the Stella McCartney customer - which includes Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna - it's boyishly cut trousers in a new fabric or colour.
Floral prints did for Erdem what sharp suited tailoring did for McQueen (high-earning women lawyers and professionals being among his greatest fans). Why on earth should they change tack?
Where would Prada be without her weirdly wearable statement heels? I have friends who have scaled down their fashion spending to only one pair of Pradas per season. In the grand scheme of things, that's still an awful lot of shoes.
Putting a new spin on old favourites is something designers who take on established ateliers such as Yvan Mispelaere, the Frenchman at the helm of Diane von Furstenberg, must bear in mind.
So, what's Mispelaere done to Furstenberg's house favourite, the wrap-around dress, this season, you might ask? Besides making it into a midi - the single most important trend of the new season - and injecting it with an easy going, sporty 1970s glamour and 1970s art print/palette, not a lot (thank goodness - it's very Wintour, by the way).
What he has done is build a clever capsule collection consisting of fashion forward items - such as a trendy caped sports jacket - around the ubiquitous dress so as to entice a new generation to DVF.
"It's about the balance of practical and glamour, a whole wardrobe for any active woman from 'day to night', from 'desk to date', from 'work to fun'," was how he described his pre-collection ("this is not 'just' a pre-collection but a real collection with a strong identity… as Diane often says, when you open your closet, you have to feel that your clothes are your best friends.")
I would advise getting to get to know more "friends" in these current pre-collections who could turn out to be anything but fair-weather.Pieces such as a silk blouse with billowing sleeves in a palette of saffron or mustard; a midi skirt; flared trousers (Holli Rogers, buying director at Net-A-Porter recommends Gucci's grey velvet cord flares); a tuxedo jacket; a caped parka and last but not least, a cocoon-shaped knit.
In the meantime, look out for any big earrings and anything velvet lurking in your wardrobe. "Old" friends (which resemble new trends) are also very welcome. This is why my favourite silk python print blouse by Equipment and my blue crushed velvet Gucci loafers shall all be going into my suitcase. Yippee!