Julia Robson I had to give a 2009 trends talk to a group of senior shop floor managers in a popular department store this week. The menswear discussion took the best part of 40 seconds. "The overall silhouette has got slimmer and more body-conscious. Shoes have pointy toes. Chinos are the new jeans. Matthew Williamson and Roland Mouret will launch a men's line. The end."
As for womenswear? Where to start and where to finish? There are some maddening, conflicting trends out there. In return for giving the broader picture (ie, reeling off who did what in terms of Prada, Dior, Marc Jacobs et cetera,) I got the lowdown on what the store had actually bought. What were the brands, shapes, colours, accessories? Who had they put their money behind? Fascinating stuff. It's all very well for journalists to shriek breathless bravos to designers during showtime and for magazines to feature whatever makes a pretty (or shocking) picture.
There's never been such a cut throat mood in retail. So you can imagine that fashion buyers have been pretty ruthless with their pruning of "hots" and "nots". So, let's cut to the chase. With the new year only days away let me pass on my insider knowledge. OK. Let's begin with the major trend: sporty futuristic. I scribbled down the word "spreadable" on my notebook during the shows. What I meant was shiny fabrics and body con shapes which hugged the skin like butter.
Blame it on the cult dress of the moment, the Hervé Léger "bandage". There are a lot of designers dead set on wrapping you up. Thakoon, Alexander Wang and Stella McCartney did several clingy numbers bound to be big hits. The new tube is worn with the LA brand LnA's fluorescent leggings (with zips at the cuff) underneath, and heels. Don't be put off. The sporty vibe isn't always tight. The playsuit (also called the "onesie" as in all-in-one), is a crucial 2009 item and this comes up loose. Sports-wise, it features cutaway backs, ties, zips and pulls.
Actually, from next month when you talk about "the skinny", it will be about jackets, not trousers. Although skinny jeans aren't going anywhere just yet. The new boyfriend jacket, sharply tailored with matching boyish trousers or a pencil skirt, is very skinny indeed. Balmain is still the label of the supercool. If shoulder pads make their threatened comeback, blame Christophe Decarnin. His Eighties glam rock skinniest-ever biker jacket (inspired by Michael Jackson and Kiss) will be the celeb choice of 2009, no doubt about it.
The peg jean and pyjama pant will be important. Dolce & Gabbana refined the latter along with their trademark corsetry in dresses. Ralph Lauren also backed the loose trouser in an elegant, Indiana Jones way. Just when the new season fashions were looking simple and pared down, along came Marc Jacobs with a fussy, over-styled little-old-lady look that offered another path for trends to go down. Let's hope Michelle Obama won't choose his all-American tribute when her husband is sworn in on Jan 20.
She could take her pick from the handful of American designers who went down the sparkly futuristic route with discreet and modern tailoring. Wouldn't it be great if she chose one of Miuccia Prada's pencil skirt and matching top sets with their gauzy state of the art metallic fabrics? Prada's collection combined both the commercial and the kooky. One can only imagine how it made fashion buyers feel.
One good way to make a simple style statement in 2009 is with your hemline - either very long or micro short - or with colour. From Lanvin's emerald green to Gucci's tangerine and Louis Vuitton's Stephen Sprouse animal prints, this is a season of brights to defy the doom and gloom of the financial market. (Wearing glitter eyeliner is another way, too.) The ghost of pretty gothic grunge still hovers in the air, with some pale and interesting nude shades and wafting blouses and neck-to-floor maxis.
We'll no doubt be reading all about this in the new quarterly fashion magazine, Love, which will be launched in February by Conde Nast, or seeing it on Emma Watson in the sixth Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Yves Saint Laurent have footwear covered with Delta platforms and leather lattice bootees, but I am more excited about Magic Dougal bootees by Irregular Choice (www.irregularchoice.com). These put the fun into this year's fashions. As for handbags, it's still the clutch.
Ready-to-wear? Me too.