Marie Claire's fashion features editor Jess Wood on why high street stalwart Marks & Spencer is still on top of its game - and how she'll be going all out for their Autograph range for A/W'12
I’m standing in the Marie Claire fashion cupboard looking at a coats explosion – cropped, flared, equestrian, brocade…there’s enough here to keep the whole team windproof and then some.
But the one that’s standing out is a perfect, wearable take on military – olive green, double-breasted, with luxe-looking leather trim and a contrasting black collar. The kind of coat you’d buy if Isabel Marant’s army-chic AW show floated your boat (and frankly, who could say it didn’t?). The label? Good old Marks & Spencer Autograph range.
In all the hoo-ha about plummeting sales, the ousting of former head of fashion Kate Bostock and the company’s high-profile new hire Belinda Earl (ex head of both Jaeger and Debenhams), it’s easy to forget that season after season, the nation’s favourite shop produces perfectly-pitched gems like these.
Because just like our other national treasure, Kate Middleton, M&S is expected to get it right, all the time. Every move is scrutinised, every mistake slated and debated in newspapers and online.
Marks & Spencer have to please budget-conscious middle-aged mums, fussy foodies and everyone in between – all the while treading the right side of fashionable (and also producing every collection in a suitably inclusive range of sizes). And on the whole, they do a pretty good job.
The trend-tastic Limited Collection and the higher-end Autograph range are both hits with fashion insiders, with pieces like last season’s Giles-a-like £149 laser cut leather skirt selling out in the blink of an eye.
However, sometimes those pieces tend to be a bit too limited – the press will be shown a tantalising array of fashion-fabulous things only to find that some of them are nowhere to be found amongst all the Per Una sequins when we actually want to buy them in-store.
So M&S, chin up – make like Kate Middleton, keep calm, and carry on. But maybe it’s time for a bit of an edit.