The new season is upon us, and whether you’re shopping high street or high fashion, a stroll into Zara or a wistful wander through your favourite designer emporium will tell you all you need to know about the mood for autumn/winter ‘16.
From dazzling metallics to rich brocades; sumptuous velvets and heritage tweeds, it’s a season that has pulled from a diverse range of influences, from gothic romance, to Lady Diana, to polished punk, via 80s glamazon.
There hasn’t been a season this fanciful or eclectic in years.
You’ll be throwing away the rulebook and “unlearning” many of the core tenets upon which we have built our wardrobes.
We’ve enlisted the help of three fashion professionals, all of whom agree that embracing the new eclecticism doesn’t have to be about starting from scratch and developing a whole new fashion persona; rather it’s about getting creative with key new season buys that will give a fresh twist to those foundational pieces at the heart of our wardrobes.
When it comes to designing Lennon Courtney with Brendan Courtney, designer Sonya Lennon admits the duo tend not to be hugely influenced by trends.
Preferring instead to “respond to what the women we dress want” they aim to produce collections that are “flattering, enduring and carry a slight irreverent twist”.
On a personal level though, Sonya is hugely excited by the mood of the moment.
“There comes a point in life when the catwalks collide with your own personal style preferences,” she says.
“I absolutely love Alessandro Michele for Gucci at the moment.
“Wonderful, luscious 1970s references and oversized face furniture. Whack on a disco soundtrack and I’m there,” she laughs.
The designer is also smitten with the creative direction of Josef Font at Delpozo, whose “uncompromising colour and silhouettes” feel “emotive” to Sonya.
“You kind of just fall into it,” she says.
Speaking from experience, Sonya concludes that for some women, the season’s androgynous slant - think oversized tailoring, manish slacks and duster coats - will be hard to wear.
“Speaking as a woman with boobs and hips, I just look lumpen when I try to look like a boy,” she admits, but she adds that with clever styling the trend can be alluded to rather than channeled literally.
“A good place to start is with Lennon Courtney’s wide legged trousers and bomber jacket,” she advises.
Nailing that feminine take on masculine dressing, “the effect,” she says “is reminiscent of Marlene Dietrich and 1930s Berlin.”
To inject your look with instant autumn/winter ’16 style, Sonya recommends three key investments: A hat - “Headwear is really making a comeback. Anthony Peto and Palles Millinery create hats for wearing every day”; a nod to the ’70s - “Check out the Lennon Courtney winter white shirt with oversized collar”; and finally, she recommends updating your outerwear with “really beautiful leather gloves”.
For her own wardrobe updates, Sonya acknowledges she is “lucky to have access to the full Lennon Courtney collection”, but her go-to piece is the burgundy sweater dress.
“I just know it’s going to be a staple,” she states.
“I’m also working towards a significant footwear purchase and eyeballing a pair of Prada platform loafers,” she adds.
Her final tip is both practical and stylish: “The first thing I do once temperatures drop is head to Tights Department on frockadvisor.
“It’s amazing how tights can update what you already have.”
Womenswear buyer at Arnotts, Lisa Stanley loves that fashion feels fun again this season, from opulent, romantic occasionwear to minimalist, sports luxe essentials.
“There’s definitely something there for everyone,” she states.
It may be a season of excess, but “for someone who doesn’t want print and lots of textures, our minimalist trend is really beautiful. Wool coats, palazzo pants, big chunky knits… it’s beautiful and easy to wear.”
Lisa’s personal favourite trend story at Arnotts this season, however, is “Opulent Voyager”.
A stylish but eclectic mix of “plush velvets, printed florals, and lots of faux fur”, it epitomises the mood of the season - a mood which feels whimsical and somewhat transient, but has actually produced some great wardrobe builders that will be an investment for seasons to come.
“Heritage fabrics like Prince of Wales checks made a strong return to the catwalks this season,” says Lisa.
“They’re a great investment, whether you go for an oversized check coat from Whistles, a houndstooth skirt from Strenesse, or a mini check waistcoat from Marella.”
Equally, she says you can capture the romantic mood of the season in one essential piece - the printed dress.
“Long line cuts from midi to maxi feel very romantic this season,” she says.
“We have beautiful florals from our new Danish brand Ganni. It’s the fashion set’s brand of choice.”
Finally, for that all-important textural injection, Lisa recommends opting for outwear in shearling or fur.
“For autumn/winter ‘16, have some fun with faux fur,” she urges.
“We have an amazing new brand at Arnotts called Bandits. The designer, Ana Konder - formerly of Chanel - set up this London based brand designing amazing faux fur coats and accessories.”
To update her own wardrobe, Lisa will be investing in the season’s key shapes and textures.
“Velvet,” she states, first and foremost, “was THE fabric of choice for so many designers, so I will definitely invest in an amazing Ganni velvet dress.”
“Tailoring is also key, and a wide leg trouser is a must” she says. “I’ll have some fun with this by investing in a great print suit from Rodebjer.”
And finally, she says she’ll add some essential clean, minimal lines to her look with outerwear.
“Tara Jarmon’s long line waistcoat will be my ultimate investment this season.”
“Fashion this season is all about romance,” says Clodagh Shorten of Samui.
“Decadent, opulent, full-blown romance…
“Expect to see sweetheart necklines, pussy-bow dresses, ruffles, full skirts and ornate earrings - anything that merges the feminine and the dramatic.”
For Clodagh, no one did this better on the autumn winter catwalks than Dries Van Noten.
“The lavishness of the fabrics, the richness of the embellishment,” she gushes.
“I’m excited to bring these trends, and this collection, into the shop this season.”
Taking influence from the legendary Marchesa Luisa Casati, renowned for her indulgent lifestyle and opulent parties, Van Noten has channeled his decadent muse using tactile leopard and velvet, seductive silks and decorative pearls and feathers.
“He also works Casati’s gender fluidity into his clothes with lots of mannish tailoring and strong shapes,” explains Clodagh.
“The show in Paris got a standing ovation, and I’m seeing a similar response from customers,” she reveals.
“There’s something irresistible about the sumptuous fabrics and ornate detailing.”
One trend Clodagh feels “might not be for everyone” is the handkerchief hem, but overall she feels autumn winter ‘16 is infinitely accessible, advising savvy shoppers to “only go as far as feels comfortable for you.
“There’s no need to overdo a trend,” she continues, “even one special piece can dramatically alter your look. Our Marni ankle boots, for instance, add a flash of cool to even the simplest look; likewise, a strong, dramatic coat can be transformative.”
Investing for the season ahead, she advises, “A good pair of ankle boots will see you through many seasons, and always look smart. Similarly, a great coat is undoubtedly a good investment - you can never overestimate how amazing you’ll feel in it.”
Identifying layered knitwear as a key trend to buy into.
“Under a pretty diaphanous dress or piped collar shirt, or over a slip dress and jeans. It’s something you’ll wear to death this winter.”
Clodagh is a fan of Sphere One by Lucy Parker and Chinti & Parker.
“The quality of their cashmere is impeccable,” she says, “so the pieces wear incredibly well.”
For her own wardrobe builders, Clodagh is turning to that dreamy Dries collection and “a very gorgeous navy silk dress, which I hope to wear with a cashmere Cutuli Cult scarf with fur and feathers, and to-die-for AF Vandevorst boots.
“Each piece is classic and timeless, but they all have an edge that makes them extra-special.”