Do we do duvets? The puffa coat debate

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

It's warm and practical, but does the puffa coat belong in style Siberia? The Independent style experts go head to head


By Harriet Walker

Puffa jackets are to fashion as the Brussel sprout is to a Christmas dinner: not to everyone's taste, perhaps, but they appeal to a discerning palette, they're good for you and they're sensible. And winter wouldn't be the same without them.

Yet the puffa jacket has until recently been treated with the same disdain, loathing and bemusement as the Cat Bin Lady was. They're the stuff of hill-walking or worse. The high-glam contingent cannot fathom a garment that obscures the body or keeps it warm, while more rarefied tastes cannot abide a style that may once have clad, variously, a Spice Girl, a posho and that guy on The Fast Show who thinks everything's "brilliaaaant!".

We complain that catwalk fashion doesn't work for the quotidian, that we can't walk to work in 10in heels or buy milk in a pair of three-leg trousers, but here's high-fashion for the lowest common denominator – and still we wrinkle our noses at it. Some of the industry's most visionary names have experimented with the humble puffa; it's the most versatile means of combining fabric, volume and silhouette-play with practicality and modern ease. So where's the catch?

Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons (now there's a name to drop if you wish to convince someone of a piece's fashionability) is known for her lumps and bumps – the ones on her clothes, that is. Scattered across dress and jackets and, yes, nylon coats, she uses padding to redefine, reimagine and newly analyse the shape of the body in ways that are far from conventionally flattering. So, although you may feel like the Michelin man in yours, remember: this is not a skin-tight trend, nor was meant to be. It's okay if the man in the street can't distinguish your arse from your elbow when you've got your coat on.

But if clean lines are the order of the day, then look no further than fellow Japanese designer Junya Watanabe, who has promoted the puffa for quite a few years now. His autumn/winter 2009 collection featured dresses, stoles, A-line skirts and princess coats made from "puffa", and nipped, tucked and belted into place to give a form-defining take. Suddenly the duvet coats of the mid-Nineties didn't seem so terrible after all. This season, master of uptown chic Michael Kors garbed his models in cosy tinfoil numbers that resembled nothing if not exposure blankets – and that's perhaps the most appropriate sartorial analogy to hand.

Gothic fantasist Gareth Pugh, meanwhile, has always added puffed, distended nodules to clothes; but if you'd rather not wear a dress with globes instead of sleeves, his billowing puffa coats resuscitated the form in the late Noughties. And another of London's directional designers Marios Schwab showed severe duvet coats, cut like Edwardian riding habits with undulating puffa hems for autumn 2007. Puffas have now taken on an air of urban cool, quite apart from the outdoorsy sort of can-do that they once emitted in the traditional Moncler and quilted jacket sense.

Melding practicality and warmth with a hyperbolic, man-made aesthetic (they're no Harris tweed, for instance, or natural shearling) it's futuristic outerwear for the fearless. No wonder Uniqlo sells so many. Puffas have become gimpy in all the right ways – playing on plasticky themes of bondage and fetishism, rather than simply what the nerds used to wear.

And then there's the Royal wedding this year – how better to celebrate so horsey a union than with the traditional garb of a puffa gilet: perfect for huntin', shootin', sailin' or shoppin'. There's a puffa for every occasion and demographic, you see. Aren't puffa jackets brilliaaaant?!


By Carola Long

Perhaps it's inevitable that style suffers in winter, but this year there's been a movement towards jettisoning it entirely. This is the winter of the Slanket – the fleecy robe that makes the wearer look like a particularly slothful wizard, and the onesie – essentially a giant Babygro. Then there's the cold weather footwear. Forget wearing a sleek pair of riding boots with an extra pair of socks – now it's the status quo to encase your legs in the clumpiest, ugliest boots you can find, preferably covered in some yeti-like hair to which pavement detritus will attach itself.

At the risk of sounding like Joan Collins complaining that no one bothers being glamorous anymore, the increasing visibility of the puffa is symptomatic of this total capitulation to comfort. I'm not disputing that puffas are practical, and yes it is a particularly bitter winter, but unless you're actually hauling timber or shovelling snow there's no need to dress like an extra from Sarah Palin's Alaska for the five- minute walk to the Tube. Equally a puffa on its own right be permissible, but once it's teamed with Uggs, a trapper hat and giant mittens, it becomes ridiculous. It's like those people who buy expensive diving watches when the deepest water they are likely to plunge into is two metres in the local swimming pool: it's just not necessary

More importantly, puffas are rarely chic. At the high end of the market Moncler have produced some sophisticated takes on the look, such as a black patent quilted jacket with a giant bow, or a fur-trimmed bomber style, that make the wearer look as if they are just stepping out to enjoy the après ski in Whistler but further down the scale, it's a different story: quilted jackets that look like they've been fabricated from the eiderdown in a shabby bed and breakfast; belted styles beloved of French exchange students; deflated anoraks with no puff; wet-look coats with a bin-liner-like sheen...None of the above are okay. Not to mention the fact that they make everyone look pretty puffy themselves, and unless they are filled with feathers they aren't necessarily that warm.

Why sport one of these duvets with arms when there are so many chic alternatives? Along with stylish hats and gloves, a winter coat is a compensation for three months of SAD, whether it's a wool style by Vivienne Westwood with a fitted waist and exaggerated lapels, a classic Chloé 1970s camel coat, a Burberry military peacoat, or a Topshop leopard print faux fur. There's also no reason that a tailored or structured wool winter coat can't be warm – as demonstrated by unlikely style references Prince Charles and Camilla, posing for their Royal Christmas card whilst skiing in head-to-toe tweed. The key is layers. I recently spotted someone in the effective combination of a cocoon coat with three-quarter length sleeves over a tight leather jacket. But layer under a puffa and you look even more like the proverbial Michelin Man. Do your silhouette a favour and step away from these nylon nightmares.

Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Danczuk has claimed he is a 'man of the world'
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins wins the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Finance Manager - Central London - £70,000

    £70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Business Development Manager

    £20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Buyer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This award winning IT company are currently re...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Account Manager

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor