Something for the weekend, madam?

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A new contemporary casualwear line from John Lewis aims to inject your off-duty wardrobe with a dash of sweetness and light, says Rebecca Gonsalves

Christmas trading was up by nearly 10 per cent on 2010, its adverts tug at the heartstrings and, evidently, the pockets of middle England, and the Deputy Prime Minister even thinks its business model should set the precedent for Britain's economic future.

It's safe to say that the British public is in love with John Lewis.

And what better way to reward these ardent customers than with the launch of a brand-new own-label collection – the first of its kind in two years.

As the boundaries of office dress codes blur ever further, for many the workday wardrobe is not much different from weekend mufti: comfort is the goal, whether dressing for the nine-to-five or a pleasant day off. The new range, JL Collection Weekend, sets out to change that by catering specifically to the off-duty woman, with a selection of high-quality casual pieces that can be dressed up or down.

There are, of course, the requisite pieces: slouchy Breton-inspired tops and peg-leg chinos, soft T-shirts and fine-gauge knits. Jo Hopper, head of womenswear buying for the department store, says: "this line is all about easy outfit building; mixing and matching quality pieces and on-trend colours to create a stylish, pared-down summer wardrobe. The aim was to create stylish, fashion-led casuals – it's about leaving the office behind."

By analysing the sales data from the already established womenswear collections, the buyers noticed that there was a voracious appetite for colour after classic accessories in bright shades of leather, such as orange and lemongrass, sold above expectation – an orange purse was even the best-selling item from the whole range.

Building on this success and embracing the trend this season for pastels, classic casualwear pieces have been given a sprinkling of sugary sweetness. Remaining mindful of its customer base though, there is little saccharine here. Instead, the bold colour palette is rooted in reassuringly recognisable silhouettes – hemlines aren't too high, cuts are on the generous side and a certain neatness ensures the overall effect is casual without straying into sloppy territory.

Taking inspiration from the timeless off-duty appeal of Parisian chic and preppy American style, the line intends to provide everything that a woman-on-the-go will need for the new season – whether they're giving their wardrobe an overhaul or just hoping to breathe some new life into old favourites. Cotton and denim pieces are staples here – with coloured denim skirts, pastel shirts and luxurious vests and T-shirts in bright, but in no way garish, hues.

Inspired by the success of the brand's own-label leather, accessories aren't an afterthought either, as scarves, bags and footwear all have the transformative power to add the finishing polish to an outfit. Amanda Scott, head of accessories buying, says: "the range is just as much about accessories as it is clothing, with the key concept being mixing colours and layering. A neutral weekend look can be transformed simply by adding a few key pieces."

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