Winter forecast: French frocks to Highland flings - the key trends for autumn/winter 2013

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Meteorological edicts mean nothing in  the world of fashion: summer may be in  full swing, but autumn/winter 2013 is well  and truly upon us. Alexander Fury guides  us through the key trends – from French frocks to Highland Flings and an ode to Good Queen Bess herself

Bag Ladies

Autumn/winter 2013 is loose to the point of louche.

When even chronically uptight labels such as Céline – the designer of choice for women who prefer their knickers not only ironed, but starched to papery perfection – are showing raw edges and shrugged-off styles, you know there’s something in the air.

“Grunge” and “punk” are two tags fashion’s milking to describe the movement towards something more beaten-up, less pristine. The latter coincided with this summer’s Chaos to Couture exhibition at the Met, while the former was underlined by Hedi Slimane’s deliberately contentious ode to Kurt and Courtney at Saint Laurent. But could you really dub Haider Ackermann’s layers of tweed and boiled wool punk, however distressed? Or call Saskia de Brauw’s shrugged-off great-coat at Prada grunge? Thought not. It’s more about details, hacked-off hems on unexpected fabrics such as silk satin or jacquard, or Rochas’s unexpected crushed-taffeta ballgowns. Céline even reworked the checked laundry bag into an intricate jacquard already generating waiting lists (and multiple copies).

French Dressing

This season the Parisienne – that mythical Frenchified femme fatale quaffing merlot while staring out from a perpetual miasma of Gauloise smoke – has become the chic cliché of choice for a whole host of designers.

The recent revival of the Breton jersey should have set alarm bells ringing for  a full-on onslaught of Gallic style, but who could have predicted that Autumn/Winter 2013 would size up as fashion’s take on ‘Allo ‘Allo? Meadham Kirchhoff were the first, French-dressing models in frilly chambermaid aprons, while Paris seemed to bring out the Français in designers regardless  of nationality. Englishman Peter Copping and Italian Miuccia Prada both paid homage to Jean Paul Gaultier, with shawl-collared jackets, jaunty knotted kerchiefs and très nautique stripes, while that most fundamentally French fashion of all, Christian Dior’s New Look, emerged at shows from Rochas, to Prada, back to Dior itself under Belgian Raf Simons. Even M&S got in on the action with a  full-skirted, fur-cuffed coat practically peeled off the back of mid-century couture’s Parisian poster-girl, Bettina.

Scotch On The Frocks

Fashion’s pretty lazy, in all honesty.

When  Karl Lagerfeld staged a tartan-stuffed 2013 pre-Fall Chanel collection at Linlithgow Palace in the wilds (ish) of Scotland last December, his Scottish fling would send other designers’ imaginations reeling. Coupled with the season’s punk undercurrent, it was inevitable that Campbell, Royal Stewart and Black Watch would march across the international catwalks. Moschino gave it the most joyously obvious outing, check suiting topped with cock-feathered glengarry bonnets, sporrans swinging as jaunty purses, all set to the tune of “Scotland The Brave”, in case you didn’t get it. Versace’s plaid by contrast was decidedly Punk, Donatella studding, chaining and lashing it with PVC in a turn worthy of Seditionaries, or Gianni’s own 1992 “Bondage Couture”. Fashion’s taste for Scotch isn’t always so overt: Christopher Kane, Scotland’s best-known fashion export since cashmere, subtly hinted at his heritage with kilt straps, knife pleats and higher-than-highland hemlines, while Chanel’s winter show was crammed with Linton and Harris tweeds. Haider Ackermann took the same (high) road with styles perfect for fashion’s favourite Scot, Tilda Swinton. She also cropped up clad in Clan tartans in Chanel’s pre-fall advertising campaign. Where else?

Skinned

Whether you’re a tub-thumping PETA activist or sable-swaddled society matriarch, there’s no denying fur is everywhere.

Catwalks were knee-deep in the stuff, from Marc Jacobs’ weasely button-eyed mink stoles, to Dior’s astrakhan coat-dress, to Tom Ford’s more-is-never-enough multi-coloured Chinoiserie-patterned minks, leopard and froths of beastly goat. The luxe-loving Itie fashion houses quite naturally took fur to a new level: Marni throttled models with metres of fox, Pucci cross-bred fur and feathers in an unnatural inter-species hybrid, while Prada’s full-length minks cost as much as a regional two-up two down. The hunter’s trophy, however, goes to Fendi who smothered models in the stuff from head to toe. Fox became mohicans, toes of shoes were dipped in mink, and even the temples of sunglasses got a fuzzy layer of pelt. What’s it all about? Luxury – loud, vulgar, unapologetic luxury. Frankly, it’s a bit bloodthirsty for most animal-loving Brits – and a bit blatant, if we’re honest. Would we all want to look quite so loadsamoney in loadsamink? That’s the one point rarely broached when discussing real fur: it’s not only the skinning but the fleecing that also raises eyebrows.

Suits you, Sir

Women wearing menswear is nothing new. Yves Saint Laurent showed couture trews for her in 1966, and Marlene Dietrich was threatened with arrest for sporting trousers on Paris streets in the Thirties.

There are also the famously chic androgynous intelligentsia of the Roaring Twenties: Raclyffe Hall, Gertrude Stein and… er, Cissy Meldrum from You Rang M’Lord? That said, autumn/winter 2013 gives the tired and trite his-for-her formula a twist. At first glance, there’s nothing remotely masculine about the Louis Vuitton collection, inspired by denizens of an especially glamorous hotel sleep-walking in lace-trimmed nighties, damp coats and dishevelled hair. Only those lingerie-look slips came in bias-cut suiting, the coats in sequinned prince-of-wales checks. Dries Van Noten also used anthracite tailoring speckled with ostrich fronds alongside blazers and wide trousers in brisk collegiate stripes. Rei Kawakubo based her entire Comme des Garçons collection on suiting. “The infinity of tailoring” was her description of a show that utilised masculine checks and pinstripes to emphasise the femininity of rosettes of fabric bunched across garments’ surfaces. Rather more tame tomboy tailoring comes courtesy  of Stella McCartney, Alexander Wang and Richard Nicoll.

Blackadder goes forth

British fashion always has an affection for the past. Sometimes that affection can turn into an affliction – after all, how many ballgowns do modern women  really need? – but it inevitably churns out  some extraordinary frocks.

For autumn/winter 2013, the tongue-in-cheek heroine of the season, at least for me,  is Queenie from Blackadder II. She’d be  quite at home in Giles Deacon’s crimson  and gold brocades or Marios Schwab’s  jewel-coloured capes.

She could even look outside the usual cadre of London court dressmakers, to Valentino’s ermine-alike mink tippets over red velvet, Thom Browne’s rose-rambled train-trailing evening gowns, or pomp and circumstance of Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana’s crown-topped ode to church iconography.

More than anything else, you can  see her in Sarah Burton’s all-embroidered, gold-encrusted, lace-bedecked and  ruff-ruffled Alexander  McQueen collection, undoubtedly fit for a Queen. The pearl-pricked black leather numbers were quite Lord Edmund, too.

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