The spring collections are arriving in stores. But what should the discerning shopper invest in? Carola Long asks three buyers to pick out this season's key pieces
Menswear and accessories By Ivan Donovan, Head of Menswear at Browns Boutique
There are definitely men who go just as crazy as women for the key items, and will search the world online to find what they want. There isn't usually a prevailing mood in menswear to the same extent as in womenswear, but soft tailoring and gentle structure is coming through - it's a slightly more relaxed way of dressing. There are quite a few lightweight technical fabrics around - Dries Van Noten has some really modern macs and windcheaters in olive, pink and burgundy. In fact, there are a lot of lovely colours around. Really wearable, flattering shades of blue and pink. You'd be surprised by how popular pink is with men. The softer tones in particular sell really well.
In terms of key buys, I would recommend a softly tailored jacket in navy blue, maybe in a washed cotton or a lightweight wool, and something pink, such as Balenciaga's washed cotton poplin shirt. Go for a nice pair of chinos - not with too much of an American-campus feel though, more like Balenciaga's slim khakis.
Accessories are a good way to update your look - Bottega Veneta did some great penny loafers (£350), to continue the preppy theme, and Martin Margiela always do effortlessly stylish bags - their washed leather postman bag in brown is so understated. Wayfarers and Aviators are still current shapes for sunglasses - Blinde do a great version of the latter (£240). For a slightly louche touch, Dries Van Noten has some silk-fringed scarves that you could wear loosely wrapped around the neck, over a T-shirt or a shirt.
Accessories by Sebastian Manes, Head of Accessories at Selfridges
For the past three years or so, we have had some classic bestsellers every season, but for spring/summer we opted for much riskier accessories, more variety and plenty of newness. If you make a statement this season it will probably be through colour, because accessories, and bags in particular, are really vibrant. This theme comes straight from womenswear - it's an important part of my buying approach to be aware of what's happening in fashion generally.
Purple, green, and yellow are really strong, and we saw an injection of neon. Alexander McQueen's Elvie bag (£990) in a bright colour such as purple or red would really add a fresh edge to an outfit - there was a lot of purple in womenswear. Michael Kors has produced some great bags in green, yellow, orange and gold that look like sweets - admittedly, expensive confectionery, not penny sweets! For something sophisticated, the Anya Hindmarch Cooper is very chic. Giant clutches have been declared a hot accessory, but I don't think they will take off with people who need practicality from their bag.
Bright colours and striking colour combinations are also a big trend in shoes, as are extreme statements and super high heels. The most dramatic style were the Balenciaga gladiator sandals - I think they are a good buy because they are so unique and people want something that stands out. We only bought one style of the Balenciaga sandals because they are extremely expensive and they will probably arrive around May because they are so complicated to make. Last season's Balenciaga Lego shoes arrived in December. Flat shoes aren't such a big trend, but they still continue - Miu Miu and Prada did some lovely flat styles, and Dries Van Noten did a gorgeous ballerina pump embroidered with bright flowers, tapping into the Seventies and flower-power influences.
When it comes to investing in jewellery this season, I love the YSL star cuffs (£345 from Selfridges) and necklaces (£1,795, available from YSL). The shiny surface keeps it really modern. Even sunglasses will be picking up on the colourful theme. Ray-Ban Wayfarers will still be popular next summer, but increasingly in colours such as white, pink and red.
Womenswear by Eleanor Robinson, Head of Womenswear at Liberty
The shows give us an idea of the styling and the general mood of the collection, and you can tell what the key pieces will be because they come out a couple of times in different colours. The buying is done in the showroom though; a lot of the headline-grabbing pictures of wildly impractical headpieces or suchlike won't be part of the actual collection. The buying process consists of combining analytical information about your sales history, feedback from shop staff and then instinct.
Spring is much more colourful than recent seasons and the overall feel is very playful and youthful. There are a lot of clashing prints, layering up of beautiful, muted tones and patterns such as dip-dye and tie-dye. Jean Paul Gaultier has used some really gorgeous colour in this collection, which was inspired by swashbuckling pirates. His crochet dress (£800) has a very flattering cut and despite being very on-trend, the myriad colours are so beautiful that it will be in your wardrobe for years to come. The See by Chloe range also really capitalises on the colour trend with vibrant psychedelic prints on T-shirts, skirts and dresses; their short, flirty skirt looks perfect worn with a loose white tee. Dries Van Noten has also picked up on the eclectic theme - the inspiration for this season was walking into a textile factory and randomly picking these really incredible fabrics from different decades of the 20th century.
Last autumn/winter was a bit of a funny season as it was the transition away from smock dresses towards a more structured look, but now tailoring is an important, established trend. Dries Van Noten's blue, one-button blazer with pink spots is a great shape to wear over dresses and with jeans. The dye treatment is a subtle take on this season's tie-dye theme.
There are a lot of short full skirts around, and there is a trouser shape that has been everywhere, with a dropped crotch. On first look it's hard to get your head around, but the more you see it, the cooler it looks, especially with ankle boots or platform sandals and a blazer. In terms of jeans, high-waisted flares are still a fresh silhouette, and Lips jeans (£150), from New York, are a fantastic fit.