Designers are unanimous on this winter's fabric: boucle. Telepathy, or what? Tamsin Blanchard reports
Texture and surface detail are the buzz words for this winter; let's face it, there is not much else to get excited about in a season when the shops are full of simple shifts and beautiful basics. Designers have been asking themselves how they can pep up the summer's pared-down shapes for winter and they have come to a unanimous decision: boucle wool.

Last winter's fluffy, itchy mohair, and the fleecy terry towelling of the summer have been replaced by a more controlled fuzz of looped or curled wool that has been made into prim suits by labels such as Liberty Collection, and conservative Princess coats for less than pounds 100 by Oasis, recently awarded British Retailer of the Year. Irene Van Ryb's version for Whistles is in pink with cool satin edging to emphasise the pile on the fabric. Boucle is one of the few concessions that the stark German modernist, Jil Sander, made for this winter, and Browns of South Molton Street in London sold out of her bobbly jackets, skirts and coats as fast as they could stock them.

Fashion people talk mysteriously about "the zeitgeist", something in the air that explains why the ideas, colours and fabrics of designers in cities all around the world suddenly coincide at each season's collections. But the reason why a host of designers, from Sander and Genny in Milan to Donna Karan in New York, each with their own outlook and style, have plumped for boucle this winter is nothing to do with telepathy (or industrial espionage). It simply comes down to the fact that at the beginning of each season, designers visit the same international fabric fairs where the textile companies sell fabrics based on forecasting information received up to a year before.

It is important to choose carefully when buying a suit in boucle because there is no getting away from the fact that the fabric has a tendency to resemble washed-up old blankets. Cut is all-important, and although the three suits pictured here range in price from less than pounds 250 (Liberty Collection) to more than pounds 750 (Genny), they have been singled out because they are structured enough to still look strong next winter, when fabrics will undoubtedly take the fashionable polar reaction and go sleek and shiny or stiff and crispy.

And if a boucle suit is not enough, the American hosiery company Hue has come up with the last word in tights for this winter. Forget perfectly smooth waxed legs and sheer stockings to match; Hue's Natural Collection includes - what else? - boucle tights to guarantee a bit of texture where once you were smooth.

From left to right:

Blue fitted boucle jacket with concealed button front, and matching skirt, pounds 770 for suit, by Genny, available from Genny Boutique, 18 South Molton Street, London W1; fake-crocodile court shoe, pounds 165, by Genny, available from Browns, 23-27 South Molton Street, London W1

Baby-pink boucle belted jacket with patch pockets, pounds 325, and matching short skirt, pounds 105, by Irene Van Ryb pour Idem for Whistles, 27 Sloane Square, London SW1, inquiries 0171-730 9819

Long cream single-breasted boucle wool jacket, pounds 179, and matching skirt, pounds 65, by Liberty Collection, available from Liberty, Regent Street, London W1 and stores nationwide; black wool and cashmere roll-neck sweater, pounds 145, by Genny, as before; Black Elast pointed knee-high boots, pounds 160, by Armando Pollini, 35 Brook Street, London W1

Photographer: Andrew Lamb

Stylist: Jo Adams

Make-up: Laura Dos Remedios using Boots No7

Hair: Lesley Sayles

Model: Beth Rodwell at Models One

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