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The smart guide to sales: Shop next season, this season

Why trawl the autumn/winter sales when spring has officially begun? Because there’s treasure in them there rails, argues Alexander Fury. As January 2014 hits, here’s a guide to getting next season now, for less

The end-of-season sales – those  all-out free-for-alls that end up as a cross between a triathlon, a jumble sale, and an especially vigorous episode of Supermarket Sweep – aren’t conducive environments for thinking clearly about what you really, really want. And, more  importantly, what you need for the coming spring/summer season.

But even while wading through the end-of-year cast-offs, there’s the potential to uncover treasure amid what, generally, is a 70-per-cent-markdown load of tat. Those treasures are the few items that, somehow, predict a few of the key trends that are to come. The pieces that give a hint of next season, this season, available now at a fraction of the price.

Of course, a few are stalwart style-staples. Shirts and shirt-dresses rarely fall entirely out of favour. For spring, they’re enjoying something of a renaissance, with everyone from Valentino, to Alexander Wang’s Balenciaga, to Raf Simons at Dior offering their take on the crisp button-down. Topshop’s high-end Unique line got in on the act early with an asymmetric silk shirt-dress that gives Dior’s asymmetric numbers a run for their money, in a springy pastel blue.

Florals are another fixture: Mary Katrantzou, Christopher Kane and Miuccia Prada’s Miu Miu line all bloomed gloriously for next spring/summer. This time, the trick is that blooms are dark, broody and moody. Nothing sweet about them. Again, Unique came up trumps with blown-out, pixelated peony prints, Asos has them in acidic shades, and River Island knitted them into sullen intarsias.

Deluxe sports – more Chanel double-C than JD – is a designer favourite. We’ve seen it take many forms, and it’s reared a baseball-capped head once again next season. Prada, Gucci and Pucci all nailed it in Milan, as did Marc Jacobs in  New York, mixing converse with  embroidered sweaters. Emma Cook’s satin-panelled autumn/winter sweatshirt (a snip at 50 per cent off) perfectly hits the mix of couture-feel fabric with sportswear detailing.

Raf Simons’ autumn/winter  Dior haute couture collection was inspired by world travellers, but the African-influenced section seems to have jutted out, chiming with later spring offers from Phoebe Philo’s Celine and Sarah Burton’s Alexander McQueen collections.

The choice terminology is “tribal” – which leaves the playing-field open to interpretation. Clashing animal prints, raw edges, chunky jewellery and beading. High end or high street, they’re all available now and will carry over to spring with ease.