The Style Police: Find it on the mean streets

If your bank account doesn't stretch to this season's luxury fabrics, never fear: the high-street retailers are on the case. And it doesn't matter if your cashmere isn't really 'shmere', no one will know the difference, promises James Sherwood

AS MARY QUANT once said, "Having money is rather like being a blonde. It is more fun but not vital." If this season's fashion means anything to you, money seems absolutely vital. Every season, we look for the message behind the clothes. The message is luxury. It says three- ply cashmere, alpaca, finest merino wool and, for those of us without an account at Coutts & Co, major credit-card fraud.

In a week of Diana conspiracy theories - "The nation yawns" - Style Police would like to sow the seeds of a new fashion conspiracy. We all know the British high street rocks, it can "interpret" catwalk messages and have near-perfect facsimiles of key silhouettes on its rails before the major design houses have even delivered their first shipment of new season stock. It has even offered the old baksheesh to designers Hussein Chalayan, Ben de Lisi, Pearce Fionda, Betty Jackson, Clements Ribeiro and Sherald Lamden to design capsule collections for M&S, Dotty P's and Top Shop.

Why else would the designers pick on luxury as a buzzword for Autumn/Winter 98 but put two fingers up to the high street? The high street's lethal weapon is fashion for nada. So the design houses produce the classic cashmere twin-set in finest cashmere and subliminally say, "Copy that for pounds 12.99."

Now here's the dish. The great British high street knows the teenage market couldn't care less whether a jumper is produced from cashmere or petroleum by-products as long as the finished article feels fabulous. Nobody's suggesting synthetics can compare to a bit of "shmere". But money talks. pounds 22.99 compared to pounds 150 for a woolly sweater sounds good in any language.

So prepare yourself for the Style Police guide to doing the season high street-style. First stop is French Connection, and you've got to give it up for these guys. The most important piece to freshen up your wardrobe is the knife-pleated skirt; the kind you'd imagine a Fifties bobby-soxer wearing with a cardie round the shoulders and a ponytail. It has grown up, sits bang on the knee or slightly below, and French Connection have a killer knife-pleat skirt in charcoal grey for pounds 80. You'll find this skirt's shape all over the high street. FC's version is fabulous because they haven't skimped on the fabric. There is plenty of flow in those pleats. Style Police absolutely insists you find the Wallis black knife- pleated skirt for pounds 70. It whirls like a dervish and looks like Marc Jacobs.

You've already got a wardrobe full of pencil skirts so maybe the maxi is more important. Style Police had them covered a couple of weeks ago but did find the classic black, ankle-length skirt with a back split that stops well short of the knicker line from Austin Reed for pounds 119. The other absolute beauty is a Ben de Lisi for Debenhams, navy, viscose-wrap maxi for pounds 80. There's also an asymmetric tunic top to match for pounds 60 and bear in mind the combined price wouldn't buy you a button at Donna Karen mainline.

With the lean, languid shapes for this season you're going to need a charcoal grey overcoat that stops in symmetry with either the knife-pleat skirt or the maxi. For on-the-knee you need to forget label snobbery and get yourself down to Benetton for their charcoal single-breasted at pounds 99.

For an overcoat that hugs you like a six-foot lover, it has to be Jil Sander's alpaca for pounds 3,500. Only kidding. French Connection do the best salt-and-pepper tweed maxi overcoat for pounds 190. Your pinstripe slouch pants are at M&S, your knitted tanks are at Warehouse, and there's only one high-street store for flatties and that's Ravel (from pounds 45). Any questions?

Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Life and Style
Men with beards rejoice: Your beard probably doesn't harbour faeces-like bacteria
health
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

    £40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

    Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

    £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before