What do you want your AW19 wardrobe to say about you?

Polished but not prissy, feminine but purposeful, and dressed in updated classics, she’s the woman you’ll want to be for AW19.

Far from putting the cat among the pigeons as he did last season with his Saint Laurent-like Celine catwalk show, Hedi Slimane’s AW19 collection for the Parisian fashion house had critics and customers purring with delight – and relief. Slimane has travelled the long road from pariah to prophet in six short months. His last show was not just a stellar edit of covetable clothes, but a pin-sharp picture of the current fashion mood.

Longevity, femininity, wearability, joy – these are the words women want associated with their wardrobes. From plaid culottes and pie-crust blouses to suede bombers and shearling coats, Celine was a celebration of grown-up style for the determined woman. This was forever fashion rather than a one night only affair. Slimane delivered an updated version, not just of the Celine woman, but of modern femininity, and of the woman that I, for one, want to be.

Although the models had that same annihilating stare as his Saint Laurent women (it seared right through those black aviators) and hands stuffed so tightly in their pockets they looked positively p***ed off, there was a softness to this collection that couldn’t be extinguished by posture or demeanour, and it came from the wonderfully artful mix of winter’s most tactile textures – tweed, wool, silk, leather, sheepskin – and silhouettes that were meltingly fluid; pleated skirts, oversized ponchos, flowing midi dresses and extra-long capes had a swashbuckling appeal.

Celine AW19

In many instances, these outfits reminded me of my childhood TV style icon, Christine Cagney of the New York-based police show Cagney & Lacey. As a child in the early eighties, she was the woman I wanted to be when I grew up.

I envied her fluffy blonde bangs (although, not her hand gun – that was never my style). I soaked up every outfit she wore in each episode and made mental notes of how she mixed up textures, wore effortlessly styled neck scarves, and bunched up the sleeves of sweaters softly around her elbows.

She could have been Slimane’s muse for this collection, the looks were so similar at times, but then he did draw deeply on the Celine archive, where he found the kinds of stalwart pieces (well-cut blazers, pleated skirts, silk blouses and sturdy boots) French women paid good money for 50 years ago. These were the anchors of Christine Cagney’s closet in the early eighties, and today I find they’re the basis of mine.
Women never lose interest in those items that work hardest in their wardrobes.

That old cliché of looking back to move forward has worked a treat for Slimane. Similarly, Natacha Ramsay-Levi is reimagining the traditional codes of the Chloé house for its new customers. The horse motifs and equestrian influences of old are emerging again, but this time around, in different guises: a beautifully cut riding jacket in twill, a military topcoat in Prince of Wales check. Again, these are clothes made for women who need serviceable wardrobes but refuse to sacrifice aesthetics to have it.

Chloé AW19

An Irish heritage brand producing these same staunch pieces, enriched by its past but not defined by it, is Donegal label Magee 1866. Punctuating the traditional fitted blazers in salt and pepper tweeds the brand is known for are newer cuts and softer silhouettes; for example, a raglan-sleeve coat with blanket-like weave – the kind of oversized throw-on that street style stars are famous for, a check trouser suit that’s cut quite like a man’s but only enough to flatter a woman, and merino knits backed with pretty printed silk.

Brands with a history – and heart – are trusted by women looking for style and substance from their clothes, so it’s wonderful to see future “heritage” brands emerging and thriving in this country, such as Wicklow-based label Four Threads.

There is no brand with a bigger heart than Richard Malone, the eponymous label of the Wexford-born designer who is carving out a successful niche for himself in London as the go-to designer for fashion-forward women with a social conscience. Committed to sustainable practices and to minimal wastage (each dress in this collection was cut from just one metre of fabric), Malone served up a directional display of separates that embraced all of this season’s buzzwords – feminine, wearable, sustainable and fun.

Richard Malone Aw19

High-waisted midi-length pencil skirts with lengthy side and front splits, which gave the models a lovely freedom of movement, came in shades of claret and oxblood. Paired with Malone’s unconventional tailoring, they painted a very modern picture of this season’s bourgeois woman.

While Slimane and Ramsay-Levi created items that will live in your wardrobe well into the future, Malone’s pieces have a past as well as a future. Recycled organic cotton jersey and dog beds (yes, really; used for the faux fur stoles) reflect his commitment to repurposing and reusing, and to showing that beautiful things can be fabricated out of the ordinary and mundane. It’s the antithesis of the stack ’em high, sell ’em cheap mentality. The variety of models on his runway also demonstrated beautifully how long these pieces will serve Malone’s customers, as models from 20-odd to 60-odd confidently walked his runway. Buy a Malone dress in your thirties and you’ll still be wearing it in your sixties, such is the “agelessness” of his aesthetic.

It would be impossible to speak about AW19’s fashion mood without acknowledging the impact that Victoria Beckham has had and continues to have on what women wear. Once again this season, her presentation was a colourful, beautifully tailored mix of interchangeable separates and easy-to-wear dresses that you’ll pull out year after year. “Proper but not prim” is how the designer described the woman behind this collection.

If the Celine edit has too much attitude for you and Malone’s too much edge, then Beckham’s is that perfect marriage of modernity and femininity without any tricks or heists. Just great clothes made by a woman to be worn by women.

Victoria Beckham Aw19

Photographs Jason LLoyd Evans

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