Do you remember the days of competitive dressing? When shopping was less about self- expression and more about self-defence? Women rated one another on how “in season” their look was, which It bag hung on their arm (the Alexa, the Roxanne, the Maia, the Gladys), and whether the soles of their shoes had the cardinal red hallmark of luxury. Sartorial one-upmanship was the name of the game.
If shouty, flashy fashion defined the noughties, a quiet restraint has emerged as the emblem of the tweenies (apparently, that’s what we’re calling 2013-2019). In an interview with WWD, CEO of French fashion house Céline, Marco Gobbetti, insisted that “Being quiet gives more value to what we do.” He was referring to the label’s lack of engagement with social media, but his remark encapsulates the appeal of the label’s aesthetic, too. The allure of the Céline woman, and of the house’s creative director Phoebe Philo (who recently announced she is to leave the label), is her quietly confident style. She never looks like she’s trying too hard, yet she makes the simplest of pieces look supremely covetable. Her wardrobe consists of a well-considered edit of simple T-shirts, tailored trousers, cashmere sweaters, blazers and flat shoes. Uncomplicated basics are reimagined in exquisite cuts and luxurious fabrics.
Philo has always wanted the Céline woman to “go out there and do what she wants to do”. Far easier in a sweater and pants than a bandage dress and Tribute heels. Her philosophy is all about decluttering your closet, and also your mind, of the sensory overload that comes with every new season – prints, shapes, colours, trims and accessories have to be decoded and distilled into something fresh and modern rather than fancy dress-like. The journey from runway to reality can be an exhausting one.
Labels like Céline, Eudon Choi, Calvin Klein and The Row, however, present serious chic, but with fewer fashion conundrums. “Simple pieces, if cut beautifully and fashioned from high-quality fabrics, will do the work for you,” says personal shopper Marietta Doran. Brown Thomas fashion director Shelly Corkery agrees. “Invest in key pieces that are beautifully made and versatile,” she explains. This is a way of dressing that also offers fluidity of purpose. A silk shirt and cigarette pants will take you seamlessly from the office to a meeting, to an exhibition to a bar. It’s a one-outfit-fits-all approach, but without any sartorial sacrifice. Corkery concurs: “We all want to look chic and sophisticated in our day-to-day lives.” She points to cashmere, woollen and cotton knits as key buys. Thankfully, you don’t necessarily have to spend thousands to achieve this look. Marks & Spencer, H&M and Finery London have excellent cashmere at affordable prices, while good-quality tailoring can be snapped up in Cos and Whistles.