The global health emergency has unquestionably reframed how we shop. As well as increasing the sense of urgency that surrounds sustainability, it has made us reassess the kind of clothes that actually bring us joy. At a time when every purchase is made with renewed consideration, investing in classic pieces that will stand the test of time feels just as important ethically as it does aesthetically. “Never have investment pieces been so appropriate,” says NET-A-PORTER fashion director Kay Barron. “As we move forward, we will continue to buy the items that we love, but the focus will be on forever pieces that we’ll still love long after the current situation is behind us.” In search of enduringly chic pieces, NET-A-PORTER’s global buying director Elizabeth von der Goltz is looking to classic 1970s silhouettes as we enter this new chapter for the fashion industry: “As we move into planning our fall wardrobes, I’m being drawn towards a flared jean or a ’70s suit. They’re perfect trans-seasonal separates that I’ll turn to again and again, and can be paired with a simple white tee for fall or a turtleneck when the weather turns cold.”
While most of the pre-fall 2020 presentations took place in January, before the gravity of the coronavirus had revealed itself on a global scale, heightened conversations around sustainability, as well as the importance of finding a balance between glamour and longevity, beauty and practicality, were already underway at many major fashion houses. Stella McCartney, a pioneer of eco-friendly fashion, sought to create pieces that feel “just as relevant to 2020 as they are to 1920 and even 2030” for her pre-fall offering. She took her crusade for sustainable fashion a step further with the invention of the world’s first faux fur made from plant-based ingredients, and the first biodegradable stretch denim, known as Coreva Stretch Technology (which is also made with plant-based yarns, plus mushroom and seaweed dyes), in collaboration with the eco-conscious Candiani denim mill in Italy. As well as respecting the planet, McCartney focused on “sculptural classicism” by reinventing vintage silhouettes in ultra-modern cuts – whether that meant pumping up the volume on a trench coat or sculpting denim flares into shapes that are more refined than retro.
“Never have INVESTMENT pieces been so appropriate. We will continue to buy the items that we LOVE, but the focus will be on FOREVER pieces”
Victoria Beckham presented her mid-season offering through a ’70s-tinted lens. Her collection notes describe how “tailoring becomes a focal point, with ’70s iconography infusing a directional approach to dressing after dark”. Accordingly, her louche, sand-colored corduroy flares are precisely the type of pants we can happily transition into from WFH sweats for dinner dates (be they virtual or IRL). Another highlight from the collection was an oversized, burnt-orange corduroy blazer that will add a cheerful hit of color to our work uniforms or form the foundation of a polished but practical weekend look. They are, the notes continued, “clothes that transport and elevate women on their journey”.
Fashion is famously cyclical, often looking to the past to inform the future. However, this recurrent concept of classicism has put the brakes on this merry-go-round. Talk of the resurgence of ’70s bourgeoisie began back at the FW19 shows, but as a look that blends modern minimalism, timeless tailoring and easy sophistication, it is one that appeals to many and, crucially, comes without a sell-by date. Slinky ribbed knits, flattering wide-legged pants, subtly sexy knee-high leather boots and perfectly cut blazers – yes, please. These are the essence of modern elegance, irrespective of epoch.
With dressing up being off limits for so long, this look has naturally unzipped a little, tapping into the bohemian inclinations of the decade of love and rebellion. Blouses are left unbuttoned, scarves that were neatly tied around the neck are worn loosely on the head as bandanas (see the Saint Laurent pre-fall lookbook for inspiration), and color palettes have exploded from conservative beige to playful pinks and bold floral prints. Intrigued? These are the pieces to buy now and love forever…
The bohemian blouse
Loewe is a label intrinsically linked with craftsmanship and revered for its luxe fabrications. This blouse by the Spanish house has been crafted from the finest satin and combines sophistication with the perfect amount of slouch. Seek out similar styles with subtle bohemian details – opt for deep-cuffed wrists over dramatic bell sleeves for practicality – in goes-with-everything white for maximum versatility. Pair with high-waisted, slightly flared pants and either tuck it in neatly or give the ‘French tuck’ a try, whereby just the front is tucked in while the rest hangs loose.
The ’70s suit
Seventies suiting instantly calls to mind the sophistication of Bianca Jagger and Yves Saint Laurent’s original Le Smoking tuxedo, moodily lensed by Helmut Newton in 1975. Modern two-pieces in soft pink, optic white or heritage checks are infused with the same confident ease and offer a mix-and-match sensibility that makes them a wise investment. When wearing the jacket and pants together, either temper the look with a classic Oxford shirt, or embrace the boldness of the decade by layering with a vintage-feel knit and wide-lapel blouse. Finish with brogues or sleek sandals. Separately, they make just as much impact; try the jacket over a cotton T-shirt and jeans on off-duty days.
The flared jean
Stella McCartney was inspired by pieces she inherited from her late mother Linda for pre-fall ’20. Linda’s signature style combined blazers (often borrowed from her husband, Paul McCartney), chic knits and plenty of denim. Channel her low-key look with oversized blazers and high-waisted, wide-leg jeans that skim the body, while lending shapeliness and a leg-lengthening effect. To streamline their volume, pair them with platforms; the vertiginous ’70s footwear staple is making a comeback courtesy of Bottega Veneta – and when Daniel Lee backs an accessory, you can guarantee that it’s set to become a must-have. Look out for the arrival of the brand’s lofty sock boot and mule versions this season.
When Daniel Lee BACKS an accessory, you can guarantee that it’s SET to become a MUST-HAVE
The denim midi skirt
Formidable female activists were the predominant muses for pre-fall. McCartney’s mother was a devoted animal-rights campaigner, while Gucci cast the brilliant Bethann Hardison – a legendary model and long-time campaigner for diversity in the fashion industry – in its lookbook, and Saint Laurent’s creative director Anthony Vaccarello cited actor and political activist Jane Fonda. To navigate our ever-changing world, we crave clothes that instil easy confidence and feel like everyday armor – and this patchwork Saint Laurent midi skirt is exactly the kind of elevated but hard-wearing piece we need in our sartorial arsenal. Paired with one of the house’s pristine blazers and slouchy leather boots, it is at once elegant and powerful in its simplicity.
The styling trick: color plus texture
Chloé creative director – and Paris’s poster girl for bohemian cool – Natacha Ramsay-Levi offered a masterclass in subdued but impactful styling for the label’s pre-fall collection. According to her collection notes, “tonal layering dictates a wardrobe of relaxed new classics”. However, Ramsay-Levi didn’t just combine harmonious hues – plush fabrics were equally key. Follow her lead by blending separates in tactile Harris tweed, leather or corduroy, in complementary shades of brown, beige, cream and navy, to effortlessly add complexity to your look.
Classic HOOPS, talismanic COIN pendants and a fistful of statement rings in GOLD will perfectly offset earthy tones
The finishing touches
Pre-fall is often a precursor to the fall/winter shows, and bohemian bandanas popped up on both the Gucci and Jacquemus FW20 runways, suggesting this easy styling trick is set to endure. At Gucci, colorful printed scarves were paired with everything from suiting to distressed denim. While at Jacquemus, plain white, pastel or navy versions topped off the pared-back collection, demonstrating that this is a look for minimalists and maximalists alike. As for jewelry, classic hoops, talismanic coin pendants and a fistful of statement rings in gold will perfectly offset earthy tones and matte textures. Look for uncomplicated styles that will remain perennially chic by brands such as Jennifer Fisher, Laura Lombardi and Meadowlark. Belts are also a key accessory here to define capacious shapes and accentuate waist-cinching silhouettes; leather versions with ring buckles will lend nostalgic appeal.