And so here we are with the first post of the Autumn season and it’s an exclusive – trying on Inès de la Fressange at Uniqlo AW21. I’m so sorry that it’s late, the samples just didn’t arrive and so today we’ve had a mad trip to the Manchester store to try the pieces I wanted to show you so that we could photograph them and send this post live. It’s been a crazy day in hot sunshine and I know some pieces are showing low stock now but you should be able to order what you want if you’re quick.
IdlF at Uniqlo is the sartorial equivalent of the first tinges of orange that we’re starting to see on the trees. Having spent summer in the UK for the first time since I was little, I’m more aware of the subtle changes of season than usual. I notice that every few days the solar powered lights in the garden snap on a few minutes earlier as dusk draws in more quickly every day. The sun already has its golden, late summer glow and over in Newcastle, the kittiwakes that we’ve watched nesting and raising their young so intently since we bought our flat in April were there one weekend and gone the next. I’m not in a rush to think about the cold weather clothes that we’ll be wearing for so many months, however this particular collection is only in store for a very short time and the best pieces sell through quickly.
Inès de la Fressange at Uniqlo AW21
This year Inès has taken her inspiration from the time she spends at the Grand Chalet de Rossinière in the Swiss Alps. It’s the largest wooden chalet in Europe and at 300 years old has had some illustrious guests in the past – Victor Hugo was a regular visitor and until he died it was the home of the artist Balthus. His widow and daughters still live there and it’s where Inès spends Christmas which must be magical.
The Grand Chalet de Rossinière
And so I’m sure you can already anticipate the mood of the collection which is Alpine chic. It’s a theme that you’re going to see everywhere this season, I’m hoping to write my usual post giving you insight into the A/W trends soon but this is going to be one of the biggest so let’s look at what’s behind it.
Having attended lots of them over the years, I always like to picture the retail brainstorming meetings where the first new collections are conceived. As you can imagine, the design teams lead with moodboards filled with inspiration from the catwalks. They present their concepts to a number of people from across the business and the merchandising and finance teams are usually the ones who bring everything down to earth as they analyse which themes will be the most commercial – and that is where Alpine will have begun. It’s a look that’s easy to wear and it feels right for a long British cold season. As a lot of people continue to be more home based, it’s an easy fit with the athleisure trend that most have adopted in one way or another and a cost effective way to update it.
At the very fashion forward end of the spectrum you’ll notice Alpine moving into full blown après ski this winter with people dressing as though they’re fresh off the slopes regardless of whether they’re in Lech or London – but that’s for another day. Just don’t throw your puffer jackets away because they’re good for another season. The other big trend you’ll notice coming through in this collection is an unusual juxtaposition of colour. Colour is stronger than usual this winter and a friend of mine who works in a big retail design team told me it feels like a safe bet, saying it should work if there’s another lockdown because people will want to cheer themselves up and also if there isn’t because everyone will be so happy to be out and about again. The challenge is doing it differently and that’s where you’ll see unusual colours and contrasts appearing.
So with the key factors of Alpine and colour in mind, let’s have a look at the new IdlF collection for Uniqlo. I’m going to start with the Inès shots to give you an idea of the big picture and then show you how some of the pieces worked on me in a more everyday setting. I’m beginning with this image – yellow isn’t a colour that you usually associate with AW but it’s uplifting and flattering for a lot of skintones.
More classic seasonal shades of grey and burgundy here, this outfit is all about the subtlety of winter textures with a warm flannel shirt, soft cords and a tweed coat.
For autumn days there are the usual blazers but they’ve been cut longer than usual for this collection in the style of the moment and there are lighter colours too. You’ll notice fashionistas layering oversized blazers in lighter tones this season as the weather gets colder.
Waistcoats are another big season trend (a tribute to Gareth Southgate perhaps). They haven’t been around since the mid 90s but once your eye becomes accustomed to them again you’ll no doubt remember how useful they were, so easy to layer under a warmer coat like this. It’s such a great gentlewoman look and brogues of course are much easier to stride around in than heels – an easy way to elevate your trainer look.
Moving on to the lookbook shots, this is the one that really caught my attention because it matches my lifestyle. The high neck on the poncho takes it away from the slightly frumpy ground that they can occupy and it would look just as good with jeans as with the more tailored trousers shown here. You’ll see a lot of knitted dresses and co-ords around as we get further into autumn – it’s a huge trend. It makes complete sense when you think about the move we’ve all made towards more comfortable clothing since lockdown. A lot of the dresses coming through are column shaped which doesn’t suit everyone so this is great if you want one with a bit more structure.
And once again I can relate to everything about this picture; it’s timeless and ageless which is one of the many reasons that I love the Inès collection. I’m intrigued by the description of the cream twinset because it’s captioned as ‘shiny’ but unfortunately it was a late delivery so I couldn’t review it for you, I imagine it has a lustre to the knit. And I love the soft colours of the Alpine cardigan which make it much easier for those of us with broad shoulders to wear – I usually have to steer clear of anything with bold shoulder detail.
Exclusive – trying on Inès de la Fressange at Uniqlo AW21
As with all of Uniqlo’s collaborations this is a fast turnaround, it will only be in store and on the website for a short time until a collaboration with a different brand is released so if there’s something you like remember that it won’t be around for long. I can’t tell you what a panic this has been today with a rush down the motorway to the Manchester store and when I arrived they only had a small collection to try. It means that they aren’t the pieces that initially caught my eye but sometimes that’s a good thing. I have to say though that the nicest people on the planet all seem to work at Uniqlo in Manchester and they pulled out all the stops to help me. And I’ll shoot the other looks when they arrive and let you know when I’ve added them to this post next week. At least I’ve been able to gauge fabrics and fit so here are some of the styles in a fitting room try on to give you an idea of how they look on an average midlife body.
Now I didn’t give this shirtdress a second glance on the website because it looked as though it had too much volume but I tried it on in a small and loved it. It’s a light, breathable viscose so it feels lovely next to your skin and you’ll be able to layer it for winter. The colours are navy and rosewood and the length’s good. Do size down though if in doubt – my usual medium had too much fabric in the waist.
And this jacket isn’t from Inès but it caught my eye as I was walking to the changing room and again I love it. It’s just the right length for wearing with a midi-dress or high waisted trousers. It’s in a soft cord and this season’s very popular rosewood colour. I’m wearing a small.
Moving on, you know I love a silk shirt and the IdlF ones at Uniqlo are always great value. This time they’ve been released in rich jewel colours that are lovely for winter days. I’m wearing a medium and it’s true to size, I was also drawn to the stunning jade green shade.
They’ve really cracked the fit of the trousers now – in the early days the waists were tiny but they’re now just right. I didn’t have the right shoes with me but they’d be great for the gentlewoman look.
This is how they look from the side
This jumper is another piece that I’d skipped past on the website but it’s in Uniqlo’s soft, light merino wool. I thought it would be heavier and itchy but it wasn’t at all and I love the mix of navy and tan which is integral to my winter wardrobe. A great fit and a star buy (I’m wearing a medium).
And the mac – Inès likes a lot of volume in her raincoats and I’ve learned over the years that I have to adjust the fit accordingly to suit my style. The thing is that if you can get it right, they’re the best value you can find. They’re rainproof and they have a warm quilted lining that’s detachable. Here I’m wearing the blue in an XS which is a really neat fit.
And this is the small – I didn’t take a photo of the medium because it swamped me. On reflection I’d probably go for the small and I was very tempted to buy this because it’s in a deeper shade than you usually find which is kinder to my skintone. As it was, Mr MC wondered aloud which coat I’d be getting rid of to make room for it and on a hot sunny August afternoon I didn’t have the headspace to try and think through my winter coat collection. I bet I’ll be kicking myself in November.
So – what did I buy? Well I really didn’t intend to do any shopping today but the shirtdress, the cord jacket and the striped jumper were all too good to leave behind so that tells you something. And I’ll give some thought to the raincoat on the way home. As I said, I’ll add the photos of the other outfits when they come and I have a chance to photograph them properly but I hope this mad try-on has at least given you a feel for the new drop. I’m sitting typing this in the M&S cafe under some pressure because I have to be home, changed and out at a work event by 6pm!
Have a lovely bank holiday weekend if you’re in the UK – it looks as though the sun is going to shine on us all. Ours will be especially joyful because we’re going to the wedding celebration of some very old friends from our Selfridges days. I have a feeling that it’ll be quite theatrical and I’m looking forward to a spot of glamour – I’ll tell you all about it next week.