I’ll come straight out and say it – this is my biggest blogging high to date. Uniqlo has selected our community at Midlifechic to be the first to see their new Inès de La Fressange collection. I feel so proud that we are being recognised by brands as a group of intelligent, vocal women who deserve their attention. They are beginning to realise that just because we are over 40, we have not given up on style and Uniqlo is leading the way. At Midlifechic, so much of this is down to you my dear readers and the time and effort you put into the brilliant comments you leave each week so… thank you.
Of course I make no secret of the fact that Inès de La Fressange is my style icon. You can keep Isabel Marant and Olivia Palermo – to me Inés epitomises an intelligent midlife woman who is confidently operating at her peak. Why? Because she is always busy juggling a variety of projects, be it running her own label which sells through her Paris store; collaborating with brands; working for a cardiac charity; writing books on style or working as an ambassador for Roger Vivier. She doesn’t court the media and yet despite her aristocratic background, she is known for her approachability.
The very first Pinterest board that I ever created was dedicated to her. I am continually inspired not only by her timeless style but by the sense of intelligence and fun that emanates from every picture. Like the Mona Lisa she always makes me wonder what she’s thinking.
What’s new from Inès de La Fressange at Uniqlo – Autumn 2016?
I automatically apportion a chunk of my budget to IdLF at Uniqlo at the beginning of each season. This time the classic French chic has moved on. Until now, the range has focused on Inés’s signature colour of navy blue but the new collection sees the introduction of different tones of grey along with olive and camel.
AW16 has also been divided into 3 different looks so, before I go on to show you the pieces that I was sent to review, I’m going to explain the stories behind them. Are you sitting comfortably?
To begin with, imagine yourself in 1960s Paris. Fashion, which up to this point has been exclusive to the bourgeoisie, is beginning to enter the lives of everyday people, sparking a specific Parisian ‘look.’ It is spreading throughout the world via iconic black and white imagery seen in magazines and movies. Inés has interpreted the epoch in 3 different ways.
La Femme Rive Droite – Classic elegance
We’re starting on the ‘right bank’ of the Seine, the stronghold of classic Parisian grandeur. This is an elegant style which Inès says was inspired by the mothers of her childhood. A peacock blue or bright red elegant cashmere knit is paired with chic tweed or velvet tailoring and pearls.
This collection instantly transports me back to being a student in Paris. I’d made friends with a girl called Leili who came from a wealthy background and one day when we were in a gallery, her pearls snapped. She couldn’t bear to be seen without them and so she needed to know of a good jeweller who could restring them for her. Off we went to visit a family friend, Suzanne, who lived in the fabled 16th arrondissement.
Along with her apartment, Suzanne was the very embodiment of the ladies in the shot above. As they launched into a fast French conversation about the cashmere jumper that Suzanne was wearing, it was one of the first times that I felt truly out of my depth. In 1987, at the age of 19, I had never even heard of cashmere…
La Femme Rive Gauche – Chic sophistication
Now we’re moving over to the Left Bank, stomping ground of Sartre and de Beauvoir and a hive of counter culturalism. This timeless Parisian look is exactly how we dressed when we were students there, even though it was the 80s. Our halls were near The Sorbonne and we reinvented ourselves, wearing polo necked jumpers and vintage macs that we’d found at flea markets.
“The women of the Rive Gauche were mostly intellectuals, women with a huge influence in France, such as Juliette Gréco. At Café de Flore and in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, these women suddenly began wearing black, dressing in charismatic outfits. The heroines of French films from the 1960s did as well. Adding just a few items to a black turtleneck or raincoat creates an extremely beautiful, sophisticated outfit. I wanted to recreate this in the same way.” – Inès de la Fressange
This collection moves away from Paris as, in the 1970s, influences became more global. I suspect this range will have the most ‘street appeal’ this season because it sits alongside the mainstream 70s trend that is the Winter version of Boho.
“These are images I often saw on the jackets of LP records, like Janis Joplin, John Page, Woodstock. These music-related images continue to inspire me and many other stylists even today. The women of the 70’s were so open, wore many accessories and mixed styles. Their outfits gave off a sense of freedom.” –Inès de la Fressange
Jacquard crew neck jumper – available in November
Trying it on – Inès de la Fressange at Uniqlo Autumn 2016
So – you won’t be surprised that when I saw the concepts, I was instantly able to tell Uniqlo that, although I loved elements of each collection, my heart lay in the Rive Gauche. This is what they sent me to try.
Outfit number one
This consisted of a classic peacoat with straight flannel trousers. I love wearing flannel trousers – the texture makes them so much more appealing in Winter than flat wool. These were the only things that were sent that didn’t fit me so be careful with your sizing. They are measured in waist sizes rather than classic dress sizes and they are quite low rise so you need to add a couple of inches because they sit slightly lower down than usual.
The peacoat was incredibly good quality for the price – I have tried coats at three times the price that haven’t been as good as this one. It is currently available in navy, grey and camel are coming soon.
They have released a Fedora but it didn’t arrive in time for the photos so I accessorised with my own.
The pleated long sleeve shirt is made from good quality cotton and has a vintage feel to it with the grandad collar and the pleated detail on the front.
Outfit number 2
This was the wild card – it was off brief and Uniqlo sent it because they thought I would like it. It isn’t my usual style but actually I did really like it. It is a simple rayon shirt dress with deep side pockets and a curved hemline which gives it movement. The pattern was subtle enough for me to be able to handle it (new readers may not know that I never wear pattern) and it wasn’t one of the twee ‘ditsy’ floral patterns that I hate.
The hat was also something that I would never have thought of but I loved it. I felt like someone completely different in this outfit – as you can see it made me smile.
I can imagine wearing this into the Winter with a long cardigan, a polo neck jumper and thick woolly tights. I’m wearing it with black here but it would also look great with chestnut brown, grey or camel so it’s versatile.
Outfit number 3
This is my comfort zone, it’s exactly the sort of thing that I wear both for work and at the weekends. The nehru style jacket makes a great change from a blazer.
It was a great fit in the medium and I liked it worn both loose and buttoned up.
Beneath it I was wearing an Inès merino boat neck that I already had. The merino that they use is the softest that I have found. It’s a jumper that never makes me feel uncomfortable and it sits well on the clavicles.
Merino boat neck sweater (this year’s version)
As we were finishing the shoot, the middle son and his friend arrived, sensing the opportunity for a lift home. It was only right that they paid their way with a spot of impromptu modelling.
As usual my dear son quickly got into the swing of it.
The IdLF pieces that I have worn and worn
The AW16 range also includes the reissue of some of my favourite pieces from the last two Winters. Starting with my tweed jacket…
This pinstripe jacket has been released in charcoal this year. I love it because only the sleeves are lined which means that it has a lovely casual structure – it doesn’t look as though you have taken the jacket from a classic office suit.
Here you can see the lovely dark dyed basic shirt which is another of my wardrobe staples.
This was when I tried the Chester coat but didn’t keep it. I have regretted it ever since. You can see the signature red Inès detail which is somewhere on each piece of clothing. They are still waiting for the Chester to arrive and it will be added to the collection any day.
So, I hope I’ve encouraged you to go and explore the collection. Here is the US Inès site for all of our American friends. Please do have a look, if only to show Uniqlo that we are the right target market and they should keep on designing these stylish, affordable classics for us. It isn’t often that I recommend something so wholeheartedly but the tailoring, the cloth and the perennially chic French style at Uniqlo prices is unbeatable. It sparks joy in my heart every single Autumn.
There will be another release of heavier Winter pieces arriving in November. A limited selection of the range is available at all UK stores with the full collection available online and at the 311 Oxford Street flagship store in London. The important thing is to get in quick, it is a limited release and it often sells out in the first 12 hours leaving you to stalk the site for replenishments if you want to buy something. They are also offering free delivery for today only on all orders over £65. Happy shopping one and all – do let me know what you think in the comments.