At last we’re moving into Spring and once again I’m delighted to bring you the exclusive on the new collection from Inès de La Fressange at Uniqlo. As I say every time, Inès is my ultimate style icon so it’s a huge honour when Uniqlo give me this opportunity to be her English counterpart. The collection launches here today at 7am in the UK and here in the US. Sorry Australian readers – I couldn’t get any info for you but I did try!
Now as we know this range sells out quickly, often by lunchtime on the day it launches so I’m not going to talk for too long before I go into detail on the outfits. However having tried a selection of the pieces this week, the most important thing I want to say about it is that the sizing feels very different. I haven’t managed to get this on authority from Uniqlo because we’ve had to turn it all round so quickly but it seems to me that they’ve completely changed the frame size.
If you remember when I was writing the capsule posts, I mentioned taking into account a retailer’s origin when you think about fit. Until this collection, I’ve always felt that the Inès range was designed around a smaller French or even Japanese frame but not this time. The clothes that I tried were all in line with a standard UK fit – M&S for example – which is good. Previously I just haven’t been able to consider the trousers because they were low rise and snake hipped. That’s not the case with this collection.
The other thing that I noticed is that the fabrics are all natural which is fantastic for summer. The pricing is as good as ever, as is the quality and attention to detail.
The theme for Spring/ Summer is St Tropez so it’s more relaxed than Autumn’s Parisian chic. The shapes are flowy and loose. Obviously I was shooting them in the north of England on a cold February day so I need you to imagine that I’m wafting through a small French town, picking up lunch from a market! Are you with me? Let’s go…
Inès de La Fressange at Uniqlo SS19 review
Outfit 1 – relaxed suiting
There’s always a strong navy trouser suit at the core of the Inès collection and every year it’s the first outfit that I focus on because it encapsulates the mood. For the last few years it’s been created in a wool mix making it quite formal. This year, like most SS19 collections, it has veered in a more casual direction. We’ll be talking about SS19 trends soon but everything is more relaxed than usual for lots of psycho-social-political reasons and there’s a lot of nostalgia for pre-millennium / pre-digital times going on. This suit reminds me of the ones we were wearing in about 1989. It’s a heavy cotton and the more relaxed fabric offsets the formality of a trouser suit well. Plus of course you can wear the pieces separately.
Trousers generally are wider this season and this is where the change in fit on the Inès range becomes really apparent. Usually when the samples arrive to be photographed, I have to squeeze myself into a low rise 29″ waist (size 12) that feels more like a size 8. This time they were a bit big on me – in these trousers I would size down to a 28. They have lots of length in them and I would probably have them shortened slightly – because they’re such great quality at such a good price I wouldn’t mind paying the extra. The blazer is a medium and it fits well. This is good news, it’s so much easier when the sizing aligns with the rest of the UK high street. Both the trousers and blazer are also available in a lighter chambray colour.
I decided to style the suit with a cotton fisherman’s jumper that has a deep red stripe (also available in navy and ivory or tan and sky blue). This is a great buy – a proper French fisherman’s jumper in heavy cotton which means that it’s warm enough for cool summer evenings. I sized down to a small because I wanted a neat fit to balance the volume of the trousers.
The shoulders are slightly dropped but not too much and they accentuate the flattering boatneck. Other details include a split hem and lovely tricot detailing on the shoulders and sleeves – as always with this range, so much thought has gone into the finish. In addition to the stripe, this jumper is also available in solid navy, ivory or pink.
Fisherman’s jumper (also available in navy with cream stripe; tan with sky blue stripe)
We took these photos in Liverpool while the middle son was having some auditions. This is the moment when I looked across and realised that I had an audience of lovely midlife Liverpudlians pressed up against the window of a café cheering me on!
Outfit 2 – a light summer dress
This is probably the lightest summer shirtdress that you’ll ever wear because it’s made of cotton lawn. It’s very fine and crisp and yet I found that it didn’t crease badly so it’s a great option for anyone who likes the cool comfort of linen but not the upkeep. Yet again the attention to detail stands out. The dress comes with a separate little cotton waist slip that is just the right length to enable you to leave a few buttons undone if you want to.
This style comes in a small floral print and the buttons are self-covered which adds to the quality of the finish. It’s also available in navy and a range of solid colours in a linen cotton blend too. It comes with a self-covered buckled belt although I switched it out so that I could show you the Inès vintage leather belt. I’ve never found leather belts anywhere that match the quality of these for the price, there are also studded or skinny options. I’m wearing a medium in both the dress and the belt, both are true to size.
I added the soft cotton cashmere blend cardigan in a medium (I was inordinately grateful for it because it was bitter while we were shooting this). Cardigans are coming back into fashion this year thank goodness. The bag is from the Inès range too. It’s a raffia-type material in a crochet effect which aligns with the trend for everything handspun (who’d have thought we’d even see the return of macrame?!).
Outfit 3 – ‘le weekend’ chic
The French tend to do slouchy really well – there’s a level of finish to these pieces that underlies the dressed down appearance. When English brands do slouchy, they often overwork the vintage element, opting for thin, distressed fabrics and fraying. The difference here is that the fabrics are high quality which gives everything structure and so the outfit looks more relaxed than ‘can’t be bothered.’ I’m not saying that one is better than the other, just that they’re different but personally I feel happier in this look than ripped jeans and a faux vintage band t-shirt.
This iconic French worker jacket is a classic Inès look. It’s made from a heavy cotton and linen blend with the usual red detailing at the buttonholes. You may remember that I looked hard for a jacket like this last summer but in the end they were either too short or too baggy. This is a Goldilocks find – I’m wearing the medium.
The trousers are a 29 again but this time they have an elastic gathering at the small of the back which helps with fit. Even so, I’d say they come up slightly large again and I’d go down by one size so that there was less fabric around the midriff. Again they’re a cotton and linen blend which gives them a crisp structure without the creasing of pure linen, I love this mid-blue chambray shade. They’d look good with any of the jumpers that I’ve featured and I’d also wear them with a slim fitting t-shirt and heels for work in the summer.
As you know the shirts in the Inès range are always favourites, you just can’t buy this kind of shirt anywhere else unless you go to France and pay a lot more. This one is a cotton linen blend popover with lovely gathers under the placket – I’ve tucked it in here to balance the volume of the trousers but it would also work really well worn loose over more tailored trousers or fitted jeans. It has my favourite mandarin style of collar that doesn’t interfere with anything worn over it and the quality is fantastic, I’m wearing a medium.
Outfit 4 – chino chic
You will no doubt have read about the return of chinos this spring and the trend for beige (I never thought I’d be writing that). For ‘femmes d’un certain âge,’ beige can be a challenge; get it wrong and you’re a step away from what I call garden centre chic (I’m not being rude, I love a good garden centre but I think you’ll know what I mean). For this reason and the fact that I don’t have the colouring to pull it off, I won’t be layering the many shades of beige that the street stylers are wearing. Instead I’ll be teaming beige with off white or a pop of colour like this.
I’ll start by talking about the chinos. I was sent my usual size 29″ – again they were very generous. I had to roll the waistband over to hold them up so you’ll need to play with the sizes. I think a 27″ would have been my best bet. Because of this they look a bit loose on the body here, they’re fabulously chic otherwise. They’re also available in navy or blush pink.
Here’s a close up to show you the lovely detail on the linen boatneck jumper. It’s finished at the sleeves and hem with a chic navy and ivory scalloped edge – the linen knit isn’t one that creases so it’s lovely to wear. I went for a small to balance the trousers and it’s also available in navy, mid-blue, ivory or grey all with contrasting trim.
The silk scarf with its hand-painted hearts is absolutely gorgeous and will look very chic just tied around the strap of your bag if you don’t wear scarves around your neck. Once more you wonder how they achieve this level of luxury for the price, it’s even subtly signed ‘love & kisses, Inès’.
We’d nipped in for a coffee and tapas so that I could defrost and as I was checking my messages, I saw my old Selfridges group breaking the news that Karl Lagerfeld had died. Waspish though he was, you had to admire him and it just so happened that I was wearing my Karl Lagerfeld specs so I’m mentioning this as a small token to him.
And with that, I’ll leave you to shop. As always with Inès de La Fressange at Uniqlo, it’s a limited collection and so it will sell out quickly. I know this can be frustrating but Uniqlo’s retail model is to stay fresh by running short term collaborations with a wide range of designers so that they can satisfy lots of different customers.
However, I do have good news for northerners – a shop will be opening on Market Street in Manchester next month and another store will open outside London later this year but they haven’t told me where yet. Isn’t is great to have a good news retail story for once? Sometimes it pays to do these things cautiously. I’m really pleased to launch Spring with what must be the best quality:value range of the season. Happy shopping everyone, I hope you manage to get something.
Disclosure: ‘Inès de La Fressange at Uniqlo SS19 review’ was commissioned by Uniqlo but all of my words, thoughts and pictures are completely unedited. All IdLF clothing samples were supplied by Uniqlo, other accessories are my own.
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