It’s lovely to be working with John Lewis & Partners again. Rather than write a general new season review, I thought I’d have a look at their own label collections and define what each brand stands for. Then I’ll move on to a show-and-tell as I try some of the pieces myself and tell you what I think.
It makes sense for John Lewis & Partners to continue developing their own ranges. Traditionally, department stores have operated as a ‘house of brands,’ pulling other labels together under one roof. In pre-digital days that made for an easy experience for shoppers who didn’t have to physically go in and out of different shops on the high street to see what was on offer.
Now of course, everything is just a click away and so points of difference become ever more important. As customers become more environmentally aware, brands like John Lewis & Partners need to be confident in their supply chain which is a gargantuan task when you rely on the transparency of third party producers. Developing their own labels means they can drive sustainability hard by ensuring that suppliers of their own wares are producing them ethically. And they’re going one step further by supporting organisations that train farmers to produce source materials in a more environmentally conscious way, helping them to make changes at a grass roots level.
Of course we can’t ignore the fact that own brand also enables a retailer to retain more margin per item but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. John Lewis & Partners appear to be determined to continue with their ‘never knowingly undersold’ pledge and if they’re to survive in a discount driven marketplace, they need to find a way of balancing things out.
So, let’s move onto the clothes. In an interview with Vogue, Iain Ewing, head of design, womenswear and accessories said “we treat all of our own-label collections as we would any brand at John Lewis: they have their own personalities, combined with separate design and buying teams to ensure they stay true to their individual brand values and appeal to different customer styles.” I have to say that because I don’t have a store nearby, I sometimes lose sight of the distinction between the ranges so I thought I’d look through them and recap.
John Lewis & Partners own label ranges SS19
Modern Rarity highlights SS19
Let’s start with Modern Rarity which is John Lewis & Partners’ luxury line. Fabrics are mostly natural – silks, cashmere, linen, cotton and pieces are designed to be worn together. They’re investment items aligning with the buy less but better philosophy and each season, the collection is developed specifically so that both old and new pieces continue to work alongside each other, enabling you to mix and match.
Because of the fluidity of its silhouette, I find that it’s a difficult range to shop online and I haven’t had a chance to go into a store yet this season. In the past when I’ve been doing a store visit, I’ve picked up pieces that didn’t appeal on the hanger but as soon as I tried them, they transformed. My favourite red Modern Rarity dress from last summer was one – I almost walked straight past it but now it’s a forever piece in my summer wardrobe.
So because I haven’t tried them, I don’t feel I can recommend specific new looks but these are the pieces that have caught my eye online this season:
- Silk and lace camisole this is a core piece in the Modern Rarity collection and it is released every season. It’s a particular favourite of mine, I love the quality of both the lace and the silk
- Beige shoes with snake black heel I’m wondering if these are new because I haven’t spotted them until now – snake, beige and silver, all in a block heeled shoe
- Gold and diamond earrings all of the materials used in the Modern Rarity range are high quality and so these earrings are made from gold with diamonds, a stunning addition to your collection
- Tortoiseshell sunglasses a classic shape with a really lovely tortoiseshell mix
- Lace bra Modern Rarity lingerie is incredible quality for the price, you’re getting superb engineering and it’s very pretty too
And/Or highlights SS19
And/Or is the stateside inspired range that John Lewis & Partners launched in 2017. Denim is at the heart of it with jeans styles created in collaboration with Calvin Rucker. As the look is Boho-led, it isn’t my style but having said that, my all-time favourite jeans come from And/Or.
- Statement sunglasses these are a great shape for SS19 and they’d give you a really strong look
- Leopard clutch I have the zebra version of this and I love it. The tassel and the quality of the ponyskin helps it to stand apart from the very many classic leopard clutches on the high street
- Straight leg jeans my favourites, they’re incredibly comfortable and fit so well although I did have mine shortened. They usually have 5 star reviews although there appear to have been a couple quality issues recently that have been addressed.
- Zebra shoes – it’s hard to see from this picture but these zebra shoes have a subtle green glitter trim around the vamp, an extra special detail
- Lace bra – And/Or also has a range of stunning lingerie that is very design-led
Kin highlights SS19
Kin was the first John Lewis & Partners branded collection launched back in 2013. It has a pared back, Scandi aesthetic that seems to go from strength to strength and good eco-credentials. I don’t find it works for me – with my strong shoulders I need a more defined silhouette but it’s a fabulous look if you can pull it off and the pricepoints are good.
- Silver and white slingbacks stylish, easy to wear shoes for summer, these are also available in black and yellow
- Wide leg crops with a neat fit at the top, these have a strong silhouette and would look great if you’re tall and slim and looking to add contour to your body
- White tee a simple white tee with a lovely finish, it’s ethically produced and with its shallow V neck it would work especially well for those with a larger bust
- Sweatshirt with stitching a loose fit with top-stitching to add contour, by buying this you’re supporting a worldwide initiative that trains farmers to produce more sustainable cotton
- Crossbody bag – pistachio green is trending this season but it can be a difficult colour to wear. This is an easy way to integrate it into your outfits.
John Lewis & Partners Collection – highlights SS19
When it came to trying a few things on, I knew I’d stay in my comfort zone: the John Lewis & Partners collection. You may remember that this was launched last Autumn and there are lots of good things about it. To start with it’s mostly pattern free and there are plenty of opportunities for colour blocking. It also has a strong supply chain story including partnership with the Better Cotton Initiative which works to make global cotton production better for the people who work with it.
I’ve already included some of the pieces in my ‘special occasions’ post but I’ve been itching to try them so the team sent me a collection of press samples to put through their paces. Before I show you though I have to say that this has been the most difficult batch of photos we’ve ever done. The weather gods have, as the middle son would say, been ‘having a giggle’. Each time we set off in bright sunshine only to arrive at our destination in either snow, hail or torrential rain. There was a point on Friday when I contacted the team at JL&P to say I didn’t think we were going to manage it but thankfully the sun came out over the weekend. Let me show you what I tried.
Outfit 1 – Clashing pinks
I’ve been updating the way I’m going to work my core wardrobe colour combinations for this summer. One of the approaches I’m planning to take is clashing some of my favourite pinks, oranges and reds so as soon as I saw this skirt and top combo online, I loved it. There’s a camisole to go with the skirt if you prefer and you can also buy the outfit in a combination of blues or black and yellow. My one concern was that the skirt was going to be too short but actually it was only an inch higher than I would have liked. My advice would be to size up though, the fixed waistband was a little tight and I like pleated skirts to sit a little lower so that they don’t accentuate my tummy.
Georgette top; Colour block skirt; Shoes
The top I love. I generally avoid dropped shoulders because they make mine look even broader but the gather on the sleeve is a little further down than usual. I can imagine wearing this with jeans and heels too.
Georgette top; Colour block skirt; Shoes
Outfit 2 – colourblocking
I covered this dress in last week’s occasion dressing post and I was looking forward to trying it. It’s such a distinctive look and the warm yellow and ivory blocks make it kinder to the skin than solid black. The quality is amazing and it feels lovely to wear.
Colourblock tie-waist dress; zebra clutch; similar shoes
If I’d been in store I’d have tried a size smaller though because it felt a bit big. It’s a particularly good dress if you’re a column shape because it would hang beautifully on you. It’s also available in navy and cobalt.
Outfit 3 – Safari chic
These aren’t colours I wear often, khaki can drain me but this is a richer shade than you usually find. Technically this is a ‘shacket’ (a cross between a shirt and a jacket) which is a key look this season. It’s been cleverly designed so that you can wear it alone as a top or over another layer as I’m doing here.
The fabric is soft and that takes it away from the military fatigue look. I’ve paired it with an ivory double layer top which is a really lovely piece, much more interesting than a white t-shirt but with the same clean look.
Safari jacket; Double layer top; Girlfriend chinos; shoes
The girlfriend chinos are an easy step into this season’s beige and a really great cut and fit. I’ve rolled the hems so that they hit the ankle bone but they could be worn full length too. All of the pieces in this outfit were true to size.
Safari jacket; Double layer top; Girlfriend chinos; shoes
Now this was supposed to be the easiest shot to get but it didn’t turn out that way. We started and (apart from my cold red nose and the fact that I’m having to hold onto my hair) everything was fine but within seconds…
…the heavens opened, drenching Mr MC – which entertained me no end.
So there was nothing for it other than to go inside and wait it out…
…with a warm cup of coffee by the fire. I should just say how incredibly grateful I am to him for all the time he spent on this shoot last week. He didn’t complain, even though it meant him working a couple of late nights to catch up with his own deadlines. This was one of those moments when I was wondering if he was really smiling inside as he started to steam in front of the fire… but he seemed to be.
Cobalt blazer; Cobalt top; Indigo jeans; Similar shoes
So let’s talk about the outfit. The blazer is also available in grass green and navy but I was really happy to find it in cobalt – for the last two summers it’s a colour that’s been thin on the ground. The cut has been reworked this season so that it’s longer but it’s still a boxy shape which will be better for some than others. In terms of tailoring, cloth and finish, the quality is superb and it feels far more expensive than it is.
I’m always on the hunt for indigo jeans and these are a fantastic fit at the top. They’re high rise and they hug your midriff without any gaping. Personally I wouldn’t call them straight legs because they’re very neat on the calf and, like the And/Or jeans, I’d need to have them shortened so that they hit my ankle bone.
The top is really lovely. It’s like wearing a t-shirt with a chiffon overlay that drapes beautifully. It works well worn loose if you prefer to cover your waistband but you could probably also tuck it in if you prefer. The sleeves are slightly capped so they cover the tops of the arms. It was an outfit that I’d feel happy in for a relaxed night out with friends or even in the office.
Outfit 5 – a fantastic summer dress
And finally, there’s just one more thing that I want to show you. This photo wasn’t taken last week (obviously, that really would have been mad weather), it was last year in Valencia. A lot of you loved this dress but by the time I wore it in May, it had completely sold out. Anyway it’s been repeated this year in both navy and pink, it’s linen but not the kind that creases really badly. It’s lovely to wear on a warm summer day and it was one of my most liked outfits on Instagram last year.
Linen handkerchief hem dress (also available in pink); Similar shoes
My view of the John Lewis & Partners own label collections SS19
So now that I’ve had the opportunity to try a few pieces how would I summarise this season’s collection? I’d say it continues seamlessly from the Autumn launch. It hasn’t evolved but it has stuck to its original principles of providing interesting staples that slot in with the clothes you already have in your wardrobe, enabling you to buy mindfully.
The use of colour in particular makes my heart beat faster whenever I see it and it’s my favourite of the own brand ranges. For me it doesn’t address the gap that we defined when we discussed my JL&P store visit last Spring and suggested that they should create a range of Parisian chic. I don’t think that was ever the intention behind this collection though, it feels very English and it’s certainly different to anything else on the high street.
I agree with Iain Ewing when he says that the in house brands have their own personalities however they do all clearly come from the same family and I suppose from a brand perspective that’s a good thing. However I do think they’re neglecting a segment of their customer base who would like a range of contemporary clothing with a neat overall fit and basically just less fabric in it than their other collections.
So I’m making the Parisian chic point again and by Parisian I mean clothing that makes you feel sassy and slick. If John Lewis & Partners put their minds to it, they’d do it better than anyone else so, knowing that they’re reading, this is a personal plea… but do feel free to back me up in the comments if you agree (please!).
Having said that, the pieces I tried here have nudged me out of my style groove. I’m going down to London this week so I’m hoping to try the colourblock dress in the size 10 and the pink outfit with the skirt in a 14. The graduation ceremony is still on my mind and these are both outfits that I’d get plenty of wear out of afterwards. So keep it up JL&P – I’m really looking forward to seeing how this range evolves as you go along.
Disclosure: ‘Spotlight on John Lewis & Partners own label ranges SS19’ was commissioned by them but all outfit choices, thoughts, pictures and content are my own.
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