Tuesday, 13 August 2013

The fashion loop: what's so radical about A/W13's high street buys?

I bloody love Autumn/Winter clothing collections; it's no secret that I normally find them more exciting and creatively diverse than Spring/Summer, when pastels, neon and all things 'cute' come out of the woodwork with ritual predictability. But this year I've found that the bigger ritual and the feeling of being stuck on repeat has come from my first glimpses of A/W13 on the high street.

Soft pale pink mid length jacket Zara AW13
That pink coat could have been bought last year, but it's a new Zara offering.
[image via Company.co.uk].

Whilst I loved the big trends of A/W12, with the burgundy and the khaki and the navy, the continual appeal of leather trousers (which have been knocking around for a few years now), the quirky squirrel and owl motifs on jumpers, the punk nail art, the fake fur and mohair in crazy colours, the dark florals, the tartan prints, the pale pink coats, the spaghetti strap silky camisoles and slip dresses, the houndstooth and the metallics and the faux-leather midi skirts, I've found them to be coming around again with very little difference in what's being offered. 

Clearly retailers know when they're onto a good thing, and we obviously all bought up the stuff last year, but how much of it - realistically speaking - needs replacing (apart from my faux-leather trousers, which need yearly replenishment as the knees always go)? How many trends are we going to buy into for the second or third consecutive year and not even bat an eyelid, dampening the impact of the really unusual trends for this coming season, like Celine's bag lady chic and Stella McCartney's oversize pinstripes? In amongst all of the recycling, the Celine and Stella tributes aren't given the edge that they need to stand out against the repeated failsafe hits.

Brocade suit from M&S in ladylike goth trend of AW12
 Brocade for A/W12 from Marks and Spencer [image via Telegraph.co.uk].

Brocade vintage style dress Marks and Spencer
Brocade comes back again for A/W13 [image via Telegraph.co.uk].

It just feels oddly like a huge case of deja-vu as I walk round the shops and browse the internet, seeing the same tartans, the same kooky jumpers, the same punk luxe and grunge pieces. In fact, currently in the Zara sale you can pick up a faux-leather burgundy pleated skirt, which looks remarkably like it could work for the upcoming season, so just buy it now and save it for a month or two and you'll be ahead of the game... or just wondering if it's a ploy to make you need the inevitable newer and shinier version that they're bound to bring out. 

Of course, people may have missed out on certain key purchases first time around, and I'm all for getting the items I should have put in my basket in 2012 (pale pink coat, please), but there's honestly very little at the moment that feels distinctly new or innovative to make this feel like a new season. Maybe the retailers are afraid to take a risk and they feel safer picking up the trends that have been recycled by designers again and again; maybe it's down to the trend forecasters looking to street style photographers and hipsters, who are all looking at each other, and we've just run out of ideas? Has there been a saturation point? Or can we expect a sudden injection of originality in September and October, when the real hardcore winter fashion starts to hit home?

Leather jacket with stitching detail and soft shearling collar AW12 Zara
 Shearling meets leather for A/W12 at Zara with this short jacket [image via Look.co.uk].

Zara leather and soft collared coat
Here it comes again, with the 'combination cropped jacket' for A/W13 [image via Zara.com].

If you think I'm catastrophising, I'd ask you to go into any high street fashion retailer - Zara, M&S, H&M, Primark - and check out their early A/W13 drop right now. Look at the items carefully and try and picture them in light of what was on sale a year ago. Does anything feel like it's too new, design-wise, to be something you could have bought in 2012? I challenge you to find five items that are definitely from this year's Autumn/Winter collection and couldn't be mistaken for last year's, or 2011's. Let me know if you're successful. The best examples I could track down were some rather brilliant furry winklepickers and slipper shoes from M&S - pure fun, but I need more like this in order to feel confident that retailers aren't getting lazy.

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