How to invest in style
It will not be news to you, dear reader, that we are well into the summer sales.
Nor is it news that there are some very fabulous bargains to be had due to a combination of the economic downturn and our utterly ludicrous climate, affording us 90-degree heat in April and Februaryesque temperatures in June.
Having said there are very fabulous bargains, that assertion needs qualification: there are some monumental knock-downs in many of the luscious, iconic runway pieces that have featured across the fashion pages and glossies.
Pieces like Dolce & Gabbana's white lace shift dress which kick-started this summer's lace-for-daywear trend (down by a third, now £875), and Christopher Kane's Lisanne flower print dress (now half price at £1,140), both at Matches. There is also Stella McCartney's luscious overblown citrus print dress, vest-top and skirt, which are all half price at Browns, the dress now £825; the skirt and vest-top both down to £435.
These garments are all extraordinarily beautiful and made in superb fabric, but with their iconic status and their exposure in the glossies, such pieces belong, indelibly, to Spring/Summer 2011. It means that, however tempting they are, they may not repay you with the kind of wardrobe longevity that such a hefty outlay demands.
Buy if you must, but far better to seek out pieces which are slightly less hot - even a tad classic, like a great blazer, a structural trench-coat, or great trousers, which can be worn not only next summer but for many summers ahead.
Alternatively look for pieces which tick one of the trend boxes for next year (1970s; mannish tailoring; animal prints; geometric shapes; vintage; print), so that when you take them out in May or June 2012, you can feel smug at your clairvoyance.
The truly savvy shopper will scour the sales for bags, shoes, shirts, blouses and even the odd jacket that will work for autumn - occasionally winter.
Perfect examples include a D&G brown, quilted leather jacket down to £495 from £825, at Matches; a quilted leather biker jacket now £260 from £325, and a slouchy, caramel shirt now £77 from £110, both at Reiss. Shirts by shirt label du jour, Equipment, are half price at Browns; Mulberry bags, some in autumn shades, are a third off at Fenwick, W1; while courts, including one in brown suede, are a third or a half off at LK Bennett.
SUMMER INVESTMENT PIECES:
● Swimwear is a particularly good sales buy, as swimwear styles evolve rather than change dramatically. Fenwick Brent Cross has almost 30 percent off Gottex swimsuits, now £120 from £175, plus matching sarongs and kaftans. Browns has Tomas Maier bikinis at half price, now £85, and a Missoni bikini (now £175 from £295) and a Lanvin ruffled swimsuit, now half price at £165, both in wear-forever black.
Matches has Heidi Klein swimsuits at £108, down from £180; Diane von Furstenberg bikini tops at £56 (from £84) and bottoms at £37 (£74), as well as half price DVF one-pieces, now £87.
● Even summer shoes and sandals can have staying power if you buy with an eye to next year's shoe trends which include loafers, '70s, vintage and brogues. Examples include a Maison Martin Margiela wood and leather wedge sandal (£255 from £430) at Browns, and Burberry Brit espadrille wedges down from £250 to £175, and a Chloe bow-trim court now £197 from £395, both at Matches.
● Bags can have serious longevity, so are worth searching out in the sales. If you really have cash to splash, a Zagliani painted python bag is down from an apoplexy-inducing £2,222 to a still eye-watering £1,550 at Browns. But it is so exquisitely crafted, so immaculately neutral and so timeless, you could still be carrying it when you check into residential care on your 100th birthday. Less scarily priced bags by Vanessa Bruno, Sonia Rykiel and Jamin Puech, are reduced by up to half price at Fenwick, W1.
● Dresses, which we are unlikely to give up in favour of separates any time soon, can have real longevity. Some of the best include a Jaeger hand-painted silk check shift down to £165 from £330; a white banded crochet knit dress down from £55 to £25 at Oasis and a coffee-colour shift with deep frills around the neckline, now £111 from £139 at the Duchess of Cambridge's favourite shop, Reiss. More good "keepers" include a Christopher Kane printed silk tank dress £345 from £580 at Browns and a Day, Birger et Mikkelsen cotton-and-silk shirt dress in poppy, £95 (from £159) at Matches.
● Tops, T-shirts and blouses can be great sale buys if you avoid the season's hot colours. Good buys include an organic cotton chambray tunic blouse by Steven Alan, down from £195 to £119 at Fenwick W1; a Zero + Maria Cornejo cream silk top with knot detail now £230 from £460, at Browns; a Cacharel short sleeve rolled neckline jumper now £129 from £185 and a Beyond Vintage silk and lace top £149 (from £298), both at Matches.
● Good coat and jacket investments include a stone military trench coat down from £699 to £349 at Jaeger; and a Cerruti silk trench coat half price at £499, and a MaxMara trench down to £339 from £678, both at Matches.
There is an easy fit jacket by Cerruti down to £312 at Matches, and a Stella McCartney textured linen blazer and tuxedo, both now half price (£530) at Browns.
While not precisely a steal, either jacket would see you through this summer and next and - properly cared for - can be taken out every half-decade or so when the tuxedo or blazer inevitably resurface.