Saturday 3 December 2016

Can you spot next season's M&S hit?

As the retailer unveils its new collection for 2016, fashion lovers will be scouting for its 'hero' products. We report on the contenders

Published 12/11/2015 | 02:30

White blouse, €55, Bottle-green leather wrap skirt, €279, Autograph Collection
White blouse, €55, Bottle-green leather wrap skirt, €279, Autograph Collection
Ruffled blouse, €44, zig-zag midi skirt, €74, both Limited Edition Collection, Belt, €11, M&S Collection
White blouse with collar, €44, Limited Edition, white trousers, €90, Autograph Collection; pink bomber jacket, €89, Indigo Collection, pink dress, €95, Autograph Collection
Red ruffled off-the-shoulder dress, €99.

Dedicated followers of fashion delight: the latest M&S collection has been unveiled - and it's already causing quite the stir.

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Fashion editors this week got a sneak peek of the store's spring/summer collection for 2016, and the collection has been roundly praised for being both wearable and forward-thinking.

In recent years, M&S has been focusing more on fashion in the hopes of appealing to the style set, and it appears to be working.

Despite a slight drop in sales of its general merchandise, profit margins are up for the brand.

The secret appears to lie in bigging up its 'hero' products.

Last year, a suede skirt set both the fashion columns and the high street alight; the combination of a high-end product with an affordable price tag brought the fashionistas to M&S.

Previously their pink coat was the fashion must-have of 2013 and again in 2014.

The company hopes to continue its success with some key pieces from their new collection, which lands in February 2016.

Trading director Jo Jenkins told the Guardian that they learnt a lot from the suede skirt, and successes like it "give us fashion authority, and that's an asset."

So what is this season's 'hero' product? Well, there are already some strong contenders - the most promising piece is a beautiful bottle-green leather wrap skirt.

From the Autograph collection like last year's hero, it costs €279 and has been tested by the team to ensure the split isn't too revealing, as M&S style director Belinda Earl has revealed.

"There's been a lot of striding around the office in that skirt," she said.

The skirt is part of what the chain describes as a "modern utility" story, which includes silky bombers and a soft suede olive biker jacket, €270, from its Twiggy range.

The brand has also done its best to make the most unlikely candidates fashionable - even dungarees. The navy crepe ones from the Limited Collection, €49.50, are a steal at that price and would dress up even the most basic striped T-shirt.

Observers have also noted an element of the Gucci look - pretty pink lace and chiffon pieces, high necks and off-the-shoulder blouses.

One stand-out item is the very boho-chic red ruffled off-the-shoulder dress, €99, from Per Una, and label-watchers will love a Chloé-esque shoulder bag in faux snakeskin (€53).

Availability of these 'hero' items has been an issue in the past; disgruntled customers haven't been able to get their mitts on the fabulous pieces they saw in magazines, and this is something the brand is aware of and says it is working to address.

Nonetheless, in Ireland, 14 branches stock women's clothing, but the collections will only be available in selected stores. It's not clear yet where each piece will land, but while not every hero piece from the collection will be available in every store, they will be on marksandspencer.ie, and hit the site at the same time they launch in the UK. All that's left is to convince yourself that it is in fact possible to buy your most stylish piece of 2016 from M&S, and not just your bras and ready meals.

Irish Independent

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