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It's a long suede road for M&S as they build up womenswear


TANFASTIC: Autograph suede coat tipped as an AW15 hero

TANFASTIC: Autograph suede coat tipped as an AW15 hero

NEW CHIEF: Alison Grainger of M&S

NEW CHIEF: Alison Grainger of M&S

Kieran Harnett


TANFASTIC: Autograph suede coat tipped as an AW15 hero

First came the much-talked about €270 tan suede skirt from M&S, and for next season, the high-street veterans are introducing a luxurious tan suede 'hero' coat costing €399.

The question is: can luxury, designer-feel pieces maintain the turnaround in fortunes for M&S, who last month, turned a financial corner with the news that their sartorial fortunes in womenswear were up after 14 consecutive quarters of declining sales?

This week, their infamous tan suede 70s miniskirt - which has eaten up more press miles and fashion editor tributes than most couturier numbers this season - is finally arriving into stores next Thursday. It's going to be first-come, first-served for customers in Ireland who want the Autograph skirt - which, critically for M&S, has been worn by key international fashion influences like Olivia Palermo and Alexa Chung.

Just days before the skirt's arrival into Ireland came the first clue to what M&S plan to do next and, surprise, surprise, it involves more suede - and at designer prices too.

After inspecting the strategically stylish suede coat - which carries the very un-M&S price tag of €399 - at their press preview in London last Wednesday, I can attest to its luxury cachet.

But once lured in by these 'hero' pieces, can M&S satisfy the needs of the modern customer juggling 24/7 online temptations?

The coat certainly oozes designer swagger, with a flattering, trenchcoat-style silhouette, cinched in at the waist with a loose, tie belt.

However upwardly mobile she may aspire to be, this coat is not one for the school-run mum if she's going to be greeted by kids with sticky fingers.

Instantly jumped upon on press day, it quickly earned the 'must-have' moniker. This Autograph coat isn't just pricey, it's dry-clean-only territory too. Unveiled as part of the Elegant Bohemia trend for AW15, M&S hail this as "a confidently feminine direction".

There's evidence of lots of feminine confidence in Ireland and M&S have their eyes set on helping themselves to a bigger slice of the Irish fashion pie.

Helping to steer that confidence is Alison Grainger, the new M&S boss in Ireland.

Interestingly, the chain intends starting a programme of in-store styling events, starting in Grafton Street later this month. Saturdays on Dublin's premium shopping territories sees lots of stores, from Brown Thomas and Arnotts to the independents holding events where stylists help customers build capsule wardrobes and shop for special occasions.

M&S have confirmed that they see stylish interpretations of key fashion trends "as a priority" - and if that mission statement means helping customers assemble looks, and explore the merits of their many labels such as Collezione, Autograph, Limited Edition,Twiggy, Indigo, Classic and Per Una, it's clearly going to be the M&S project to help them find them.

And maybe, after the clothes, shoppers will buy dinner too before they leave.

Sunday Indo Business