Saturday 20 January 2018

It's this season's must-have skirt - but can you get your hands on it?

Every year brings a new 'hero' product, and this time it's the leather wrap M&S skirt. As the item arrives in stores, Fashion Editor Bairbre Power finds out if the reality lives up to all the hype

White blouse, €55, Bottle-green leather wrap skirt, €279, Autograph Collection Marks and Spencer.
White blouse, €55, Bottle-green leather wrap skirt, €279, Autograph Collection Marks and Spencer.
M&S tan suede skirt, €270.
Recycled two-piece, €280, H&M Conscious collection.
The blazer worn by Kendall Jenner, pictured left.
Kate Middleton, pictured with Prince William in the sapphire blue, 'Phyllis' wrap around dress.

It's Olympic year and I've bagged myself an early trophy. However, instead of being gold, it's olive green and it fits like a dream. Retail victory came for me at Marks & Spencer on Grafton Street when I swooped down on my prey - one of their €250 A-line leather skirts which has driven fashionistas into paroxysms of desire.

I'm as cynical as the next shopper and I was fully expecting not to find the skirt without a tough search and, if I did succeed in locating it, would I like it? Would it be worth €250? If I couldn't find it in stores, would I have to resort to buying it online, something I don't normally subscribe to because I prefer to try things on first.

However, my curiosity was piqued. I liked the idea of a leather skirt in olive green which is a colour that works from spring right through to autumn.

Plotting a well-deserved Easter treat, I started doing my research. Word had it that they were spotted in the M&S branch in Dundrum Town Centre, but, as I was heading out the door, a pal texted me from town to say they were also available in the Grafton Street store and online.

The glossy magazines have been hyping this skirt as a SS16 'must have', but there have been a series of ubiquitous 'must have' fashion products from M&S over the last few seasons, widely regarded as an uplift for the iconic brand whose fashion fortunes have not been good in recent years.

I must confess, I've felt left out of that particular fashion party of late. Last year I just didn't 'get' the swooning passion for the tan suede skirt (€270) (right), simply because I knew the shape wouldn't suit me: it wasn't my colour and I'm forever spilling my Starbucks iced latte, so with suede, that was only going to mean heartache and annoyingly expensive trips to the dry cleaners.

Then there was the M&S hot pink duster coat from AW13, another 'hero' piece tipped by the press to make it big and turn around M&S fortunes.

Over the years, I've got some great coats at M&S but all that talk about the pink coat didn't generate much interest in the Power wardrobe. Again, it just wasn't my colour but I enthusiastically celebrated when a friend, hot on its trail for weeks, just happened to spy one abandoned on a rail in the changing room after weeks of searching and ringing stores nationwide as the online option sold out.

She emerged with a smile as wide as Sonia O'Sullivan's when she won silver in the 2000 Olympics and I saw the delight in how painstaking fashion detective work can pay off.

Maybe I just fall into the category of the average, pear-shaped Irish woman but I've found that 'hero' pieces garnering rave reviews are invariably advertised on slim, size eight models, and a lot can change in the fit and look when these pieces are scaled up in size and you take into consideration things like hips and tums.

Working in fashion journalism, I know the power of a well-communicated PR campaign. If you can get a piece of clothing onto the backs of petite style icons like Alexa Chung and Olivia Palermo months before it lands in stores, of course you are going to drum up interest and demand.

This time around, I had good reason to head into the dressing room with self doubt. Pre-purchase investigations online revealed that the model featured in the photo was 5ft 11, so if it sat just below her knee, where would be fall on me? Mid-calf is the answer, but somehow it just works because of its asymetric hemline with one side longer than the other.

It is certainly easier to walk in this shape than the split front suede skirt of last season.

And working in fashion, it is easy to fall into the 'bah humbug' approach to vocal public relations. Just this month, I travelled to Paris for an Irish exclusive on the 2016 H&M Conscious Exclusive collection. The pieces were even more gorgeous in the hand than in photos and I for one, will be joining the queue to buy when they go on sale here April 7.

There's massive interest in the recycled lace two-piece costing €218 (left), all the dresses and the 'Garda' cat-eye-shaped sunnies costing €25.

My only disappointment in this whole 'hero' piece shopping adventure was when my pal called from London to say she had bought the skirt at Westfields. We joked about being twins, but I kind of lost that trophy feeling when I heard she had paid just £129, whereas mine cost €250.

The bargain hunter in me says bring it back and save €85 by buying it in London - but will it be in stock when I get there?

Gotcha: Hero buys that stood the test of time

Balmain x H&M  embellished blazer

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The blazer worn by Kendall Jenner, pictured left.

Hangbags at dawn doesn’t even begin to describe the retail rivalry unleashed when when the Balmain X H&M collaboration launched last November. Queues snaked outside H&M stores worldwide, and while some shoppers were thrilled to bag Olivier Rousteing’s ‘hero’ designs for the high street, such as the embellished dresses and leather jackets, other consumers simply had a fashion ‘flip’ on their mind. The blazer that Kendall Jenner wore at the Billboard Awards originally cost €399 here in Ireland, but within days, it was selling for €4,000 on ebay. The hype was especially keen in the US where the campaign models, Gigi Hadid and Kendall have real currency. The sell-on values were inifitely more than with previous collaborations, such as Stella McCartney, Lanvin, Versace and Margiella. Coveted celebrity collaborations carry a whole new fashion currency, so take note if you want to finance new wardrobe buys. 

Kate Middleton’s ISSa engagement dress

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Kate Middleton, pictured with Prince William in the sapphire blue, 'Phyllis' wrap around dress.

Once she puts them on her back, Kate Middleton has the power to turn fashion buys into ‘hero’ pieces within minutes. Just ask Irish designer Orla Kiely, whose website has crashed with the demand for ‘hero’ dresses worn by the Duchess. The high street brand Reiss had a similar experience when Kate wore a white £159 Reiss dress for her official engagement photograph, taken by Mario Testino in January 2011. There are still people trying to chase down a piece of royal fashion history — that’s the sapphire blue, ‘Phyllis’ wrap dress (€575) by Issa London she wore in November 2010 when she was presented to the world as Prince William’s new fiancée. Six years later, this ‘hero’ buy is back in production, which speaks volumes about the demand for it. 

Chloé Susanna studded boot


When it comes to ankle boots, the biggest trophy of all to own has to be the  Chloé Suzanna (aka Susanna or Susan). The French-designed, three-buckled strap, studded beauts cost under €1,000 but still have incredible resale value eight years after they appeared in Chloé’s Pre-Fall 2008 collection. The high street delivered more affordable versions, but fashion-lovers can spot the real things at a distance which is why these hero boots still have amazing currency in the pre-loved sphere. Based on condition, they regularly fetch more than the original price and if you have the original box and a Chloé dust bag, you are laughing all the way to the bank!

— Bairbre Power

Irish Independent

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