Sober and cautious: M&S spring style mirrors mood in the boardroom
The Marks & Spencer fashion showcase operates on three levels. It is a sneak peek of the choice pieces which will be on sale next season. It is a litmus test as to which catwalk trends will break out of the high-fashion bubble and make it big on the high street. Lastly – and this is why it is viewed with interest beyond the fashion world – it is a biannual insight into the self-image and strategy of a retail giant. Twice a year the mood in the M&S boardroom – bullish or timid, experimental or nostalgic – is spelt out in hemlines, price points and colour combinations.
Right now that mood is sober, and so the aesthetic is cautious. This could be seen on the long-sleeved, midi-length dresses which dominated the showroom mannequins. A colour-block navy and emerald style will arrive after Christmas, while spring will see a smocked cotton in dusty pink.
The emphasis on dresses with sleeves builds on the success of autumn’s Constellation dress, a navy with silver embroidery number that at its peak last month was selling at a rate of one every 90 seconds. “She likes a dress with a sleeve, even in summer,” said the retailer’s style director, Belinda Earl, at a preview.The M&S customer – revered, all-powerful and slightly mystical – is always referred to with the feminine pronoun. The demands of the customer, rather than the whims of fashion week, are the key influences here, as reflected in the invitation extended to 75 handpicked customers who were invited to preview this collection before it was unveiled in the media.