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Catherine Caines | June 10, 2009
Article from: The Australian

BANKABLE shopping may seem to be an oxymoron in these financially troubled times, but it is the new mantra for fashion lovers being forced to master the art of investment dressing. As the economic downturn puts the brakes on spending, women are embracing more enduring pieces.

But the rules have changed since the previous recession. Back in the early 1990s investment dressing meant corporate attire and anonymous classics.

“With the new investment dressing you have to look for individualism and something that excites you,” says Brana Wolf, Australian-born stylist and contributing fashion editor to US Harper’s Bazaar. “Something that is a little different gives you a lot more pleasure in the long run; it’s something you can pull out later and still enjoy.”

The view from the top designers is anything but conservative. A cross-generation such as Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci, Balenciaga’s Nicolas Ghesquiere, Rick Owens, Roland Mouret, Lanvin’s Alber Elbaz, Dries Van Noten, Martin Margiela, Bottega Veneta’s Tomas Maier, Miuccia Prada and Yves Saint Laurent’s Stefano Pilati are producing neo-classic clothes with enough oomph to keep things interesting but will still last a lifetime.

From Tisci’s alternately ornate and austere twists on the classic little black dress and Pilati’s striking reboot of classic tuxedo jackets and coats to Ghesquiere’s bold Dynasty-inspired dressing and Margiela’s supersized shoulder padded jackets – wearable for years to come and worth more now the designer has retired – the new classics combine investment with edge.

Where once the choice was between trendy but cheap throwaways and beautifully made but, let’s face it, unexciting clothes, smart women now know they can have both.

“Cheaper brands and spending $10 on a T-shirt works when you’re in your 20s but not once you’re over 30,” Wolf says. “It’s about sticking to the brands you know but maybe looking at it from a different point of view.”

The best designers, such as those mentioned above, have already adapted to this new species of shopper.

Stand-out collections from February’s international autumn-winter fashion week circuit presented a powerful, assured muse wearing bankable, shoulder-padded clothes that could carry the burdens of the world but still had enough quirk to be captivating.

Labels and items to look for:
Rick Owens leather jackets and leggings
Givenchy little black dress
Roland Mouret form-fitting dresses and power suits
Martin Margiela power shoulders
Stella McCartney boyfriend blazer
Dries Van Noten graphic print dresses and tops
YSLtuxedo jackets
Balenciaga Dynasty-inspired dresses
Lanvin trench coats
Bottega Venata leather bags

“I think designers said: ‘We want to be creative and continue looking for new proportions’, and that’s exactly what they did and very few designers toned their collections down in any way,” Wolf says.

Thankfully the old investment dressing rules from the early 90s recession – a methodical formula where every item matched and suited a corporate environment – no longer apply. Gone are the usual suspects of blazers, pantsuits, court shoes and secretary blouses.

“Things with a sense of luxury and a beautiful feeling have superseded them,” says Wendy Marshall, who owns Perth boutique Elle. “You need the quality and a bit of edge and don’t just do straight classic, that’s boring because you will look matronly.”

Revamped investments that impress Marshall include “a Rick Owens jacket that is made of a beautiful soft leather but it has an edge to it, a Lanvin trench coat that’s cut on the bias and moves when you walk … a Stella McCartney jacket is a must also because it is beautifully tailored and it has luxury and quality.” These are clothes for chic and assured women such as Cate Blanchett, editor of French Vogue Carine Roitfeld, Kate Moss, L’Wren Scott, Tilda Swinton and Catherine Deneuve, who know personal style exists beyond fashion’s dictates.

Through their skill and confidence in mixing unlikely elements, such as wearing a leather jacket with an evening gown or pairing a vintage Chanel jacket with jeans, they are casting investment dressing in a more insouciant light. “They have an easy, casual elegance, but it’s slightly dishevelled, it has to look like you haven’t spent hours in hair and make-up,” Marshall says.

This is why the version of investment dressing will outlast its 90s counterpart: it is about personal choices rather than conformity.

“Investment dressing is actually not just the price of the garment, it’s the time you have invested on exploring what works for your personal style,” says Trevor Stones, a stylist who has dressed influential tastemakers such as Princess Mary of Denmark, Jodhi Meares and Elle Macpherson.

“You wouldn’t go blindly investing in the stockmarket … and you have to approach your wardrobe in the same way.”

Refreshingly, the new blue-chip clothing stocks are aimed at delivering pleasure, not pain. “The biggest trend to come out of this recession is a return to really fun and sexy clothes,” says Jane Jasper, owner of Sydney’s Land’s End boutique, which stocks labels including Balmain and Proenza Schouler.

“Now that the impact has taken its toll people want more fun from clothes that are beautifully made, sexy and something that will lift their spirits. But it’s not just a casual thing for them, they really think about it and make sure it’s something they want.”

In a world where Michelle Obama’s Lanvin sneakers cost $US540 ($686), no one denies neo-classics come at a premium price.

But this is where research pays off. “Women should think like stockbrokers … they don’t want to crash because they’ve invested in that piece that didn’t last,” Stones says.

“You have to make sure when you invest a little bit more that you will have something that might last you a decade. Like a Chanel jacket; you can put it away for years and then pull it out and it will look just as amazing. That is your guaranteed return.”

But if there is one golden rule for the new investment dressing, it is maintaining a sense of creativity and fun.

“Do you in times of an economic downturn become sensible and boring? No, you don’t,” Wolf insists. “It’s exactly the opposite. Now is the time to be creative and have a bit of fun because it makes you feel better.”,25197,25610854-5010800,00.html


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