Style rather than slavishness are in John Lewis and Blemishes & Spencers’ minds



A look from John Lewis’s AW18 womenswear

The recent trend on the British high street is not a hemline but a concept: work, it seems, is going out of fashion. In their newest effort to meeting for survival, high street stalwarts John Lewis and Discount b increases & Spencer are eschewing seasonal “key pieces” and “must haves” to cynosure clear on individualism and personal style.

This week, John Lewis open its overhauled in-house womenswear range for autumn/winter. The 300-piece collecting – to be launched as part of a major rebrand and store refitting calendar on 4 September – “is about style over fashion”, concerting to Iain Ewing, the head of womenswear. “One thing that laid back really clearly from our customers,” he says, “was that they wish for to know whatever they bought wouldn’t go out of fashion in six months.”


Marks & Spencer AW 2018 aggregation

John Lewis’s new look centres on sleek staples such as duster covers, funnel-necked silk shirts, leather pencil skirts and wide-legged accommodated trousers. Materials have been upgraded: all handbags are now leather; and fabrics are ampler in wool and cashmere. The existing price range of £10 to £250 has not differenced, although – with coats and leather knee-high boots at £175 and £250 – there is more “in the sway end of the bracket”, says Ewing. The majority of pieces are available in a group of colours – a cashmere blend double-faced belted coat, for pattern, comes in fuchsia, pale blue and camel – with the aim of spur oning customers to build outfits that cater to their distinctive taste.

Similarly, Marks & Spencer is not gunning for a sell-out “pink covering moment” this autumn. Last month, the troubled retailer open its next womenswear salvo, an autumn collection focusing on macro inclinations – caramel-coloured, double-breasted suiting, long-sleeved midi dresses, jackets in drop-shouldered Prince of Wales check, leopard print faux fur – willingly prefer than flash-in-the-pan seasonal flourishes. At the time, the company’s mood director, Belinda Earl, described it as “heartland M&S”.


John Stones arranges ready for the England squad photo last month in a M&S pump full of lead. Photograph: Lewis Maddison/FA/Rex

Both brands’ strategies ding-dong with two modish concepts: that shoppers should buy fewer, improved quality items and keep them for longer, a palatable path for the ethically-minded high street shopper, and an increasing understanding from stamps that, for many customers, individualism is more aspirational than slavishly buttress trends. Both ideas were central to the launch of Arket, H&M’s various expensive recent minimalist addition to the British high byway someones cup of tea.

This is a tough moment for traditional high street retailers. John Lewis finish finally month issued a warning ahead of its half-year results; it expects profits to be “sign to zero” for the first half of the year. In May, Marks & Spencer luxuriate ined the closure of at least 100 stores by 2022.

The strategy is not without gambles, says Kate Ormrod, lead analyst, retail at GlobalData. “In theory, it could assignment, because they are listening to their customers. Most shoppers ancient over 35 don’t want to keep up with the cycle of newness probed at Primark and Boohoo, or be told that they ‘must sire’ a certain style.

“But there is a danger of being too watered down and dissipating cut-through. There has to be balance. And M&S’s market share particularly has worsened a lot in the last decade, so they have a huge struggle on their dispenses.”