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AW13: The Glamour in Austerity

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Thanks to the recent rather gloomy condition of the British economy austerity chic has been something of a prevailing trend; we've seen Kate Middleton sporting a myriad of high-street creations, whilst Helen Hunt donned H&M's Conscious Collection for the Oscars red carpet. This season, with fashion painting political allegory, financial restraint is à la mode - after several seasons of frills and thrills, the catwalk is embracing an austere approach to fashion and we're seeing a focus on pure design: attention to silhouette and construction, resulting in a plethora of understated, elegant, clean-lined and functional collections.

Images courtesy of and

Phoebe Philo's low fuss approach to Celine's AW13 collection epitomised the minimalist ethos this season. The collection's delicate yet sombre colour palette of dove grey, charcoal and cream oozed a careless elegance, emphasising the clean lines and simple silhouettes. With a focus on cosy-looking shift shapes, the tailoring became the focal point of the collection. Particularly noteworthy were Philo's enveloping cocoon coat creations with a feminine rounded shoulder and seamless deep pockets. The only form of decoration seemed to be a folded/knotted sleeve, which appeared on several of the dresses and coats in the collection. Philo artfully united seemingly opposing tribes of soft femininity and austere minimalism to create a collection that really captured the moment.      

Celine AW13 images courtesy of

JW Anderson's signature androgyny was written all over his divisively minimal AW13 collection. Taking simplicity to the extreme, the collection worked a largely monochrome colour palette and nixed all forms of embellishment in favour of straightforward practicality. In place of colour, Anderson drew the eye with unusual cuts, favouring asymmetric hem lines and clean elongated silhouettes to create an almost sculptural effect.  The only concessions to colour were splashes of tangerine and dusky pink, as well as the occasional comic book inspired print.  Overall though the scarcity of colour emphasised the structural focus of the collection. Textures were courageously contrasted against each other, such as the part leather, part plastic bag wide legged trousers which paid homage to the All Saints generation and mink fur bandeaus. The enduring effect was a sense of austerity and discipline, but modern and cool.                

JW Anderson AW13 images courtesy of

For her Autumn Winter collection, Margaret Howell fashioned a utilitarian army, equipped with functional elegance and workable androgyny. The catwalk was awash with a stark colour palette of grey and navy, which made way for passing glimpses of cream and brown and the occasional splash of tomato red. The meticulous buttoned-up blouses and dresses of the collection were pressed to perfection, accompanied by functional knee-high leather boots and traditionally boyish brogues. The blend of textures gave the collection an old-fashioned workforce vibe, with corduroy, wool-felt and tweed.  Knitwear predictably played a key role in this collection, with themes like high polo necks, slouchy jumpers, midi wool skirts featuring side pleats and of course, the signature beret, which we're predicting will be a major player next season.  Howell emphasises functionality and wearability alongside resonant appeal.

(Images courtesy of

At the heart of austerity chic is a necessity for timelessness; enduring utilitarian pieces that can be a pivotal part of your wardrobe for years to come. However, whilst these AW13 looks might be simple and functional, in traditional high fashion style they are anything but dull. 

Words by Nikki McMullen, Edited by GP.

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