October 26 2010
I always feel ambivalent when a favourite under-the-radar brand starts to hit the big time: pleased that it’s finally getting the recognition it deserves and that my own instincts have been vindicated, while regretting that a valued source of great clothes will no longer be so secret. So it is with one of my long-term favourites – Schumacher. German fashion doesn’t make many headlines, but Dorothee Schumacher is her country’s less starry equivalent of Stella McCartney, a woman who truly understands what women want from fashion. By designing for her own busy lifestyle while always adding an interesting twist – raw-edged chiffon trims and subtle sequins are signatures – she produces alluring, wearable clothes.
Cut is one of her great strengths: she uses interesting, modernist shapes, often with a little fold and ease to camouflage and flatter in the right places. Quality and finish are exemplary and the end result is lasting value, though it is not inexpensive, which may explain why the brand has been in top independents rather than department stores.
But Fenwick’s wonderful recent revamp and expansion of its fashion floors (second picture) now includes a hot-selling Schumacher area as part of its admirable aim to bring in top lesser-known labels (also including Rue de Mail, Cerruti, Rutzou and MSGM); here, you get a real sense of this understated brand’s worth. Choices are many in a dark seasonal palette of precision cuts and luxury fabrics, but my own picks are a sumptuous, full-backed pea jacket in soft deep navy twill (first picture, £519) and a navy satin dinner dress that hangs like a dream and surprises with a tiny smudge of black lace at one side of the neck (third picture, £318).
Equally enticing is the store’s new restaurant, Bond & Brook (fourth picture), where post-shopping mixing and matching of appealing mini-portions is as irresistible as co-ordinating a whole outfit in the changing rooms.