November 04 2011
Parkas, you may have noticed, are having a moment. Like the duffel coat and the bomber jacket, they never quite go away, but every now and again they seem to develop a higher fashion status, and swanky designers weave some magic into the classic shape.
The parka, of course, began life as a way of keeping out the cold: it was invented by the Inuit, who often coated it with fish oil to keep out the wet. Its warmth is still its chief charm, which is why a certain sort of free-spirited woman pairs a parka with a slip of a tea-dress or T-shirt and shorts – very Jane Birkin. It enables our lovers of grunge-glam to go on wearing their feather-light clothes way past the time when the temperatures would otherwise deem it unwise.
The classic names for a smart designer parka are Woolrich (fashion editors wear them to combat the freezing weather of the January New York shows), Belstaff, Moncler (check out its lovely fitted Phalangere parka, £1,240, left in second picture), and Sportmax; they’ve all done their usual brilliant thing this season. But for a super-luxe take, Altuzarra has a very chic number in heavy dark grey satin-twill, faux-fur trimmed, with a drawstring waist and a red quilted lining (£1,895, right in second picture), while Givenchy has a cotton (but fur-lined) one for £2,728.
But the real under-the-radar name to look out for is Meteo by Yves Salomon, the younger, more innovative end of an old-established Parisian company, which has come up with a sumptuous selection of fur-trimmed parkas. Its wares have been on sale in a low-key kind of way for a few years but this year it has really been “discovered” and, according to two of London’s smartest shops – Matches and Browns – “They’re flying out of the shops.” They capture perfectly the mood of urban functional chic, being practical and warm, but the touch of luxe lies in the fur lining, hidden from view and a deep private pleasure.
There are two versions – the long one is lined with rabbit and comes in khaki or black (first picture, £995), while the shorter version is lined in shearling and has a coyote fur-trimmed hood (£840). And if you are strapped for cash, take a look at H&M’s drawstring-waisted, fake-fur-trimmed khaki parka (£69.99), but bear in mind that high-street versions often look the part but are unlikely to offer the same combination of lightness and warmth.