December 12 2009
Lucia van der Post
Now you may not be thinking that you need a new winter coat right now. Usually, that’s all been sorted in the autumn. But there are still several wintry months to go, there’s always next year and, moreover, that very classy, classic Italian house MaxMara has come up with some humdingers that will most definitely not now, not ever, be in the sale. Check out its Atelier collection, an interesting new range developed because, like everybody else engaged in the world of fashion, it observed that there was not a lot of point in playing things safe. Few of its customers needed more clothes. If they were to buy yet another garment, there had to be a real reason to make them hit their credit cards. They had to be wildly different, seriously innovative or – which is where Atelier comes in – of truly superior quality.
This is a smallish collection of special pieces. No more than 100 examples of each design have been made and these are spread around the world, so the chances of any two people confronting each other wearing the same garment are infinitesimal. Each piece is made of superior materials – softest cashmere (double-faced for coats), baby camel, alpaca, double twill, bouclé tweed, silk duchesse, combed satin, triple wool and silk organza. All are hand-stitched and finished. Linings are pure silk. The inspiration is clearly haute couture, cleverly using details and finishes such as sophisticated embroidery, appliqué and hand-sewn flowers to give something of the air of couture to garments that are more expensive than the usual ready-to-wear but not quite as hi-di-hi as couture itself.
The coat is the real star of this collection. There are some 16 different designs. The shapes bring to mind the sculptured clean lines of a young Oleg Cassini – very architectural, sharp and sleek. Very Jackie O. They are sophisticated, understated yet intriguing, subtle and above all, beautifully made. There are small, stand-up collars as well as some neat darts to hint at the waist. They’re also very ladylike, which is a large part of their charm. The colour palette is classic and restrained – a winter rose, black, grey and camel, the quintessential MaxMara colour.
I like best the simple straight coat in winter rose with some hand-made, hand-sewn roses embellishing the neckline (right in picture). It is classy and yet different. But there’s also the black cashmere single-button jacket trimmed with huge mink cuffs and shown in the MaxMara shots worn with a black cashmere skirt and polo-neck. These are not, you will have gathered, the sort of garments that Cheryl or Dannii or any of their ilk are likely to be photographed in – these are for sophisticated women who understand the power of understatement and true quality.
These are coats and garments to last a lifetime. To go with them there’s a small range of accessories – lamb or kid elbow-length gloves, cashmere skirts and trousers. Whereas the usual machine-produced MaxMara coat sells for from about £500, the Atelier collection starts at £1,100 and goes up to £2,880 for the rose-trimmed design I like so much. (The black and camel coats, left and centre in picture, cost £1,100 and £1,375 respectively.) In the UK you’ll find them only in the main MaxMara store on London’s Bond Street – and there’s a limited selection at Matches.