A lightweight, waterproof jacket that one can pull out of nowhere, when in the middle of nowhere, is a desirable bit of kit. If the thing looks great too, it’s a double coup. To be ready for anything the heavens might chuck down, and appear very smart while doing so, look no further than the spring collections, where there is a veritable coach party of cool cagoules, marrying state-of-the-art fabrics with elegant tailoring and smart details.
It was a former marine, Noel Bibby, who in the 1960s first marketed the packable cagoule under the brand name Peter Storm. The virtues of Bibby’s proto version, with its no-frills cut and vivid single colours – a look adopted over the years by everyone from rural ramblers to Liverpool “scallies” – have been captured by Orlebar Brown, which has updated the cagoule for 2017 with superior fastenings and the latest technical fabrics. The Nichol (£295), in Pomodoro red, tucks into its own central pouch, but has a high elastane content for a stylish fit that still allows for movement – as well as bonded waterproof seams and rubberised zip pullers.
Another technical brand that gets it right for spring has, like Peter Storm, been in the game for decades: Massachusetts-based Penfield, maker of quality outerwear since the 1970s. Its olive-green Gibson jacket (£115), in water-resistant, windproof cotton-nylon with a front pouch and an internal cinched waist, wins style points for its simplicity and authenticity. Also commendable is its Colfax jacket (£125), in an engineered, super-water-repellent fabric (rain beads up and runs right off).
Making sportswear look luxurious and desirable has long been a Prada forte. Its technical cagoules (£865) in dove grey or azure blue, with a matte finish but a plush feel, have white, pink and blue taped sealed zips for graphic contrast. There are also oversized versions with bright panelling in macro rip-stop patched fabric (£1,050) and appealing colour accents, such as pale grey against lime top stitching (£830) or silver against sky-blue (£1,350). The more expressive take (£850) seen at Marni, meanwhile, is exemplified by a nylon model with a geometric print in claret and white, resulting in some serious decorative impact (enhanced, if you choose, by a matching soft rucksack, £735).
Even the high-octane glamour specialists at Versace have made a foray into rambler-chic territory. Extravagant versions feature opulent house Baroque prints (£1,720), but the best in my opinion is a plain, navy waterproof taffeta cagoule (£1,370) – the dark metal hardware, abundance of pockets and gathered drawstring providing all the embellishment necessary. A longer black model (£1,550), a cagoule-parka hybrid, is also successful.
Moncler showed some stylish packable anoraks, with contrast panelling and pronounced texture via combinations of technical fabrics. Its Légère series (£430), in steely grey and aqua blue, is great-looking, as is a maroon model (£350) with patch pockets. Some boast the house’s signature red, white and blue-trim tape, adding a retro French-casual accent (and underscoring Moncler’s sports heritage).
“Cagoules are born from functionality, yet are so adaptable. That allows great freedom in shaping their silhouette and in fabric choice.” So says Lou Dalton of her own fresh interpretations. Her abstracted floral, semi-transparent cagoule (£300) is probably best left to the runway, but the same model in simple black nylon is eminently wearable – as is a longer version (£698), inspired by Norwegian fishermen’s oilskins, in black or vibrant orange. Canali’s unique marriage of car coat and cagoule (£800), with a packaway hood, hidden two-way patch pockets and phone pouch, all in a warm burnt-saffron technical fabric with an elegant matte finish, is one of the most city-friendly takes on the trend.
The cagoule is further refined for city (or even City) streets at Oliver Spencer. “I enjoy the poncho-like swagger you get with wearing a cagoule and a suit,” Spencer tells me. His version (£289), in deep-green polyester or navy cotton, nails the classic half-zip paradigm, but is cut for a slimmer fit that works brilliantly over tailoring. A more flamboyant military (but still streamlined) take comes from French house APC, via a khaki cloud-camouflage print (£220) with meshed panel, taped zips and seams and an adjustable hem.
Some of my favourite interpretations are at Nemen, the Italian brand that regularly collaborates with specialist technical-fabric factories. With superior seal zip closures and taped seams, Nemen cagoules hold up as serious performance gear. The slightly sheen-y nylon Filter Hooded Smock jacket (£470) has a remarkable crinkly, organic feel. Another (£425) has an ink-dark camouflage pattern and an aluminised body, providing both heat reflection and waterproofing; there’s an ombré effect too, as if the cagoule has been dipped in dye.
Such colour and dye innovations are CP Company’s stock in trade, and the Italian house’s Chrome anorak (£359), in a pale lime-mint green, is a prime example. Chrome is a woven monofilament nylon that CP developed for use in garment dyeing; this is a connoisseur’s lightweight fabric, robust and engineered for durability, yet gossamer-fine to the touch. Colour, tailoring, technical innovation, heritage, military chic, urban cool: it’s remarkable how many concepts are rolled up and packed into the humble cagoule this season.