Global meteorological shifts have thrown some particular challenges at fashion designers over the past few years: how to dress for trans-seasonal conditions? What should your winter coat look like when you might only experience a fleeting few weeks of light frosts? And perhaps most pressingly, how does a style-conscious woman deal with the mild but wet weather that now, in the UK at least, seems to dominate for many months of the year?
Trust Miuccia Prada to come up with the chic answer. On her autumn catwalk she put forward a stream of shower-ready jackets with, like many other luxury houses this season, a focus on quilting. There were glossy pullover anoraks (£1,395) in inky-blue gabardine nylon with a striped braid pull-cord at the neck and a deep border of khaki quilting, as well as button front jackets with quilted epaulettes in delicious colour combinations of khaki and aqua, navy and scarlet, and a rich terracotta with flashes of bright red (£1,445). These were ingeniously paired with tweed knee-length skirts, argyle socks and sandals or flared navy circle skirts; for younger customers (or those with the legs to pull it off) they were styled with the shortest of skirts and thick argyle tights.
Miuccia Prada, a designer who originally studied for a PhD in political science, is acutely aware of the specific challenges of women’s lives and is more savvy than most when it comes to balancing the pragmatic requirements of our wardrobes with the need to be stylish on a daily basis, a conundrum she answered with typically modern all-weather, day-to-night options. “Women have many facets. We are lovers, mothers, workers… We have to be beautiful.” She has continued the quilting theme into accessories too, with saddlebags in khaki quilted nylon (£1,330) or plush quilted velvet (£1,480) hanging from a wide strap with an equestrian feel and strewn with tiny gilt rings for hanging charms, mementoes and talismans.
Stella McCartney is another designer finely attuned to assembling outfits for women who want to strike a balance between a cool, modern wardrobe and the myriad roles and situations they might find themselves in on any one day. To that end, this season she topped elegant button-front dresses with cropped quilted black bombers (£695) and paired super-wide plissé trousers with black quilted coats (£1,040) that sit slightly shrugged off the shoulders as though they’ve been thrown on in the rush to work. Padded terracotta puffas (£1,480) were styled over grey wool jackets and quilted shorts (£375), while oversized denim or grey padded jackets (£1,075) were matched with plissé trousers or fluid grey-mélange dresses in a day-to-night mix that’s casual yet chic. McCartney has even managed to create quilted coats that chime with her animal-rights ethics by replacing the traditional down filling with a feather-free wadding – a cosy coat that’s both kind and covetable.
For Suzanne Pendlebury, buying manager at Matchesfashion.com, quilting has stepped up a notch as designers use it in increasingly avant-garde ways. “Although puffa jackets have a country heritage, the perception of quilting has changed as the fabrics and details are more modern and the shapes more deconstructed,” she says. “This season, quilted jackets look very contemporary and work well teamed with tailoring, a dress with heels, or pared down with jeans.”
This deconstruction is in evidence at Acne, where urban outerwear plays a key part in every collection. A lemon, oversized, quilted cotton-mix jacket (£750) can be worn draped off the shoulder, while a glossy black coat (£750) combines quilting with black leather. Diesel Black Gold, meanwhile, has added quilted panels to oversized leather biker jackets (£1,165).
Quilting, of course, is intrinsic to Chanel’s house codes, dating back to Coco Chanel’s very first 2.55 handbags, overstitched on the exterior with a diamond quilting to give them body and volume. According to the storied house it was a design inspired by “the equestrian universe that Coco loved so much, especially the jackets worn by the stable lads at the races”. Karl Lagerfeld references the iconic quilting this autumn in blush or black cropped hooded jackets (£6,950), long coats (£20,540) and a gold-embroidered satin jacket (£15,350) with a drawstring waist, fur-effect chenille cuffs and matching scarf (price on request).
Lagerfeld has reworked the classic material at Fendi too, where he used navy quilted denim in a feminine A-line coat (£2,120) with cropped sleeves and a ribbed fur collar – teamed on the catwalk with cropped denim trousers and a pretty cashmere ruffle-front top.
Of course the rise of quilting – and the omnipresent puffa – comes just as coats made for apocalyptic conditions are more covetable than ever. Performance outerwear from brands like The North Face, Canada Goose and Penfield now share the same space as luxury fashion brands in boutiques. And it is perhaps that implication – of an excitingly rugged life, an alternative rural existence – that has made them such an urban hit. Like driving a muddy 4x4 into Chelsea, a quilted jacket suggests you spend as much time in the great outdoors as stomping the streets of London.
Moncler may have become the ultimate go-to label for the slopes – and this season’s technical Grenoble line has taken quilting to extremes with a form-fitting scarlet nylon matelassé jacket (£1,100) that’s neatly cut to the body despite its dense structure. But the brand’s main collection is packed with après-ski/urban-chic quilting too, from the classic sleek and simple navy nylon “technique” jacket (£965) to more sybaritic takes such as a navy, black and white jacket (£1,360) with a Mongolian lamb-shearling collar, while accessories include backpacks in glossy black nylon (£435) and neat chain-handled handbags (£400).
Perhaps one of the most novel – and alluring – spins on the theme is the quilted evening coat. In his debut collection for Balenciaga, Demna Gvasalia took his knack for reimagining cool street-style basics and blended it with the haute couture heritage of the Parisian house, creating quilted red jackets (£1,915) that fall seductively off the shoulders, mimicking a vintage opera coat or stole in a rounded, cocoon shape that’s always been synonymous with the brand. This coat forms part of what Gvasalia calls “a wardrobe of absolute contemporaneity and realism imbued with the attitude of haute couture”.
Stella McCartney, too, takes this off-duty must-have and makes it feel sumptuous enough for evening, reworking short and long padded coats (£695 and £1,480 respectively) in lustrous velvets and rich jewel colours like sapphire and topaz, while Isa Arfen’s velvet quilted jacket (£1,130) looks polished, day or night. These sumptuous cover-ups really do work with almost anything and – here’s the brilliant part – whatever the forecast.