If one mood can reasonably define an era in fashion, then the first act of this century has so far been about streetwear: everything from designer sneakers to hooded sweatshirts have been given a runway reappraisal, and even haute couture has been swept up in the global surge for luxed-up sporty pieces.
This spring, within the realm of easy, utilitarian pieces, it’s athletic-inspired, anorak-style lightweight jackets that reign supreme. While it seems, at first, like an unlikely high-fashion hit – the word anorak doesn’t exactly scream elegance – there is boundless appeal in the prospect of a lightweight jacket that, either layered-up or worn alone, seamlessly transitions between seasons and situations.
Sacai’s Chitose Abe is one of the many designers who has created a chic update: she has constructed anoraks (£1,430) in a striking patchwork of canvas, nylon, tweed and leather, in subdued colours and slouchy silhouettes, and has also added a whimsical edge to the usually sporty jacket with an inky blue devoré version (£3,110 at Selfridges).
Paul Smith’s ultra-feminine anoraks, in khaki (£555) or a vibrant red-and-purple underwater flora print (£695), are gathered in at the waist and cinched further still with a black D-ring belt. At Oscar de la Renta, Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia have created an oversize bright fuchsia piece (£1,377) in classic raincoat-style nylon, while at Mary Katrantzou there’s a colour-blocked mid-length waterproof style (£1,220) in glorious sky blue, emerald and ultramarine.
For Ida Petersson, womenswear buying director at Browns, this spring’s fervour for the anorak is part of fashion’s renewed interest in the 1990s. “The streetwear vibe feels so relevant right now, and these anoraks are a fresh take on it, which I absolutely love,” she says.
One of her favourites, by Isabel Marant, is yet more evidence of the Parisian’s knack for making unlikely items irrepressibly cool. The sporty streetwear spirit that rippled though Marant’s spring show reached its zenith in a stunning black and silver zip-front jacket (£770) that was worn by the men as well as the women, and which Petersson describes as “out of this world”.
This new crop of anoraks, she says, is far superior to its forerunners. “The fabrics are more luxe, which makes them so much more attractive to wear.” Not to mention that this new sumptuous approach removes all shades of the school outing, so it’s therefore a sophisticated look too.
At Bottega Veneta’s spring show, Tomas Maier topped a dusky-rose satin playsuit with a peach-rose calfskin jacket (£5,295) complete with capacious hood and patch pockets. Meanwhile, Tod’s has reimagined the traditional anorak (£3,750) in buttery off-white leather, with a more defined hourglass shape and ballooning sleeves, in a collection that also includes leather and canvas hooded jackets (£3,650) with decorative appliqué and tassel details and chic high-tech nylon “windbreakers” (£1,790) in pale khaki.
Belstaff, a company founded on pragmatism when it created its first rugged, waterproof waxed cotton jackets for bikers in 1924, has produced some of spring’s most elegant anoraks, with the practicalities very much intact. Its new Origins collection of lightweight outerwear includes striking jackets that combine the attributes of high-performance sportswear with refined design.
“The influence of streetwear and sports in fashion has made us feel like we can have both function and style, and mix luxury with casual,” says the brand’s creative director, Delphine Ninous. “Today it’s possible to have the best of both worlds. We have seen this happening in men’s fashion for a long time but now it’s crossing over to womenswear.”
The longline four-pocket Venturer (£625) and the short, chic Meridian (£550) come in a breathable triple-layer stretch nylon that is water- and windproof, has built-in UPF50+, and comes in black and two shades of grey. The range also includes royal-blue and dusky-pink Velocity jackets (£375) in ultralight stretch nylon that is windproof and water-repellent (rather than fully waterproof). These specially engineered materials respond to the evolving demands of modern women, who often search in vain for stylish outerwear that is not confined to one season or climate.
Ninous walks the walk, wearing her own Venturer in myriad situations. “It’s tailored, smart, and the length adds attitude,” she says. “You can wear these jackets all year round, in all weather; they’re great for travel as they’re super-lightweight and packable, and the orange hood adds a pop of colour.”
While these jackets might be superlatively practical, elsewhere anoraks are being taken into new territory with the sort of embellishment usually reserved for evening gowns. In a spring collection that elevated 1990s-style sportswear with luxurious, shimmering materials and embroidery, Valentino’s creative director, Pierpaolo Piccioli, took the everyday silhouette and detailing associated with the anorak and transformed it into a twinkling, layered tulle evening jacket (£7,900) covered in giant paillettes. He’s also added paillettes to relaxed, sporty cotton jackets (£4,000). What’s most surprising is not the opulent surface treatment, but the way these athletic cuts segue seamlessly with feather-light evening dresses and ultra-feminine silk and lace blouses.
At No 21, Alessandro Dell’Acqua referred back to his 1990s aesthetic – the era when he designed under his own name – with sporty anoraks, this time embellished with after-dark details. He has created a light, hooded jacket ($895) with drawstrings and multiple pockets in a soft nude, which was styled over a sequinned chiffon ensemble and with a feather-light tulle jacket ($655) on top. Thom Browne meanwhile has given the anorak his own spin in the form of a multilayered tulle jacket (£1,610 from Selfridges) with a gathered waist.
Petersson suggests pairing an elegant windbreaker with tailored trousers for a chic weekend look. Ulla Johnson’s pristine white hooded anorak (from $575), cut with gently ballooning sleeves and an elegant long silhouette, has just the right tone, while Margaret Howell’s perfect khaki jacket (£395) is more understated but equally chic.
These versatile, round-the-clock jackets are bound to become indispensable, with their ability to be both super-chic and striking or subtle and low-key. Either way, it doesn’t look like rain will ruin their parade.