After a year in which hashtags such as #timesup and #metoo have dominated headlines, it’s entirely appropriate that designers are responding to the current mood with clothes that speak of a measured purposefulness and contemplative calm. This new atmosphere has ushered in a reboot of the tailored jacket as an entirely modern, cool and necessary staple.
Not since the ’90s has the jacket had such a resurgence, but unlike that era when it was all about a pared-back, minimalist approach, there are myriad styles to choose from, for day and night. And it isn’t about boardroom-ready power shoulders, but rather the fresh ways women are harnessing the understated elegance of tailoring; and for some it’s a sea change that was building long before designers sent their autumn collections down the catwalk.
A precisely tailored jacket has been part of retailer Alex Eagle’s style since her teenage years, when she would borrow her mother’s sleek navy-blue Mondi jacket for all her landmark moments, from first dates to interviews. “It became part of my uniform – you put on a blazer and everything is neat, whether you are in a T-shirt and jeans or a little dress. It makes you feel put together,” says Eagle. “It does all the practical things that a woman needs – it covers your arms and bum, so you don’t feel too exposed. It’s like armour.” In 2014, she opened a concept shop called The Store on London’s Walton Street. She now has outposts in London, the Cotswolds and Berlin, and in 2016 opened Alex Eagle Studio in Soho. The jacket became a key part of Eagle’s business – which has expanded with an atelier at her Studio – offering exquisite tailoring as in a Loro Piana-wool/linen/silk jacket (£1,495) finished with horn buttons. Other brands she sells that focus on tailored pieces include Giuliva Heritage Collection, founded by Gerardo Cavaliere and Margherita Cardelli, which makes coats and hunting jackets (€1,280) in beautiful Italian cloths in a tailoring studio in Naples. Eagle was also an early supporter of Blazé Milano, established by Italian fashion editors Delfina Pinardi, Corrada Rodriguez d’Acri and Sole Torlonia. The trio spotted a gap in the market for beautifully cut blazers and, inspired by their childhood riding jackets, launched the label in 2016. The autumn collection includes a single-breasted silk Blazer Robe (£1,675) and a double-breasted polka-dot blazer (£1,331, pictured top left) with the brand’s signature half-moon pockets.
For Pinardi, it’s not simply about the look of the blazer but the way it can liberate the woman wearing it. “Our customers often tell us that wearing our jackets they feel more powerful,” she says, flagging up their design’s multiple interior pockets that eliminate the need to carry a bag. As Torlonia puts it, they are for: “Assertive, self-confident, globe-trotting women who don’t want to spend too much time choosing how to dress; women who know a well-cut blazer will go with everything and do the trick.”
The revived interest in jackets was in full swing last autumn, so much so that at Net-a-Porter the spend on tailoring increased by 50 per cent – a decision endorsed by the incredible success of jackets from labels such as Isabel Marant, Joseph and Tibi (whose pastel blazers sold out this summer). The classics, meanwhile, have the most currency this season – Alexander McQueen’s sleek wool sharp-shouldered versions (£1,585) and Stella McCartney’s roomier, more boyish jackets (£1,080) are all wardrobe staples worthy of investment. As is Balmain’s six-button blazer – creative director Olivier Rousteing always includes more fashion-forward seasonal versions on the catwalk and this autumn offers it in denim and tweed (€6,990).
At other brands, the blazer is a house classic, an evergreen product that never seems to grow old. Take Chanel’s four-pocket bouclé jackets (£4,250), Polo Ralph Lauren’s sporty blazers (£249) with its piped seams and collegiate badges, or Dior’s elegantly cut hourglass jackets (£2,900) – available in a checked virgin-wool cavalry twill.
Browns womenswear buying director Ida Petersson is equally enamoured: “The big moment for us was Natacha Ramsay-Levi’s amazing horse-print jackets [£2,425] for Chloé. And the trend keeps growing: for autumn, almost every designer has included a strong tailored jacket or suit.” She cites Balenciaga’s checked jacket (€3,900), as well as newcomer Marta Jakubowski’s checked tailoring (£885) as two of her favourites. For Petersson, what makes the jacket so compelling this time round, is that there are so many options. “If you want oversized, go for it. Nipped-in 1970s? Great. The choice is fantastic.”
A popular style this season is an elongated jacket. At Chloé, Ramsay-Levi continued to carve out her cool-woman wardrobe with elegant long, wool grisaille jackets (£2,190) with an equestrian feel, especially paired with navel-slashed blouses, slouchy jodhpurs or her latest take on a cowboy boot. Paul Andrew took a similar path at Salvatore Ferragamo, pairing a long, cut-away gabardine jacket (£1,340) with khaki trousers and a buttoned mustard blouse. While at Joseph, exaggerated cuts include the boyish, checked Gemina jacket (£695) with matching checked blouse, or a cobalt-blue, canvas one-button jacket (£795) with a matching suede shirt. Polish designer Magda Butrym’s checked Arkansas blazer (£1,260) also has a Western spirit.
Not that the new jackets are confined to daytime – these pieces have spearheaded a revival of insouciant dressing for evenings too. It’s what Net-a-Porter fashion director Lisa Aiken calls “dressing from the waist up” – wearing a velvet jacket with beautiful buttons or trims with a camisole and trousers or a slip-dress. Indeed, few jackets are more seductive than Gabriela Hearst’s silk/wool Dorothea (from £1,590) – an off-the-shoulder number with an integrated corset that will give any cocktail dress a run for its money.
At Louis Vuitton Nicolas Ghesquière has included a trio of beautifully detailed jackets for autumn, which work as well for night as for day. Black wool and tweed jackets (£8,400) cut neatly into the waist are embellished with Judy Blame-style chains, braids and beading, while a cream and black wool and silk tux (£2,300) is evening-ready paired with an embroidered bustier and dogtooth-print trousers.
Blazé Milano’s beautiful new jackets in velvets, silk seersucker and Lurex-mix with ruffled and frill details also have day-to-night appeal – it comes as no surprise that Diana, Princess of Wales, was one of the inspirations behind the collection. Sumptuous pieces include a double-breasted midnight smoking jacket in a shimmering lurex-flecked wool (£1,296) or Pinardi’s favourite – the double-breasted Royal Clipper Everyday velvet blazer (£1,400). “It’s very soft to touch, less constructed than usual and the print comes from the archive of the very famous Mantero textile company. At first sight it could look a bit romantic,” says Pinardi, who points out they chose the print after being inspired by Diana’s childhood home, Althorp. “But it can easily have a darker rock ’n’ roll look.” In Blazé’s autumn lookbook many jackets are worn on their own as a dress. That may be a step too far for many of us – but it illustrates just how far the jacket has come in its 24/7 incarnation. Day or night, dressed up or down, it’s one staple piece you cannot be without.