The perfection of the trench

Little wonder the classic coat is back on the style frontline. Jessica Beresford meets its most ardent admirers. Photography by Jonathan Daniel Pryce

Maria Milano, head of womenswear at Harrods, wears a trench coat by Bottega Veneta
Maria Milano, head of womenswear at Harrods, wears a trench coat by Bottega Veneta | Image: Jonathan Daniel Pryce

There’s something unbeatable about a good recipe,” says Jean Touitou, the co-founder of French fashion label APC. “I keep reading Proust’s Un Amour De Swann over and over, I’ll never stop listening to Kraftwerk, and Savile Row tailors will keep making jackets the way they do. A trench coat is one of those things… When something’s good, you never get tired of it.”

Model Nimue Smit (on left) wears a Stella McCartney trench coat (similar £1,195) and model Ragnhild Jevne (on right) wears a vintage trench coat (POA) from Celia Darling Vintage, Paris
Model Nimue Smit (on left) wears a Stella McCartney trench coat (similar £1,195) and model Ragnhild Jevne (on right) wears a vintage trench coat (POA) from Celia Darling Vintage, Paris | Image: Jonathan Daniel Pryce
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If ever there was an item of clothing worthy of the label “classic” – fashion’s most trite term – the trench would be a strong contender. Since its inception more than 100 years ago, it has survived two world wars, deflected advances in fabric technology, and weathered the casualisation of dress codes: testament to its balance of form and function.

Vogue Brasil fashion director Pedro Sales wears a Celine trench coat (similar £2,150)
Vogue Brasil fashion director Pedro Sales wears a Celine trench coat (similar £2,150) | Image: Jonathan Daniel Pryce
Model Merel Zoet wears a Ganni trench coat, £390
Model Merel Zoet wears a Ganni trench coat, £390 | Image: Jonathan Daniel Pryce

The style seen swishing around city centres today – documented here by photographer Jonathan Daniel Pryce – is much the same as the one Thomas Burberry patented in 1912: a knee-length gabardine cotton coat with a wide collar, double-breasted fastening and belted waist supplied to military personnel. Burberry remains the authority on the beige coat, although brands such as Saint Laurent and APC have consistently done the style a service. The trench’s timelessness and durability also mean it’s a boon for the second-hand market. Any good vintage store will have one or two in its arsenal, while the likes of Vestiaire Collective see consistent demand – the luxury consignment website reports a 60 per cent rise in the sale of Burberry trench coats, compared with the same time last year.

Photographed by Jonathan Daniel Pryce
Photographed by Jonathan Daniel Pryce
Photographed by Jonathan Daniel Pryce
Photographed by Jonathan Daniel Pryce

The Financial Times’ chief economics commentator, Martin Wolf, has worn a Burberry trench for around a decade – appreciating its ability, among other things, to fasten tightly under the chin. “These coats are ideal – rain-proof, comfortable and clearly old-fashioned. In all, they are perfect,” says Wolf. “Why change perfection?” 

Photographed by Jonathan Daniel Pryce
Photographed by Jonathan Daniel Pryce
Giovanni Dario Laudicina wears a trench coat by Dries Van Noten
Giovanni Dario Laudicina wears a trench coat by Dries Van Noten | Image: Jonathan Daniel Pryce

Giovanni Dario Laudicina “I define myself as a classicist. My wardrobe is composed of the tailored items you’d find in most male wardrobes,” says the fashion editor at Vogue Hommes, who was born and raised in Sicily and now lives in Paris. He wears a Dries Van Noten trench coat (similar £940), CristaSeya alpaca sweatshirt (POA) and a cashmere scarf (£390) by Hermès. The stylist counts Van Noten – “a very cultured and sensitive creator” – as one of his favourite designers. “I like the oversized proportions of this trench and the fact that it is really warm and has large pockets. I don’t like carrying bags, but I can fit my iPad, keys, charger and a book in these pockets. So it’s perfect.”

Photographed by Jonathan Daniel Pryce
Photographed by Jonathan Daniel Pryce
Lucy Chadwick wears a trench coat by Wardrobe NYC
Lucy Chadwick wears a trench coat by Wardrobe NYC | Image: Jonathan Daniel Pryce

Lucy Chadwick “The trench coat is a uniform of sorts and, whether consciously or unconsciously, we all adhere to – or subvert – certain uniforms with almost everything we wear,” says the London-born gallery director of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in New York. “Equally, the design is rooted in modern visual history in a way few other items of clothing are.” She wears a trench coat (£1,195) and blazer (£995) by Wardrobe NYC, a Celine shirt (similar £590) and trousers (similar £550), and a Chanel handbag (£3,810). Chadwick says that Wardrobe NYC is particularly deft at taking classic pieces and modernising them. “The quality of its pieces also ensures you are buying for the long term, which is particularly important to me.”

Photographed by Jonathan Daniel Pryce
Photographed by Jonathan Daniel Pryce
Photographed by Jonathan Daniel Pryce
Photographed by Jonathan Daniel Pryce

Maria Milano Maria is head of womenswear at Harrods and a self-confessed trench coat addict. “I have amassed quite the collection already – Burberry, Loewe, Giuliva Heritage Collection and Kassl,” she says, “but this Bottega Veneta trench [£3,695] feels more structured and tougher than my others, thanks to the leather panelling.” Born in New York, Maria now resides in Hampstead with her two children. She also wears Celine boots (similar from £985, vestiairecollective.com) and carries a Bottega Veneta pouch (£2,190). “Trench coats are the ultimate trans-seasonal piece, and with the weather in London being mostly in the mid-range, I find my trenches work harder than the rest of my coats.”

Photographed by Jonathan Daniel Pryce
Photographed by Jonathan Daniel Pryce
Samira Nasr wears a Celine trench coat
Samira Nasr wears a Celine trench coat | Image: Jonathan Daniel Pryce

Samira Nasr “I am a jeans-and-T-shirt girl at heart, but there is something about a trench that just makes me look and feel a little more buttoned-up,” says the Vanity Fair executive fashion director, a Montreal native who lives in Brooklyn. She wears a Celine trench coat (£2,350) with Celine trousers (similar from £180, vestiairecollective.com), an Isabel Marant sweatshirt (similar from £295), Chanel boots (similar from £1,450) and a Charvet silk scarf (€235). “I love this trench because it doesn’t look over-designed – just done in the most perfect fabric with the most perfect fit and proportions. To me, that is real timeless luxury.”

Photographed by Jonathan Daniel Pryce
Photographed by Jonathan Daniel Pryce
Luke Day wears a Saint Laurent trench
Luke Day wears a Saint Laurent trench | Image: Jonathan Daniel Pryce

Luke Day The fashion director of British GQ and editor of British GQ Style recalls the first trench coat he owned: a vintage style, bought around age 12, that “channelled a ’90s pseudo posho doing indie grunge”. Some decades later, he wears a Saint Laurent trench (£1,930) paired with a knitted vest (£435), belt (£260) and denim shorts (£520) from the French fashion house, as well as a Calvin Klein blazer (similar from $688, grailed.com). “I always love subverting classicism – taking an iconic item, bastardising it and creating a lovechild look,” says Luke, who lives in Hampstead. “I love that this trench is pretty true to the archetypal coat, but the oversized proportion and slightly shorter length complements a more outré look underneath.”

Sinéad Burke wears a Burberry trench coat
Sinéad Burke wears a Burberry trench coat | Image: Jonathan Daniel Pryce
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Sinéad Burke “When I was younger, I saw the trench coat as a key motif of the fashion industry, much like a Chanel 2.55 bag,” says Sinéad, an educator and advocate. “Now it feels utilitarian, part of a uniform that protects me from inclement weather – and, often, the world around me.” Sinéad, who was born in Dublin and now lives in Navan, Co Meath, wears a custom Burberry trench coat (POA), custom velvet Ferragamo heels (POA), a Missoni pleated skirt (POA) and a cashmere rollneck from Everlane (£107). “I’ve always admired Burberry’s ability to teeter on the divide between creating a new world and reflecting a modern definition of what it means to be British.”

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