Trench coat by Ralph Rucci (photos Randy Brooke)
Having been involved in the fashion business for so many years, I’ve seen a dizzying parade of styles come and go. And while I love nothing more than to be surprised, seduced, dazzled, and captivated by amazing (or sometimes outrageous) design, when it comes to my own personal needs, I find that I am always in search of those pieces which could be considered as classic, timeless, wardrobe ‘basics’ (and all the better when they’re anything but basic). I’m referring to items that are always needed, always depended upon, and always stand the test of time.
One such enduringly perennial staple is the trench. It is not only a perfect mix of form and function, but depending on the fabrication, it can work year round, go effortlessly from day to night, and with its no nonsense, ready for business, gutsy menswear overtones and faultless military precision, it’s irresistibly flattering and chic. In addition, there are so many variations on the theme, from the most basic to the most distinctive.
Trench coat by Carolina Herrera
There are dramatic floor sweeping styles and there are teeny, tiny, abbreviated cropped incarnations. There are trenches that are cut very close to the body and others which are voluminous and slouchy. They can be found in every shade (from basic tan, black and white, to sweet pastels and eye popping primary colors). There are solids and there are prints and patterns. There are trenches which are completely waterproof and there are others which are so precious, you would most definitely not want to get them wet. There are trench coats in cotton, satin, nylon, patent leather, fur, snakeskin, metallic, and chiffon.
And by the way, while my last Daily Fashion Report noted the obvious (that ‘new’ is not necessarily ‘improved’), there are always exceptions, and new takes and updated versions of the classic trench are always welcome. Simply put, one can have an entire wardrobe of trenches and never be bored, and more importantly, and one can arguably never have enough in one’s closet. Well, that’s how I see it, anyway!
Perhaps that explains why, as I recently checked out the smattering of new fall merchandise hitting stores and boutiques around – and out of- town, the ONE item that was a constant in terms of catching my eye was trench (in one form or another). And unsurprisingly, none were in basic tan.
On a recent trip to Washington D.C., I stopped by the designer laden Saks Jandel in Chevy Chase (301 652 2250), where in a sea of dizzying styles and a riot of colors (vestiges from summer on sale), I was drawn to Nicolas Guesquiere for Balenciaga’s decidedly severe, spare and minimalist black viscose and rayon knee length trench ($1,995) which was shown over a crisp white shirt and narrow black pants. A perfect working woman’s uniform if ever there was one.
Back in New York, I checked out Bloomingdale’s on Lexington Avenue and 59th street (212 705 2000), where I was immediately drawn to the mannequin in the window of the Burberry department on the main floor. ‘She’ was wearing the iconic trench coat but with a difference: this was not the familiar tan or khaki cotton model but transformed in metallic (platinum) leather trench, decorated with distinctive nickel hardware (buttons and buckles). Priced at $2,995, it was surprisingly soft, supple, and light (though not exactly waterproof).
Trench coat by Marc Jacobs
Up the escalator to the second floor, I found myself in the Marc by Marc Jacobs department (Marc always has great coats) and quickly found his very structured and couture- like heavy ribbed cotton ottoman ¾ length trench ($545) in a navy so dark it could easily pass for black. (I fell in love with the fabric which I deemed perfect for almost all year round, considering that Global Warming has indeed become a reality). Boasting handsome dark brown leather covered buttons, and all the smart trench details one would normally expect, it also features a slightly raised belted waist and the surprise of a white and navy menswear stripe lining in the sleeves and a small geometric navy and white print lining the body.
Across the aisle, I couldn’t resist trying on Theory’s very newsy and au courant crinkle black patent (we all know how ‘hot’ patent is right now) cropped trench jacket ($885) which is soft and light (not stiff at all), has a roundish collar, epaulets, two large patch pockets, traditional trench flap detail, cropped ¾ sleeves, and a wonderful flyaway shape. It’s also available in a rich and very neutral shade of antiqued cordovan red.
At Barneys Co-op, located at 2151 Broadway (between 75th and 76th streets, 646 335 0978), a mannequin wearing Alexander Wang’s black and ivory wool fingertip length trench jacket ($795) greeted me as I entered the hip shop. A young newcomer who has only shown two formal presentations in conjunction with New York Fashion Week (he was first known for his cashmere sweaters), Alexander has already caught the attention of the fashion cognoscenti with his “clean, pure, and luxurious” aesthetic. His highly detailed, beautifully constructed and great fitting (yup, of course I had to try it on) version stands out for its gutsy menswear fabrication, flattering and practical length, traditional military inspired epaulets and trench back, two prominent zippered breast pockets, two side pockets, and ‘uber’ long sleeves. It looked just great exhibited as it was over super skinny and elongated black jeans, white shirt, and a bag worn as a hat (very Simon Doonan-quirky).
Of course, these are only a few offerings (and pricey ones at that) but needless to say, the trench can be found at a price to fit every budget and there are many which are well under $100.
Coincidentally, the trench (its history, its importance as an outerwear icon, its stylish evolution from military uniform to a “cornerstone of the twenty-first century wardrobe”) is the subject of an upcoming 320 page flexi bound book (due out in September), featuring 250 photographs, aptly called “The Trench Book”. Published by Assouline, it is written by Nick Foulkes who has impeccable credentials. He is a widely published British journalist who was associate editor of ES Magazine and is currently the luxury editor at GQ Magazine, editor of Vanity Fair’s On Time, and a columnist for Country Life and The London Magazine.
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