The trench has always been a staple but, this year, it gained fashionability. That’s thanks to off-kilter styling at Céline and Vetements, and celebrity wearers. Worn by Kate Middleton, Audrey Hepburn, and Marlene Dietrich, the trench coat has long been a perennial clothing item filed with jeans and the LBD as must-have items for every woman to own. In 2018, we see a trench coat is back, but it’s not classic anymore, it’s cool, modern and bold. This time I want to show you my favorite trench coats to try this Autumn and find something special and unique.
Buzzy catwalk brands including Vetements and Céline have brought the trench on to the catwalk this year. Meanwhile, Burberry often thought of as the home of the traditional trench, played around with the design, placing the iconic check on the outside and reworking it in colored shearling. The high street has followed. For the trench 2.0, Asos has designs in vinyl while Topshop’s are in metallic fabric. “We have seen popularity rise this season for trenchcoats with our customers looking to new fashion styles to update the classics,” says Sian Ryan, head of womenswear design at Asos. The site had already sold 6,700 trenchcoats by the end of October. Meghan Markle wearing a white trench for the announcement of her engagement to Prince Harry will no doubt have boosted sales, too.
It’s not about new trends, colors or prints, trench is about defining your femininity and making yourself look fresh and individual. At the designer end of the market, the trench has certainly been a strong seller as the year comes to a close. “We have increased our buy on trenchcoats and we’ve seen a strong reaction to styles from Burberry this season,” says Natalie Kingham, the buying director of Matchesfashion.com. She says the different fabrications – PVC at cult brand Wanda Nylon, rubber at Burberry – have given the trench a boost, which adds “a point of difference and updates a classic item”.
At Asos, Ryan says that the most popular trenches are still the classic ones – in khaki, with epaulets and storm flaps. This may be because part of the success of this trend is that it’s not a trend at all. Instead, it is a rediscovery of a perennial by a new generation. “The influencers are showing ways to wear it,” says Rebecca Lowthorpe, fashion features director of Grazia. She points to the Balenciaga trenchcoat worn by Kim Kardashian late last year as a key moment: “That did more for macs than anything.”
The rediscovery of a classic factor suggests this is more than a flash-in-the-pan trend – its versatility means consumers will like to wear it longer than a season. There’s no doubt the trench is weather-friendly in different climates – it protects its wearer from rain, and the loose shape allows layers to be worn underneath. “It’s a great thing that will live on,” says Lowthorpe. “It’s one of those rare items that is classic while being interesting, too.”
In contrast, the pool of timeless staples is much shallower. Consider, your favorite grey cashmere jumper or your go-with-everything jeans. What divides them is that while such perennials provide our wardrobe’s bread and butter, they rarely get the opportunity to bask in the spotlight. This season, however, it has come to pass that one of fashion’s most classic building blocks has simultaneously gained notoriety as spring’s most prolific trend. It is, of course, the trench coat.
The reason for its ascent back up the polls can be credited to numerous factors. For starters, there are the last hurrahs of two of its biggest champions. Cult minimalist Phoebe Philo — a poster girl for making you regret ever swapping your navy roll neck for a clavicle-bearing Bardot shirt — loves a trench coat almost as much as she does a so- uncool-it’s-cool sneaker. In her 2018 collection, the trench was king, either updated with statement looped-double hems or kept classic and slung casually over the arms of models wearing sequin cocktail dresses. For Resort 2018, they came oversized or puritanically archetypal. By December, when the fashion world learned of her imminent desertion from the brand after a decade at the helm, these pieces went from wish list to must-own as Philophiles flocked to snap up the last heirlooms of a soon-to-be-gone but not forgotten era.
At London Fashion Week, Christopher Bailey also unveiled his last collection for Burberry after 17 years. The brand, of course, is to the trench coat what Chanel is to the tweed skirt suit, with the original Thomas Burberry design dating back to 1912. Fast forward to 2018 and a search on the brand’s website throws up no fewer than 212 results, spanning neon reverse check to laminated vinyl.
The brand also recently launched Restored — a curated collection of one-of-a-kind vintage Burberry trenches dating from the Sixties to the Nineties, all individually sourced, reproofed and restored in England and available in pop-ups including at Browns East and Dover Street Market. Meanwhile, modern incarnations on the catwalk also encompass Maison Margiela, with designer John Galliano rarely failing to include a deconstructed trench (or 10) in the mix in every show, to the agenda-setting Vetements and its cool collaboration with heritage hero Mackintosh.
“After seasons of bold, maximalist collections, we are definitely seeing a return to real-life dressing, and trenches are key to this,” says Lisa Aiken, retail fashion director at Net-A-Porter, who also notes the high volume of street style stars who have been toting the trench on the current fashion week circuit.
As a result, the e-tailer has doubled its buy-in trench coats since last year with sales matching this increase. “There’s an abundance of trenches this season, except this time around, we’re seeing them in longer lengths and in oversized dramatic silhouettes worn in a very undone way.”
Bestsellers on the site include J Crew, Koché, Calvin Klein and, of course, Burberry, while her top picks for SS18 include Helmut Lang’s patent belted trench, Alexander McQueen’s gabardine checked the version and Khaite’s Cornelia cotton canvas coat. “They can be thrown over anything, which makes them incredibly practical and, ultimately, what appeals to us Londoners.”
Liberty has also upped its trench coat supply to meet demand, with a 66 percent increased buy on last year. Its best selling price point is between £400 and £500, with this bracket accounting for 44 percent of all sales. Classic styles have remained the most popular, with 56 percent of sales in the traditional beige camp, while its bestselling brand so far this season has been APC.
If your search for the perfect trench takes you to the high street, M&S is an excellent place to start. Veteran purveyors of combining timeless appeal with a nod to seasonal trends, two of the brand’s most popular outerwear pieces this season are trench coats, with its gingham print incarnation and a classic beige style updated with a smock sleeve both a regular sighting among the Brit pack off the catwalk this fashion week.
Other brilliant high-street buys include the classic double-breasted styles starring in Mango’s new season campaign, available in two lengths, while Finery — an online brand with an anti-fast- fashion sensibility — has been a long-time champion of the trench in several guises, spanning the fashion-forward olive green leather style to a checked buckle option.
In its new season collection, however, Finery has chosen to include just one coat. And no prizes for guessing it’s a trench in the most traditional sense. “Each season we reinvent this wardrobe staple to be innovative in both design and fabric,” says creative director Emma Farrow. “But we are extremely proud of the new Maple trench as it is our take on a great classic that we hope will be in wardrobes for years to come.” Now that’s a trend worth investing in.