Words: Thea Bichard
Our guide to upping the ante when it comes to outerwear this winter and beyond.

Are we dwelling on that fact that summer was two seconds long and we’re now facing winter? No, because there’s always solace to be found at this time of year in the snuggest corner of the autumn/winter collections – and AW21 is overflowing with expressive, eclectic, fun outerwear. So, now that we have parties, dinners, working from the office and packed weekends back in our lives, we’re investing in characterful coats and jackets to luxuriate in for countless winters to come. Backed by expert advice from our Selfridges buyers and a few of our most fashionable friends, here are five ways to level up the silhouettes we expect every autumn/winter – from the brands nailing outerwear that goes way beyond straightforward function to the big names embracing earth-conscious practices.


Trench coats have survived more than a century of winters, and still designers are finding inventive ways to rework them. Puffed sleeves at Gabriela Hearst, logos at Balmain, Totême ditching a belt for a straight-cut silhouette, Balenciaga’s off-the-shoulder lapels – AW21’s answer to these outerwear icons is all about keeping the practical elements and tweaking the timeless details to set these styles apart.


When deciding which one best suits you and your personal style, bear in mind our buyer Grace Neal’s advice. “Look at your wardrobe staples first: which items will you be wearing the most this season? Then decide on the perfect coat that you can layer on top of them all,” she says. “If your go-to is a blazer or a long cardigan, pick a coat that fits perfectly over the top and is longer than your under layers. Another tip I find is to consider going up a size. This way, you won’t struggle to get over the top of any chunky knits.”


“Over the past 18 months, the puffer jacket has become somewhat of a comfort blanket, similar to our sweats,” says our Designer Womenswear Buyer, Rebecca Tinker, “and we will never abandon them.” And why would we when designers are pushing the padded envelope? Some are encouraging us to experiment with proportion – JACQUEMUS and Miu Miu have shrunk down their silhouettes to create cropped coats (the powder-blue Prada puffer in our Selfridges Rental edit is perfect for trying out this look, too). We also love the way labels such as Palm Angels and Acne Studios are padding and quilting macs and trenches, pumping up the impact of these tried-and-tested styles.


Going into a more optimistic winter, this time around we can have a little more fun when searching for the next investment coat. Shy away from the classic investment and gravitate towards staple shapes but in new fabrics or finishes.

– Rebecca Tinker, Designer Womenswear Buyer


For obvious reasons, for the past 18 months designers have looked to boost our moods by turning the colour levels all the way up across collections, but a bright coat, in particular, will be an instant pick-me-up when you’re faced with dark, chilly mornings. Prada On Ice’s printed ski coats, Stand Studio’s bold squares and Remain Birger Christensen’s winter tie-dye are all making a case for playful pattern. Alternatively, you can spin the colour wheel and find an incredible coat wherever you land: we love the verdant shades of green at The Situationist, Bottega Veneta and earth-conscious Danish label Saks Potts; vivid blues at Gauchère and Alberta Ferretti, and flushes of pink at Moncler and Gabriela Coll.


We’re convinced these distinctive styles have staying power, too. Take Gabriela Coll’s ‘No 65’ coat. Inspired by an old image of Miles Davis swathed in an enormous, elegant coat, this silhouette is reimagined each season, this time in a pleasing dusty-pink corduroy. “All our pieces exist as part of a permanent wardrobe,” says Coll, “creating a biography through time with seasonless pieces that can also stand alone.”


There’s consensus among our womenswear buyers: shaggy shearlings and fuzzy wools are the answer if you want comfort, longevity and something a little show-off-y from your outerwear. “Going into a more optimistic winter, the key to finding the perfect coat is texture,” says Rebecca Tinker. “Shearling is key, but we’re also seeing mohair blends with wool that leave an almost teddy-like, shearling effect.” Grace Neal agrees, “A long overcoat is a necessity to dress up in for cold winter nights. You can’t go wrong with the Maria Teddy from Stand Studio.”


We’re anticipating a lot of parties in the next few months – from winter weddings to festive dos and Friday nights (we’ll take any excuse). These stand-out coats and bold blazers are perfect for going over the top – literally and metaphorically – with this season’s party dresses. Embellished, colour-blocked and leather blazers from Nanushka, Alexander McQueen and Givenchy are vying with the leather-look coats from Kassl Editions, Balenciaga’s signature Hourglass silhouette and Litvoskaya’s louche layering. Designer Lili Litkovskaya explained what makes her designs particularly distinctive: “The top layer is aimed to create additional volume and could be styled in many ways – a very Litkovskaya move [that creates] a kind of fashion transformer.” A fashion transformer – words to live by, if ever we heard them.

Images courtesy of Style Du Monde and Szymon Brzoska at The Style Stalker

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