Field-good factor: the rise and rise of country style
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Going for a walk is the new pub,” says Georgia Dant, the London-based founder of buildable womenswear label Marfa Stance. “Even in the city, people are heading for green spaces such as Richmond Park and Hampstead Heath. I’ve never seen so many wellies and people wearing greens and tweedy fabrics.”
The new necessity for meeting outdoors means Dant’s decision to launch a brand focused on outerwear that adapts to different seasons and climates was a better idea than she could have known. Her shower-resistant quilted coats – which can have a collar or a hood added, or be fastened inside a parka – are quickly becoming cult buys both here and in the US.
“We have a lot of affluent clients in the US who are moving out of the cities for the winter and going to their houses in the Hamptons or Wyoming for the snow,” says the former Burberry and Rag & Bone designer. “They’ve been telling us they want to have our quilt to travel in, but also ask us to ship another in a different colour – with a hood, because it’s colder – to their rural home, so they can have one there too.”
While duplicating clothing for a second home may not be a requirement for most of us, the countryside has certainly taken hold of fashion this season. Fresh-air gear with a heritage feel is permeating city dress codes, with quilted coats, field jackets, traditional knits, rugged hiking boots and welly-inspired footwear appearing in collections for both men and women.
“Quintessentially British styles are proving to be very popular,” says Jenna Lee, a buyer at MatchesFashion. “I think it’s because our customer is holidaying closer to home and often in the countryside. We’ve seen demand grow, from shearling pieces from Acne Studios and Balenciaga to quilted jackets from Belstaff.”
Burberry’s latest and much talked-about “Singin’ in the Rain” video takes place in a very urban setting – a London street in the shadow of the Gherkin. The first look that appears, however, is a tan quilted jacket with a corduroy collar that would look equally at home striding across the Surrey Hills. Quilting has always been big business for Burberry – especially among horsey types – but these oversized styles have moved the outerwear into more youthful territory, offering the familiar with a modern feel.
Meanwhile, brands from Joseph to Bottega Veneta have been busy transforming wellies and hiking boots into styles better suited to pounding pavements than pastures. Prada’s Re-Nylon collection has sturdy lace-up boots, for men and women, with thick lug soles, while London footwear brand Legres has introduced the Garden boot – a welly/Chelsea hybrid that’s described as “perfect for winter walks”.
Cosy Fair Isle sweaters, which originated in the Shetland Islands and are more commonly seen on the golf course, are also proving popular. British luxury brand Connolly has a chunky, made-to-order version, while Burberry’s men’s style, with the traditional circular yoke, can be paired with matching knitted shorts – for the bravest man in the village, perhaps. Molly Goddard’s bright takes on Fair Isle for a/w ’20 were worn, at her London catwalk show, under frilly taffeta and tulle frocks for a look plucked straight from the dressing-up box of a country estate. That was intentional, of course. “I grew up in London but I always loved going to the countryside,” the designer says. “And I love that very British country look. Every season I have an image from one of Tim Walker’s amazing countryside shoots on my mood board. And isn’t everyone just trying to get to the countryside at the moment?”
Joseph Brunner, a junior menswear buyer at Browns, points out that these modern takes on traditional garments are not only practical in terms of performance in winter months but also have a feel-good factor. “I can’t think of anything better than wearing a statement knit, preferably from Prada’s a/w ’17 Shetland wool collection, or one by [London menswear designer] Stefan Cooke at the moment,” he says. “We can have such joy exploring the outdoors right now and these garments can bring a lot of pleasure.” At least until the new pub becomes the old pub once again.