The modern, grown-up, sophisticated shopper, tired of the cheap, transient frippery of so much fast fashion now on the High Street, has a thorougly modern, old-fashioned watch-phrase: “Buy less, buy better”.
“People want to see the value in the pieces they are buying, so that they can get some wear out of it,” says fashion designer Collette Brown.
It’s an old-fashioned view that is becoming increasingly current and in vogue.
Collette designs A by Jigsaw, the premium line of the high-end fashion chain (famous for employing the Duchess of Cambridge as an accessories buyer) which specialises in offering discerning style seekers a contemporary wardrobe of luxe staples and statement pieces for all occasions. In Yorkshire there are Jigsaw stores in York, Harrogate, Leeds and Ilkley, as well as boutiques in John Lewis, House of Fraser and Fenwick.
As modern lifestyles blur distinctions between work, weekends and play, our clothes have to work hard and adapt, says Collette. “I personally think people would rather buy a couple of quality pieces that can be flexible and really work in their wardrobe than lots of cheaper price point pieces.”
Collette’s design credentials are impeccable. She studied fashion design at Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication, then moved to Milan and worked at Dolce & Gabbana and Moschino before returning to the UK. She joined Jigsaw in 2015 from Jaeger where she was head of womenswear design from 2012. Before that, she was senior designer at Burberry for five years, and has also worked for Bally and Pringle. Now 44, and originally from Cambridge, she lives near Hampstead Heath in London with her family.
The A by Jigsaw AW17 collection, which launched at London Fashion Week, is now for the first time available at Harvey Nichols, Leeds, underlining its premium nature. It’s a range of 45 pieces that can be mixed and matched, dressed up and down, inspired by the bohemian lifestyle of the Bloomsbury set.
“It’s an era I’ve always been interested in,” says Collette. “I’ve always loved Virginia Woolf’s books. I love the relaxed way that everyone dressed. It’s not corsets and uptight, and it’s that liberation and freedom for women’s dress – they would sometimes dress in men’s clothes. There was an eccentricity to it that I like. There’s an element of scruffiness, mix and match, lovely expensive velvets thrown on top. A very ‘anything goes’ period, with this set of people.”
There is no correct way of wearing any of the pieces, says Collette. Prints are a key element, and indeed statement print is always a major draw for the Jigsaw customer. Collette says: “We’ve got a great in-house print designer. This season we wanted a bold floral that was also striking and strong, and she created that with our hibiscus print.”
Jigsaw is successful, she says, because it keeps offering something new. “Brands that keep that energy and motion going are the brands that do well,” she says. “Within that, though, there is a safety net of handwriting so that your customer understands the sense of your brand.”
Burberry was an “amazing place to work”, she says. “One of its massive strengths is that it is fundamentally a product-driven business. It sells lots of coats and raincoats, and what they do very cleverly is keep that interesting each season.
“I think that’s what Christopher (Bailey) does so well. He keeps that energy, that vibrancy. He keeps the stories and the customer’s imagination ticking over. It’s not an easy thing to do, to make people feel confident in your product, but moving forward.”
Burberry has been at the vanguard of the “see now, buy now” movement in fashion, and Collette approves.
“It’s a good idea. People don’t want to wait six months for something that they see, and also people travel so much. People are more ‘in the moment’ and don’t plan their wardrobes like they did before. It’s exciting to mix things up and follow in the way that the customer is actually shopping.”
There’s a lot of product out there, and so many different ways of reaching the customer now, that she knows she can be selective, Collette says.
“If she likes a piece, she buys it. You’ve got to draw people in, keep moving and keep things exciting, whereas years ago, I think people were more loyal to one brand.”
The challenge for a fashion design team, she says, is to keep offering special pieces that draw the customer in. A by Jigsaw aims to do that this season with a rich palette of amethyst, hunter green and navy, mixing in pale gold and bright green. It is a celebration of bold clashing colour, pared-back, fluid silhouettes and luxe textures featuring hand-drawn prints, beautiful dresses, lace, silk knitwear, gold jacquards and naval-inspired tailoring. Eclectic, evocative, thoughtful and luxurious pieces created to inspire love.
“You need to reach women on an emotional level,” says Collette. “It’s so emotionally based. You either really love something or you’re not that interested in it.”
A by Jigsaw is available at Harvey Nichols, Leeds, and at Jigsaw-online.com. There are also Jigsaw stores in Leeds Victoria Quarter, Harrogate, Ilkley and York, as well as concessions in Fenwick, John Lewis, House of Fraser.