The A/W 20 fashion shows in February fell just before lockdown restrictions were put in place in Europe. Since these collections were presented, not only has the fashion industry faced huge challenges, but also the way we all get dressed has changed significantly. The season was divided into two distinct camps. On one side were fantasy, couture-like creations designed for extravagant social lives, and the second was a continued shift toward wearable, classic pieces. While the Villanelle-style evening gowns are beautiful to look back at, with an uncertain six months ahead of us and parties still on hold, for this A/W 20 trend report, I’m focusing on the pieces I think people will actually buy into over the next six months.
The word trend is now a dirty word in fashion circles, as we all look to be more mindful with our consumption and buy items with longevity in mind. When compiling this trend report, I was conscious to avoid any trends that I believe will have a short shelf life and instead focused on styling tweaks that you can achieve with classic autumn pieces or updates that will last far beyond one season.
Image Courtesy of Jil Sander
“We are certainly seeing designers choosing to showcase a selection of really wearable pieces, more so than other recent seasons,” says Elizabeth von der Goltz, global buying director at Net-a-Porter. “This reflects the customer’s desire to make more considered purchases with sustainability in mind by investing now and wearing forever. Our wardrobes will be more hardworking than ever before, featuring well-loved pieces that can be styled in multiple ways and across multiple seasons. Pieces that we will always champion for fall—this season is no exception—are boots, tailoring, outerwear, sumptuous knitwear and, of course, the finishing touches like a beautiful piece of jewellery.”
Due to the current economic uncertainty, one report said 79% of consumers plan to cut their apparel budget in the next 12 months, which inevitably will manifest in people being considerate with the things they do choose to buy and leaning toward timeless items. To get a sense of what people will actually be buying over the next six months, I spoke to dozens of fashion buyers for their intel on how they have shifted their buys in light of the current circumstances, and many said that they have invested most heavily in classic outerwear and boots for the upcoming season—the bread and butter of autumn dressing, of course, but this reiterates that in times of uncertainty, many lean toward basics and seasonal staples.
Pictured above: JW Anderson
As we're spending more time indoors and at home, many of us are prioritising comfort and ease when getting dressed. However, this is balanced with the increasing desire to return to our normal wardrobe routines and to get dressed properly. “Understated luxury is the keyword for many collections, and the vocabulary is high-quality knits, cashmere and neutral tones,” says Tiffany Hsu, fashion buying director at MyTheresa. “Among the ways to achieve the look, the knit dress is a new wardrobe essential.” Buyers have focused on a capsule of easy-to-style but elevated separates, as Lydia King, fashion director at Harrods, says her hero pieces for at-home dressing this autumn are "relaxed silhouettes, cocooning knitwear, easy dresses, silk separates and chunky boots for stepping outside."
Comfort is key. However, instead of loose, baggy knits, loungewear is made to feel more elevated this autumn thanks to the return of fitted silhouettes. “The second most prevalent trend was the focus on the female form, which saw the return of the bodycon dress,” adds von der Goltz. "However, today’s version of bodycon is more elegant.” Think of the fitted, body-hugging knitwear we saw Gwyneth Paltrow wearing in the ’90s.
Another significant shift we’ve seen during COVID-19 is the rapid explosion of resale sites—the ThredUp resale report estimates that online second-hand is set to grow 69% between 2019 and 2021, while the retail sector is projected to shrink 15%. You’ll find many of the autumn buys below on resale and vintage sites, from boxy blazers and belts to Gucci’s re-released Jackie bag. So when compiling this report, I have included several second-hand shopping options to stress the timeless nature of these autumn pieces.
From knitted vests (thanks Gucci) to statement collars made for Zoom, keep scrolling for what's what for autumn.
Pictured above: Jil Sander, Proenza Schouler and Jil Sander
I wrote in our S/S 20 report about the return of ’90s clean lines, and this is continuing into A/W with a focus on fitted silhouettes. This bodycon is a world away from the Kardashian school of dressing that might come to mind, as many of these dresses had long hemlines and a relaxed feel thanks to knitted fabrics. "Today’s version of bodycon is more elegant. It was interesting to see brands bringing sexy back, but in a more modern and updated style," adds von der Goltz. "No one delivered this better than Proenza Schouler, whose dresses are figure-enhancing. The key is to keep hemlines long and style with second-skin boots." The bodycon dress is one of the items that Net-a-Porter has really backed for the autumn season, with styles from Khaite, Brandon Maxwell and the wrap-effect dresses at Burberry and JW Anderson.
Pictured above: Celine, Nanushka and Gabriela Hearst
When it comes to outerwear, capes were seen across the four capitals, from tweed throw-on versions at Celine that have a heritage country feel to sweeping black gown–cape hybrids at Balenciaga. For a cosier feel, I love the yellow fringed ponchos at Gabriela Hearst.
In 2020, the idea of waist-up dressing has taken hold, as many are getting ready considering what elements of the outfit will be seen (and not seen) on a video call. The A/W collections included many statement look-at-me collars, which are a welcome addition to any video call. One of the most impactful looks of the entire season was the black trouser suit that Kaia Gerber wore at Bottega Veneta, which was punctuated with an acid-green shirt collar poking out over the jacket lapel.
Image courtesy of Lanvin/ Stella McCartney and Brock Collection
Pictured above: Brock Collection, Lanvin and Stella McCartney
I would guess that checks have featured on every autumn trend report that has ever been published on Who What Wear. However, for this autumn, they were punchier than usual. Instead of heritage prints, we saw grid patterns in bright and unusual colour mixes. At Dior, checks were layered to add more impact, while one of my favourite looks of the season is the burgundy-and–baby blue checked coat at Lanvin.
Images courtesy of Jil Sander and Salvatore Ferragamo
Pictured above: Jil Sander and Salvatore Ferragamo
Bottega Veneta has been the brand steering trends ever since Daniel Lee took to the helm, and for A/W, everything from handbags to dresses had statement fringe finishing. Burberry had crystal fringing, while Jil Sander and Salvatore Ferragamo showed a more minimal spin on the trend with monochrome skirts and dresses adorned with a layer of fringing.
The sweater vest is dropping its Chandler Bing reputation this autumn, as many of the biggest labels included this preppy knit. Ties were another trend we saw bubbling up in the autumn collections, and at Dior and Prada, knitted vests were worn over a shirt and tie.
Getty/ Images courtesy of Miu Miu and Stella McCartney
Pictured above: Miu Miu, Burberry and Stella McCartney
Every fashion buyer I spoke to said that they have really focused on outerwear for their autumn buy, and leather and faux-leather coats were seen in all the major collections in all four cities. Hero coats include the Burberry floor-sweeping coat with a brown leather lining, the teal belted coat at Salvatore Farragamo and Saint Laurent's brown leather trench.
Leather and faux iterations have been the key fabrics for several seasons, and they still dominated in the A/W 20 collections. "Following the wave of minimalist leather-on-leather tailoring inspired by menswear, new leather looks appeared in the collections this season," notes Hsu. "Tan and beige are, of course, still key. However, designers also incorporated new colours to create statement pieces. We also adored the nut-brown, floor-length trench coat from Bottega Veneta."
Leather is also one of the trends the Net-a-Porter buying team is most excited by, as von der Goltz explains, "I'm excited to see the return of leather, from Salvatore Ferragamo’s leather dresses to the chic leather suits at Jil Sander."
No one knows what Christmas parties will look like in 2020. However, embellished knitwear is relaxed enough to be appropriate for low-key celebrations but still has a festive spirit. Prada included speckled everyday knitwear adorned with fringed beading along the chest, while Molly Goddard layered fair-isle knits underneath tulle dresses. One of the most memorable looks I saw in the A/W 20 collections was the grey ribbed knit that Kaia Gerber wore at JW Anderson, which has a magical tinsel-effect collar over the jumper.
When it comes to colours, there were several hues that were particularly prominent, including rich chocolates, neon greens and black. However, the one colour I'm most excited about is the use of postbox red. Miu Miu and Proenza Schouler showed amazing red coats, while Valentino and Givenchy created beautiful evening gowns in red.
The likes of Miu Miu, Michael Kors and Rejina Pyo all showed a skirt suit. You can either have a matching jacket and midi or mix a skirt with a blazer in a different print, using a belt to tie the look together. I particularly loved how at Nanushka, the blazer was tucked into the waistband of the pleated skirt.
Images courtesy of Chanel, Victoria Beckham and Loewe
Pictured above: Loewe, Victoria Beckham and Chanel
This is another trend that is perfect for waist-up styling. This season, we saw lots of statement sleeves and exaggerated shoulders. Loewe had beading on the cuffs, while Victoria Beckham had exaggerated puff sleeves. "Unmissable shoulders and showstopping sleeves were ballooning across the runway—and we loved every single one," Hsu says of this big-sleeve energy. "Balenciaga showed spikey, power-shoulder shapes; meanwhile, Loewe and JW Anderson debuted puffed-shoulder outerwear reminiscent of Edwardian styles."
Getty, Image courtesy of Khaite and Bottega Veneta
Pictured above: Bottega Veneta, Khaite and Proenza Schouler
It'll be no surprise to you that boots are one of the key items for autumn and winter. However,one shift we saw is the boots rising over the knee. "A personal favourite of mine are the thigh-high leather square-toe boots from Bottega Veneta," says Heather Gramston, head of womenswear at Browns. "As always, Bottega Veneta lived up to the hype, and Daniel Lee did not disappoint. He showed another showstopping collection that will continue to resonate with our customers." Victoria Beckham and Proenza Schouler both paired over-the-knee boots with midi-length skirts and coats, which is perhaps the easiest way to style this boot trend.
Last autumn saw the arrival of chunky track-sole boots, and this winter, practicality is still key when it comes to footwear. "The utilitarian mood was a favorite in Milan—particularly from the likes of Prada and Miu Miu, who offered full, army-inspired, heavy-duty styles," says Hsu.
Image courtesy of Chanel, Brandon Maxwell and Getty
Pictured above: Chanel, Hermès, and Brandon Maxwell
Equestrian style often makes its way into autumn collections. However, this winter we can prepare for more riding boots. At Chanel, practically all the models wore a pair of black Western riding black hybrid boots, which have a blocked heel and a brown leather cuff. Brandon Maxwell styled leather riding boots over skinny jeans and with a brown blazer, which is one of the looks I most want to re-create from the runway.
Image courtesy of Saint Laurent/Andrew Morales for Dion Lee/Getty
Pictured above: Dion Lee, No21 and Saint Laurent
"Chain-link jewelry has been in the spotlight for some time now," says Hsu. "But this season, the trend gets bigger—literally and figuratively. In Milan, Bottega Veneta presented chunky chain necklaces reminiscent of the strap adorning new iterations of the Pouch and the Cassette bags. It also fused links into garments to add preciosity to knitwear. Footwear is also adopting the trend, as seen at JW Anderson. We loved the oversize links adorning slippers at the runway show." Oversize gold chain necklaces are still a key accent, as at Saint Laurent, they were styled over black roll-necks.
Pictured above: Gucci, Brandon Maxwell and Brandon Maxwell
Gucci is responsible for this accessory trend thanks to its relaunch of the Jackie bag. Almost every look featured this bag, which was initially named after Jackie Kennedy, and the new bags come in bright hues including powder blues, lilacs and rosy pinks.