How to find the best pieces on the high street? Go to the source. We have a direct line to insiders from our favourite affordable brands, so it makes sense that we'd tap them first before entering a new season—especially during a time when our editors don't have their usual chance to peruse the spring collections on press days six months in advance, or even in situ once they've landed.
This group of experts is made up of the people who know the latest drops inside and out, having the chance to preview—or even help shape—items before everyone else gets to see them. They can also take a measure on how their peers and coworkers respond to these creations, which in turn will inform how the general public will likely shop. So with spring offerings starting to properly filter in, we have turned to those who know best.
From leading marketing directors to personal shoppers, brand representatives to associated influencers, below you'll find a cross-section of Britain's retail gurus. Each has cherry-picked a key item or look for the new season, aka the winning pieces that will sell out first. So heed their advice and take a few styling tips along the way too.
As you may know, John Lewis & Partners has various fashion brands created by their internal team to suit different styles, but it would seem that denim is high up on the agenda for both And/Or (the more casual line) and Kin (a Scandi and minimal collection). But it's no surprise to our team here. Denim is ultra popular with our readers and has been selling like crazy since the start of 2021 in particular.
Here, personal stylist Olivia Robinson has chosen a blouson-sleeved denim shirt/jacket hybrid from And/Or. "I am really in love with this And/Or denim jacket—it's the perfect wardrobe update with the puff sleeves and round collar. I've styled it with these '90s-inspired boot-cut jeans which are so flattering and comfortable. The double-denim look is my smarter alternative to the tracksuit," she tells me.
"Our customer is definitely looking for denim at the moment, with searches for jeans up 481% and denim jacket searches are up 11%, and many of my clients are asking for denim styling advice on virtual appointments. I think people are ready to start thinking about alternative outfits to the loungewear we have been wearing this past year—even if it's just for a walk around the park!" she says, still looking effortless in this simple-but-effective combination worn with classic white basket sneaks.
When we're overwhelmed by the hundreds of products that are uploaded every day onto ASOS.com, we always turn to one key insider: Lotte. She manages to pick out the best of the best and is often pictured in something before it becomes a bit of a cult item and runaway success.
What's her top tip for spring? Motif tees. "Graphic tees are such a great base as they're so easy to style with clashing prints," she says. And she's right—you can pick out the colours in any given T-shirt and used them to decipher a head-to-toe look.
"I love the colours in this ASOS Design cherry design," she says, selecting out the green for some pastel gingham jeans and a cute '90s bag, lilac and blue via her tie-dye sweater, and—the sandals of the season—white platform flip-flops. As she explains, it is "the perfect spring chuck-on-and-go look!"
Want to know what's hot at H&M? Then you need to add @clairewakeman to your IG feed as soon as possible. She's the brand's influencer marketing manager, but she's also becoming something of the influencer in her own right. She's adept at selecting the most grown-up, chic and downright desirable pieces from the label's new-in sections, so it's no wonder that her top picks for this feature—a sharp blazer and fringed skirt from the premium Studio line—have all but sold out already since launching but a few days ago.
"I'm all for a great blazer and adore the shape and fit of this Studio version! The strong shoulders and tapered waist are super flattering and the fabric is amazing quality, and don't get me started on the lapels… I just love the silhouette of these two pieces together," she says. And we couldn't agree more. Pared-back but still very fabulous.
The multifaceted Tamu McPherson has been keeping us so inspired all throughout the past year with her uplifting outfit ideas and upbeat words. Based in Italy but with a truly global outlook on style, you can never predict what she'll choose but you can guarantee you'll want it! Here, as a #MangoGirl, she reveals her pick for the season: a very adorable frilled-collar knit.
"As I told my followers on my IG account, this baby collar has been one of my closest friends during this period," she tells me. "Pairing knits with these kind of collars is the best solution to give a nice twist to a simple look. Add nice earrings that light up your face and you are ready to go." And what's more is that the frilly collar is removable, so you've got two looks in one. Excellent.
Marie Nilsson, concept designer at the Stockholm Atelier of & Other Stories, has a very smart hack for making a staple trench look more up-to-date: simply layer a quilted vest over the top. "A trench is a loved wardrobe classic that’s never out of style and definitely a key item this spring," she says, echoing the message coming through from the runways about elevated everyday basics.
Combining that Swedish knack for looking dressed-down and yet entirely pulled-together alongside the practicalities of what a spring wardrobe actually demands, her entire ensemble of baggy trousers, chunky shoes and clever outerwear will easily translate in the UK.
Courtesy of Marie Nilsson/& Other Stories
This evergreen trench will be available the week commencing March 8, and based on our previous experiences of Stories' outerwear (this jacket, for starters) we don't expect it to hang around for long. However, her padded vest and track-soled shoes are available now and you can shop them, plus some similar items, below.
Gemma Metheringham is the creative director of Label/Mix and an advocate for buying clothes that last, so if anyone is going to know what's worth parting cash for this season, it's her. "This year, more than ever, I am focusing on building a forever wardrobe and thinking carefully about what I invest in," she tells me.
"Versatility is my mantra and I know this jumpsuit is relaxed enough for working from home and perfect with a heel for going out, whenever we can…" This perfectly comfy one-piece has arrived in the new wash featured above, but there's data to back up how popular it will be—it is back by popular demand after the darker denim and lilac versions promptly sold out.
"At this time of year, the need for some colour in my life is almost a physical ache. I've wanted a pair of these trainers since I discovered the brand on Instagram over two years ago. Usually only available in men's sizes this is an exclusive limited edition collaboration with us at Label/Mix, so get yours before they go! Every time I wear this bag someone asks where it's from. It's perfect. I love the colour, the practicality and it's smiley, feel-good attitude!"
You can always rely on Marks and Spencer to give classic, staple items a trend-driven overhaul each season, and this spring is no exception. Head of marketing Vanessa Logan has drawn our attention to a very brilliant creation that fulfills this forever-purchase promise: a chic faux-leather trench in a very expensive-looking shade of mink. "The standout piece in this outfit is definitely the faux leather trench. I know this is going to get a lot of wear once we can start dressing up and going out again!" she says.
Courtesy of Vanessa Logan/M&S
"I also love this super-soft textured cardi, the quintessential layering item. But what I can't live without are my mom jeans—these are such a great fit. They are the perfect transitional item to ease me from working at home in loungewear to a more comfy-casual look as we return to life post-lockdown." And this kind of tonal look just never gets old—it's a combination that will look sophisticated for many seasons to come.