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How do I find a good “investment” coat? I want something warm, practical, affordable and aesthetically pleasing. I’ve been looking for several years now and I’m stuck.
Firstly, let’s manage expectations, because it’s rare that one coat does all of the jobs that you mention. Or it may simply require some compromise. I also think the notions of “affordable” and “investment” are often at odds, so I will try to offer you some options for both. Investing in the right coat is worth every penny as long as you love it and wear it.
As you’ve been looking for a while, I’d like you to do some prep work first. Start by gathering images of coats you like on Pinterest, or take screenshots on your phone and compile collages using something like InShot. This will help to cement what you’re really looking for. Choose any that you like the look of — don’t overthink it, just do it quickly and instinctively. Once you have a good selection start looking for similarities and then jot down a few words about what you’re really responding to here. Just to give you an example, my coats would be structured, with interesting and tactile fabrics, a bit of colour but mainly neutral or black. They would all have distinctive silhouettes: fit and flare, A-line or cocoon.
Once armed with this information you can start to shop. First off you can screenshot your favourites (you will need really good pictures here if you want this to work properly) and use an image search to match them: I favour Net-a-Porter’s version. I put in a Jil Sander coat I liked from a few seasons ago and it came up with 18 similar-looking styles.
Now let’s get started! For something warm and practical how about this Ganni quilted ripstop coat, (£335, Ganni.com). I like the roomy silhouette and you can add layers underneath for extra warmth. With our changeable weather I would suggest thinking carefully about how warm you want your coat to be. This one won’t, however, keep you fully dry in a downpour. For that you have to have a waterproof or, at the very least, water-resistant option.
Ganni has also collaborated with Barbour on a wax cotton quilted jacket that is warm and water-resistant, (£475, libertylondon.com), and there is also the magnificent Marfa Stance, an independent brand known for its quilted coats and gilets with patchwork pockets, which has a fun modular builder to put together your perfect mix.
Let’s move on to the more tailored warm winter coat. Straight line, super long black coats swept the catwalks like giant bats this winter. The luxury brands Stella McCartney (£2,611, neimanmarcus.com), Khaite (£3,547, farfetch.com), Balenciaga and Saint Laurent aced this. There is a but coming — they only really work on those of us who are tall (and even then they make us look shorter) and who favour a serious and sombre vibe. At the designer end Filippa K offers a super-chic grey style, (£740, ssense.com) but the high street also has your back. Anthropologie has a strong shape (£225, anthropologie.com), which won’t date quickly — an important feature in a coat. Alternatively All Saints have a slick black style too (£280 on sale, allsaints.com). I’d also recommend Harris Wharf London; its classic wool trench is a dream — great for gentle shoulder bolstering if you’re fuller on your bottom half too (£750, matchesfashion.com).
It’s worth delving into the treasure trove of second-hand clothing if you can’t see what you are looking for in store. There is a dizzying number of coats on preloved site Lampoo, from Dior to Alaïa. Or this Acne Studios coat, (£332, vestiarecollective.com) in a delicious chocolate brown would look great teamed with green or bright pink shades. When buying second-hand always have the item cleaned immediately and then steam it at home to kill off any moths. Check the details of the item carefully but all the top sites vet their stock fastidiously and I would only shop anything noted as “excellent” or “with tags” on. In terms of materials, whether new or second hand, consider what is most important to you. If it’s warmth — opt for pure wools, double-faced wool or cashmere, as they are the best natural options. Mixes will be less attractive to moths and they also hold their shape better.
You know what I am going to say next, don’t you? I can’t talk about coats without mentioning the mama of all, Max Mara. Yes, they are expensive (but worth every penny in my opinion, having bought many with clients) and mostly classic, but classic has longevity and is a brilliant foil for a fashion forward outfit. If you want some fun twists look at sister brand Sportmax. This delicious pink wool offering is a treat (£865, gb.sportmax.com). My top tip is to visit Bicester Village in Oxfordshire — you need at least an hour to rummage through all the coats on offer in there but I defy you not to find something.
Or what about taking one for a ride? No, I am not suggesting shoplifting, but rental, so you can be sure it’s the right thing. You can find everything, from a puffy Prada Re-Nylon down coat (rent from £255 for four days, hurrcollective.com) and this cute Rejina Pyo colour block style (from £67 for four days, hurrcollective.com), to Stella McCartney’s check coat (from £140 for four days, hurrcollective.com). Or road test one of autumn’s biggest trends, the scarf coat (from £92 for four days, hurrcollective.com)
Although, having said all that, there is no law against wearing your coat around the house (labels still on) for a couple of weeks while you mull it over. Just don’t leave it on for dinner or let the dog lie on it. That feeling when you wrap yourself up in a special coat is important, so choose wisely.