Don’t panic – but John Lewis has cancelled the floral midi
It’s time to move on from the floral midi dress. I know it, you know it, and the newly appointed duo heading up fashion at John Lewis are here to confirm it too.
The priority for fashion director Queralt Ferrer and head buyer Claire Miles is to present fresh-feeling ideas to the retailer’s loyal customers – as well as anyone else who might not previously have considered John Lewis to be a go-to for great clothes. Appointed last June, their debut collection is now starting to arrive in stores offering trophy knits, wide-legged denim, relaxed linen suiting and covetable flat shoes for the spring season ahead. But deliberately scarce are those ubiquitous ditsy floral prints.
“That was one of the main items that we thought we’ve got to move on from,” Ferrer says. “It’s not easy because customers love them, but it’s a trend that has been around for too long and they were everywhere across the high street. We want to give people a reason to buy something new, rather than doing more of the same.”
The need to inspire people to shop through exciting design is particularly pertinent during a cost of living crisis. Why would someone part with their money to buy a new dress if they already have 10 similar styles in their wardrobe? Many of John Lewis’s competitors have retreated in the face of financial gloom, producing “safe” ranges of reissued bestsellers. Instead, John Lewis is going all in for fashion, hoping to attract people with newness.
The very appointment of Ferrer shows that John Lewis has spotted its own problem – people don’t currently think of it as a fashion destination. She is the brand’s first ever Fashion Design Director, employed to make it a “more significant player in fashion”, as well as to help it climb back from repeated losses – the latest £99 million posted last September, blamed on inflation, Brexit and a general seize up in consumer spending. Competitors Next and
Marks & Spencer, meanwhile, shared sales boosts specifically in their clothing departments. No pressure on Ferrer, then.
Ferrer’s background is impressive. She’s often referred to as the “guru” behind Massimo Dutti as she led design there for 17 years from its launch in 1995. She also knows the competition, having spent five years as design director at Marks & Spencer. Ferrer is joined by Claire Miles, the Head of Womenswear Buying, who comes from Mint Velvet and New Look. Miles says that on arrival the pair looked at what was and wasn’t working, and decided that they want customers to get past the idea that they should only go to John Lewis for basics.
“People come for quality, trust and price,” she acknowledges. “But in the clothing department, it was for essentials.”
Right for now
The spring 2023 collection contains plenty of pieces that feel right-for-now. But crucially nothing is overtly trendy, silly or unwearable. On this fashion editor’s shopping list; the Kin ribbed knit shirt (£45), the wide-leg linen trousers (£45) and a practical pair of summer loafers with a non-garish chain embellishment (£89, a high street rarity).
Also available to buy now are the Harrietta Mary Jane flats (£55) that have already been restocked several times over, and an updated version of a 1970s-tinged bestselling Anyday denim jumpsuit (£48). Whilst pursuing a bit more fashion edge, the new team hasn’t lost sight of what their customers actually want to wear.
“We want it to be relevant for the season, but always relevant for our customer,” Miles says. “Where people are being more considered with their purchasing, we want them to see how they will wear something to an event, but also dressed-down and casual.”
The handbags coming into stores in the next few weeks are a world away from the dark leftovers currently in the website clearance section. There is colourful suede, nods to 1990s shapes, and glossy but affordable leather totes. Frankly they look exceptional when compared to the designer dupes currently on the shelves at M&S.
The team is also optimistic about lingerie and nightwear. “We are a destination now for selling both branded and own-brand lingerie,” Miles says, noting that sales are up 20 percent year on year. “With the likes of Debenhams going we have gained some of that market share.”
There is plenty to buy into here. But is it enough to edge back from the brink on the notoriously competitive British high street?
“We’re trying to offer the customer a point of difference, with pieces that are relevant to her life,” affirms Ferrer. “We want people to come in and see what’s new.”
Left to right: And/Or Denim dress, £89; Kin Striped shirt, £65; ANYDAY Denim jumpsuit, £48
Left to right: Textured cardigan, £49; ANYDAY Sweater, £32; And/Or Suede bag, £89 (available from 13th February)
All available at johnlewis.com
Left: Polka dot dress, £69; heels, £89, johnlewis.com Right: Kin Printed dress, £89; sliders, £55, johnlewis.com
Top image: Left: Kin Striped shirt, £65; wide leg jeans, £59; sliders, £55, johnlewis.com Right: Linen jacket, £69, and trousers, £45 (available from 28th February), johnlewis.com