I challenge you to find someone who is more enthusiastic about tufts wool “tops” (the stuff that a sheep’s fleece is processed into before it gets spun into yarn) than Laura Lusuardi, the longtime global fashion director of Max Mara.  At the launch of Max Mara’s Woolmark collection at their Old Bond Street store a fortnight ago, Lusuardi thrusted a wad of super soft tops in my hands, urging me to feel it.  “There are 71 million sheep versus 21 million people!” she exclaimed.  “The ingredients of the wool is the lovely grass and the Australian sun – the sheep run free and it makes the wool super soft.”  Lusuardi of course knows a thing or two about a flock of sheep.  Max Mara is of course famed for their iconic camel coat but whether it’s camel, cashmere or Merino wool, Lusuardi’s wealth of knowledge of the various fibres, yarn weights and fabrication possibilities is vast.  And with that expertise, Max Mara have come up with a way of replicating the look of denim with its traditional 3/1 weave, but instead of cotton, they have used 100% Merino wool to showcase the lighter side to this natural fibre.

“Wool is a fibre that is most versatile,” said Lusuardi.  “You can have it light, medium and very heavy.  Wool is very easy to shape.  This wool-denim is new because it’s so fluid.”  Indeed, scrunch the fabric in your hands and it is far more malleable than traditional cotton denim and once released, it instantly returns to an unwrinkled state.  Lusuardi also pointed out the various examples of Max Mara that utilise wool – mixed with lycra or silk for instance – to create fabrics that feel like anything but wool, and are also suitable for the summer season with its breathable qualities.

On one of the hottest day of the year in London, I donned the double breasted jacket and matching trousers from the wool denim collection, into town (on the tube) and emerged remarkably perspiration-free.  And comfort aside, this also happens to be the first trouser suit in my wardrobe (yes, I triple checked just to be sure).  Max Mara’s ability to master wardrobe cornerstones makes the ensemble an easy one to wear and to mix in with some of my more adventurous pieces.  Lusuardi often photographs women wearing Max Mara on the street with her phone.  How does she envisage this collection being worn?  “With personality!  It’s exactly what I believe in it.  You can customise it as you wish.  Max Mara clothes aren’t overpowering and so you can wear it as you want.”  Don’t mind if I do…

Max Mara double breasted wool-denim jacket and trousers worn with Marques Almeida corset, Uniqlo shirt and Malone Souliers sandals

Max Mara x Woolmark wool-denim dress worn with Marques Almeida jeans, Coach shoes and Delada shirt

This post is sponsored by Max Mara

>> It could be the fact that I’ve spent more time at home, camped out on the sofa with Nico permanently attached to my chest and a roster of distractions on Apple TV.  I’ve somehow found myself reliving the decade of the Space Race by rewatching Mad Men (I like to shuffle play the episodes in non chronological order just to prove to myself that the writing of that show reigns supreme), binging on the documentary series The Kennedy Files, along with its declarations of “We choose to go to the Moon” and also catching the brilliant film Hidden Figures, about the role of African-American mathematicians at NASA, when I was flying to Los Angeles.  It’s not so much the intricate science of space but more the idea of getting there and unravelling the mystery of the skies beyond that makes that 1960s journey of reaching this new frontier so compelling.     Type “space collage” into Google Image and you’ll find a whole raft of Photoshopped imaginations of space that are also tinged with the era Kennedy vs. Khrushchev with a litany of dreamscapes, depicting galaxies colliding with retro pool scenes and cadillacs.  Irish artist Steven Quinn is a primary instigator of these weird but wonderful images that draw your eye into a world where outer space feels that bit more tangible.

It’s no wonder then that Americana dreamer Stuart Vevers chose to blast off into space for Coach, with a comprehensive collection of jackets, sweatshirts, tees, bags and trinkets that have been embellished with space age nostalgia.  Coach’s stable of shearling, varsity and leather jackets and Dinky and Saddle bags have been patched up with space motifs that might have lured the wide-eyed wannabe astronauts, watching the Moon landing in 1969.  “There’s something about the time of the Space Program that just gives this feeling of possibility,” says Vevers about the collection.  “The space references, rockets and planets are symbolic of a moment of ultimate American optimism and togetherness.”  Two things that seem woefully lacking right now, which is probably why the gung-ho patriotism and enthusiasm of those space missions feel somewhat comforting to watch.  And even more of a trip to wear.

 Coach Space sweatshirt and Gotham Tote worn with ShuShu Tong poloneck and Serena Bute tracksuit bottoms 

Coach Space varsity jacket and bad worn with Miu Miu skirt

Coach Space trucker jacket worn with ASOS shirt, SomewherexNowhere dress and Christopher Kane sunglasses

Coach Space sweatshirt and purse worn with Blue Roses by Ed Meadham sleeves and Jonathan Saunders slip 

Coach Space shearling jacket and Dylan bag worn with Balenciaga vest and MYOB trousers

All collages by Steven Quinn

This post is part of an on-going partnership with Coach

I’ve written about many a collaboration over the years with the all-important “x” becoming indicative of a cross-field, cross-price-bracket, cross-genre way of working that noughties fashion has thrown up.  We’ve come to expect (dare we say tire?) collabs of the high street-high end nature as well as ones where fashion intersects with art, film or music.  Peer to peer designer collaborations though are fewer and far between.  A tie-up between a behemoth brand and a young-ish independent designer is even more unexpected.  And so the collaboration between Coach and Rodarte is a pleasantly curious one.  From a conversation surrounding the logistics of both parties showing on the same day during New York Fashion Week, a friendship was struck up between Stuart Vevers and Kate and Laura Mulleavy.  Which by itself wouldn’t lead you to believe that a collaboration was on the cards but after a few fluid meetings at Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles, a Coach & Rodarte capsule collection came to fruition.  Vevers has been sending the Coach gang on a never ending American road trip since he came to the American leather goods house and naturally the Mulleavys’ West Coast location would make a prominent pit stop.

At first glance, the collaboration might seem like an unlikely one but upon further inspection, it’s really the coming together of two designers obsessed with a hazily lensed and imagined vision of America, often filtered through cinematic references.  The Mulleavy sisters took Vevers under their nuanced Californian wing and in turn, Vevers unlocked Coach’s leather goods expertise for them to produce a collection of bags (a first for the sisters), leather garments and more accessible tees and sweatshirts.   Rodarte’s dreamer aesthetic plays out across a heavy dose of dusky pink, pearly daisies and metallic leather pailette applique, that has been applied to Coach’s down to earth glove tanned universe.  There’s also a cheeky nod to their previous dabblings in “Radarte” slogan tees, with the resurrection of 1970s Coach slogan ‘This is A Coach bag’, paired with intarsia renderings of the advertising imagery.

All in all, it’s an equal footed exchange of both like-minded inspiration as well as rare show of a helping hand from a corporate giant to an independent entity.  Moreover, it’s a capsule collection that doesn’t dumb down Rodarte’s aesthetic, nor does it compromise the language of Coach – and thus makes for a successful mash-up between the two American houses, despite the gulf in size.

Coach & Rodarte collection available online, in Coach stores and at Selfridges until the 14th May

Coach x Rodarte courier bag and crewneck with archive intarsia

Coach x Rodarte courier crossbody bag and crewneck with archive intarsia 

Coach x Rodarte tote with archive print and t-shirt with archive print

Coach x Rodarte turnlock wristlet

I’ve generally always prescribed to the adage “All dressed up with nowhere to go”.  Post Nico though, that phrase has become a “fun” game of sorts.  I say fun of course, taken with a huge pinch of Epsom salt, given the limitations of what one can do with a two month old baby in tow.  But when you snatch one or two hours from the day, whilst tethered to the house for fear of carting a screaming baby around town, putting together elaborate outfits at home is sadly about as good as it gets.

All of this fanciful dress-up that’s been confined to the home happens to fall in line with both current season Prada’s marabou frou frou fancies and Miu Miu’s well-tred territory of retro geometrics.  Miuccia Prada has long held fascinations with bygone notions of femininity, reflecting, reproducing and subverting them in a myriad of ways.  For S/S 17, Prada was quite literally dusted down with the help of a 1950s Stepford homemaker’s feather duster.  For Miu Miu, Miuccia imagined frolicking around on a beach in simpler and more innocent times.  So it stands to reason that my homebound state should be accompanied by the most ornate of idealised haus frau attire.  From these collections, specifically a Prada peach feathered geometric wrap skirt and a Miu Miu jacket rendered in a print fit for a mid-century chaise lounge become integral puzzle pieces to this love-in with retro-tinted domesticity.  Abigail’s Party esque entertaining, ridiculously over trimmed peignoirs and negligees (those very words invite cynical chortles) and Western-lensed chinoiserie best expressed in Vladimir Tretchikoff’s kitschy The Green Lady painting all come to mind.  These are the sort of clothes that are made for lounging artfully at home amidst pieces of Danish furniture and strategically placed plants. 

Alas, I’m only make-believing such antics in my N15 hovel.  You can’t see the brushed aside piles of Pampers 2, Water Wipes and milk-drenched muslin cloths.  Brow-raising feminists out there will be glad to know that this temporary fascination with  airbrushed visions of housewives of that mid-century era is fortunately only an aesthetic one.  I am slowly easing myself back into the land of the working, having snuck in a business Skype call and a casual writing deadline here and there.  Still, if I can’t get to ze fashions, ze fashions will come to me.  Even if they’re destined for breast milk stains and poop smears.

(Top: Vogue Mar 1969 photographed by David Bailey, Bottom: Vogue Jan 1968 photographed by Gianni Penati)

(Top: Vogue 1953 photographed by John Rawlings, Bottom L: Vogue Dec 1966 photographed by Henry Clarke, Bottom R: Twiggy in YSL tunic pyjamas)

Prada SS 17 skirt worn with vintage peach bed jacket from Fat Faced Cat, vintage quilted housecoat, Ayame tights and Prada SS17 flower sandals

Vogue Patterns 1967

Oriental Fashions 1960 photographed by Stan Wayman

Miu Miu SS17 geometric jacket worn with Jenny Fax smocked top and matching flares, Miu Miu slippers

Miu Miu SS17 geometric jacket worn with Miu Miu knit floral top, Jenny Fax smocked flares, Malone Souliers slippers and Prada plex ribbon bag

Raquel Welch in Geoffrey Beene’s ostrich-trimmed pyjamas Vogue Mar 1967