The buzz on the street and the virtual shopping world, has already started. The Winter Collection from the mighty collaboration between Alexa Chung and Marks and Spencer is getting ready to win over our hearts and our wallets. M&S declare this second collaborative collection will complete their hugely acclaimed Archive by Alexa series. Its previous success has shone a well deserved light on the company for its ability to bring new life to its womenswear line with Chung being able to dig deep through their heritage pieces and deliver some knockout gems right into our wardrobes. I loved to hear Alexa in the Marks and Spencer’s promo video comment: “I just found the future of Marks & Spencer’s, in the past”. I couldn’t have put it better myself. I’m a big believer in enjoying current fashion trends by honouring their history.
*Image courtesy of Marks and Spencer’s press office
That PVC Trench coat
Personally, the M&S archive by Alexa thunderbolt hit me one Saturday afternoon back in September. Miss Alexa Chung was photographed on the streets of London during London Fashion week. I scrolled over the gorgeous instagram images of Alexa strutting her stuff as she attended the Spring/Summer ’17 fashion shows of British designers J.W.Anderson and Henry Holland. The outfit was perfect: the uber cool Deep End Club tee, the cropped blue denim and the platforms with socks were sublime. But nothing comes close to the spectacular vision of the black PVC trench coat she was wearing. Within seconds I was drooling and wondering where this beaut was possibly from – then within minutes, the answer to my prayers came via instagram posts declaring it was from her forthcoming Archive collection with Marks & Spencer.
*Images via instagram: @marksandspencerfashionpr, @alexachung and @lizmatthewspr
Discovering M&S archives
So following a chat with my lovely instapal, Samantha of @mainly.monochrome. She informed me that she had stood next to Chung in a taxi queue in Leeds a little while back and that in hindsight, it was most likely Alexa was on her way to the M&S archive collection. I had no idea about the M&S archive collection in Leeds, let alone the sheer size of this archive. I presumed it was just a few rooms of M&S clothing – minus the knickers!
*Image courtesy of Marks and Spencer’s press office
Delving into the M&S Archives
I was enthralled to discover that in 1984, Marks and Spencer’s commemorated the 100th birthday of the company by collecting together many historical items from all over the company and created the M&S archive that is now housed in the purpose-built, Michael Marks building, in the grounds of Leeds University. Today, the archive contains more than 70,000 items from 1884 to the present day. Check it out here. Why Leeds? because this is where Michael Marks first started his infamous Penny Bazaar that grew into the kingdom of M&S. Why am I not working here? It sounds like absolute heaven to a fashion history swot like me!
The M&S archive team worked to collect, catalogue, store and display all kinds of records from: clothing, adverts, M&S staff publications and catalogues, reports and food packaging. M&S have a free, permanent, public exhibit in the Michael Marks building along with appointment-only based access to their archives for research purposes. Bloody hell, can you imagine what it would be like to be let loose in there?!! It sounds like an amazing set up. The perfect way to honour this beloved institution of the British High Street. M&S has been ingrained into many British families lives, memories and childhoods. Even as a Brit abroad, I rely on my big ‘I’m home’ shopping stock-up of legendary Marks and Sparks knickers!! I have to admit, the M&S tradition continues with my own kids. My boys have been introduced the quality of M&S pjs, undies, socks and……of course, that right of passage, the Percy Pig sweeties!!!
Alexa & the archives
Alexa Chung is known for her epic individual style. I reckon she’s a British national treasure of the style front. I want to be her when I grow up or maybe at least when I forget where the biscuit tin is kept! Not only stunning but full to the brim with personality too, I adored her British Vogue series on the Fashion Industry.
I love how Chung and the design team have named the carefully curated 27 pieces from this collection, after streets in Leeds. I appreciate a little nod towards heritage! I’m also getting excited to hear whispers of velvet, school jumper influences and shimmer animal print!
*Image courtesy of instagram @marksandspencerfashionpr
I believe Chung and Co. have done a great job on remodelling some classic M&S pieces. My heart skipped a beat when I spotted the Navy Templar coat at £99. This gem is a take on the classic M&S girls coat with its princess cut, double row of buttons and the iconic overstitched Velvet Collar. So regal. I remember this coat with much affection as a kid, as I really wanted one. Instead, I had a grey Gloverall duffle coat (!) – which I can appreciate now, but like a Mr Frosty machine, I’m still hankering after those things on my kiddliwink wish list, despite being a bloody adult!! It’s so damn cute and would look stunning with black evening trousers and heels as much as it would teamed with straight leg jeans and Stan Smiths.
I also adore the story behind the Airie blouse. Chung’s beautiful metallic blouse is a remake of the golden Airie blouse £39.50 that was specifically made as a commemorative thank you gift for M&S staff in the womenswear department during the 80’s.
The beautiful Albion Blouse £35 is the same print of the 1930’s dressing gown that is displayed in the public M&S archive exhibit. This collection has remodelled the dressing gown print into a sumptuous blouse. Gorgeous teamed with evening trousers or nice distressed jeans.
What is waving the style carrot under our nose?
So get your shopping list ready. I also feel that this is a collection that will sell out quickly. Be careful with those imaginary overstocked online shopping baskets. I think the best plan is to buy what you are dreaming of and then look at other items to avoid disappointment. In my opinion, I feel this collection takes on a more cool luxe vibe than the previous collection. The nature of the Winter collection means more outerwear (yes!!! although, don’t even look at how much I already have in my coat cupboard) and party wear (yes!! although not so many wild parties these days!) Alexa claims: “It’s more grown up and womanly”. The Archive by Alexa spring collection contained pieces that were copies of vintage pieces, whereas this time, the team have adapted vintage designs to make them a contemporary reflection of the archives. Grab your Tea or G&T and get ready to gasp at these beauts.
Clockwise from top left: The Harper Dress £49.50, New Market Boots £85, Portland dress £45, Crown Jacket £99, York shoe £39.50 and the Ellerby coat £125
The white fluffy Clarendon jacket £75 was the jacket she took a selfie of her wearing and released on the Marks & Spencer fashion PR feed. In recent interviews regarding this mighty collection, Alexa has admitted to pinching the Calverley dress £49.50 from the photo shoot. Marks and Spencer’s shot the archive line with photographer Tom Craig. Clearly this dress is one of her faves and maybe is a reflection of what she would pinch from the collection. Maybe this is where I am going wrong as I know if an opportunity arose for me to pocket something from a shoot, I would most likely take home an extra M&S prawn and mayo sandwich along with a chunk of cake! #sorrynotsorry
What is on my wish list?
Well, naturally the coats are taking the hotspots at the top of my wish list. I’m a complete and utter bloody coat addict. I think my coat fetish nearly outweighs the stripe and shoe addiction but probably can only be beaten with my Gummy Bear sweet addiction!! So no surprises that the Templar navy coat £99 and the Briggate black PVC trench £89 are calling the name printed on my visa card. Unfortunately, they are not calling the names of my husband or Santa Claus. Well, that’s a bit of a bloody shame.
Loving this look! The Kirkgate skirt £35 and the Headrow Jumper £45
M&S online shopping wearing my PJ’s in Canada!
Who knows what I will get my hands on? Firstly, I need a lucky run with eBay selling for guilt free shopping funds. Failing that, a cash windfall or an advanced cheque from Santa is always welcome! I will be relying on online ordering to get it shipped to Canada. For those outside of the UK, I can say that the M&S international delivery service is bloody brilliant. For starters, they present the prices with the duties and taxes included, so no scary numbers hitting me between they eyes at the end of the checkout process – and no harsh words with the DHL delivery man! For me in Canada, I get free shipping if I spend over $50 and the best bit is that it arrives at lightning speed (approx. 2-3 days). Bingo!!
Ready, set, go for the 1st November
So it will be down to luck and timing as to what is available on the 1st November, when the collection is let out of its cage. I may be sending my poor parents into Cheltenham with the trusty iPhone for a FaceTime shop, I also have my gorgeous best mate, Jane, who can sometimes bag me something in M&S Watford and is happy to be compensated in wine!! I envy you gorgeous gals who can nip into M&S and try stuff on. Let me know what’s on your shopping list – and better still, what the collection is truly like in the flesh.
How I wear mine #OOTD
These are the fabulous navy Ada trousers from the M&S Archive by Alexa collection of Spring ’16. I absolutely love them. They’re so easy to wear and I feel they are timeless in their shape and style. They worked well with flats in the summer but are now transitioning well into colder months with my heeled boots. Like all good things should be in a wardrobe, they are a hardworking piece and dress up or down like a dream. Done and dusted!
Have a peek at the glory of this sublime #ArchiveByAlexa edit here online at Marks & Spencer and let me know what’s in your shopping bag!
Thanks for reading.