Ann Taylor designer Lisa Axelson answers our fashion questions

Photo Courtesy of Ann Taylor Author: Canadian Living Credits: Photo Courtesy of Ann Taylor


Ann Taylor designer Lisa Axelson answers our fashion questions

Julia McEwen, Fashion & Beauty Director, Canadian Living: What are some of the trends you’re seeing in outerwear this season?

Lisa Axelson, Creative Director, Ann Taylor: I think, from a silhouette perspective, I’m loving outerwear with sort of soft rounded shoulders that cocoon. We’re seeing a lot of leather or – in the case of Ann Taylor – vegan leather accents, trimming and blocking in our outerwear. A big trend is graphic black and white that we have played with in a variety of trends, from modern graphic blocking to new interpretations of animal print. And we love a touch of faux fur, so we have some faux-fur elements that creep into the holiday line.

J: By “touch,” what do you mean?

L: It might be an accent on the collar. We’ve got a really cute little vest that we love layered under a wool coat. We’ve avoided full-on fur coats because we want our coats to flatter the figure and sometimes fur can act as a weight gainer.

J: How many coats do you think a woman should have in her wardrobe?

L: I don’t know if I’m a good person to ask because I think it’s limitless. I think a coat every day! But I think in reality, I would say maybe around seven coats from fall to winter into early spring, because early spring is cool. Of course everybody needs that perfect black coat and a great camel coat. If you like colour, I think a vibrant colour is always amazing in a coat – it’s a great way to dress up black and grey. And I love the idea of coats that go everywhere – that perfect black or camel coat. But what is a coat that sort of dresses you up? I always refer to them as “toppers.” Maybe a beautiful jacquard that you can throw over your little black dress and suddenly you have the perfect cover-up to keep your arms warm but you look a little more pulled together.

J: And that would be great for holiday dressing too?

L: Oh, perfect for holiday dressing, because it gives you that versatility.

J: What are some colours you are fond of for the holiday season?

L: For this season we love black and winter whites. We think camel has made a comeback, and a lot of grey-on-grey layering – from a pale icy grey to a beautiful rich charcoal grey.

J: As far as accessories for outwear, what are the must-haves?

L: For me, the shoe is the most important update. This holiday season is all about the pointy-toe pump, and if you're not wearing a pointy-toe pump it's all about the bootie. I love the bootie as a winter item because you can wear it during winter weather and it gives a dress or a holiday outfit just a bit more edge.

J: When you're buying a bootie, where should it hit you to make it the most flattering?

L: Depending on your legs and your confidence with your legs, I always like a shootie, which hits just below your ankle bone and shows off the slimmest part of your ankle. For a true bootie I think just above the ankle bone but not too far up on the calf where your muscle starts to expand. It's always about hitting that point on your leg that's a little bit thinner than the rest of your leg. Play with the best of your proportions.

J: What do you think about belting coats?

L: It depends on the outfit. In general, I'm not a big fan because I think it makes it difficult to get in and out of it, but I think there are times where a belt over a coat is extremely chic. There's a big trend in volume right now, and that's not for every woman. You can have a voluminous silhouette with bigger rounded shoulder and sometimes putting a belt around the waist at least helps define that there's a body underneath.

J: Is there a return to brooches? How do you feel about brooches for dressing up a coat?

L: I don't know if we're seeing a return to brooches in our business, but we tend to focus our energy on the jewelry – so while brooches may not be the focus, we've got amazing statement necklaces that look fabulous over a little jewel-neck coat, where you may not have a lot of drama and you put the necklace on the outside. That and arm bangles are a favourite. I love that under a 3/4-sleeve to show a little bit of sparkle.

J: And when you're working with a 3/4-sleeve coat, how do you style it?

L: I love 3/4-sleeve coats, though I know a lot of women struggle with them. If it's a more polished look, I love a longer glove, something that hits midway up your forearm or just below your elbow. I think that looks really chic and it's a great way to stay warm. If you're going for a more relaxed, casual look, I love a long-sleeve sweater or a cardigan or even a pretty blouse peaking out.

J: How do you feel about capes?

L: At Ann Taylor we have found that our customers love capes – I think because of the versatility. They're a really great transitional piece for when the weather is starting to get cold and you can layer it over a jacket or a sweater. The beauty of the capes we have in our collection this season is they have soft sashes so you still have some waist definition but it gives you that versatile volume that layers over multiple things.

J: Are those capes found in the same colour families that you were talking about before?

L: Blacks, greys, camel, navy. But we've gotten a little bit more playful with our capes and we've injected colour blocking into them. We've got some really gorgeous jacquard pattern work, and some of them are trimmed in leather.

J: What is your absolute favourite coat from the F/W collection?

L: My personal favourite is our pale grey duffle coat. It's a beautiful double-faced fabric, pale grey on the outside with a gorgeous winter white on the inside. It doesn't have all the toggles a traditional duffle coat would have. I love pieces like that – that look classic but with just enough of a twist that it doesn't look like the old basic. The proportions are perfect for layering over a dress or skirt but it's also going to be my go-to for wearing with skinny jeans.

J: How about gloves? Is there anything new and interesting in gloves right now?

L: We've treated the trimming and proportions of the gloves as a newness. So we've got cute little driving gloves in leather with pretty little details like a bow or a hint of sparkle so they feel very feminine. And one of my personal favourites is a knit-mixed-with-leather glove that comes just below the elbow. You have the coziness of the knit but the sleekness of the leather so you feel really polished when you have it on.

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Ann Taylor designer Lisa Axelson answers our fashion questions