Worn by Kate Middleton, Audrey Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich, the trench coat has long been a perennial clothing item filed with jeans and the LBD as must-have items for every woman to own. In 2017, however, the trench’s style status has shifted. It has gone from classic to cool.
Buzzy catwalk brands including Vetements and Céline have brought the trench on to the catwalk this year. Meanwhile, Burberry, often thought of as the home of the traditional trench, played around with the design, placing the iconic check on the outside and reworking it in coloured shearling.
The high street has followed. For the trench 2.0, Asos has designs in vinyl while Topshop’s are in metallic fabric. “We have seen popularity rise this season for trenchcoats with our customers looking to new fashion styles to update the classics,” says Sian Ryan, head of womenswear design at Asos. The site had already sold 6,700 trenchcoats by the end of October. Meghan Markle wearing a white trench for the announcement of her engagement to Prince Harry will no doubt have boosted sales, too.
At the designer end of the market, the trench has certainly been a strong seller as the year comes to a close. “We have increased our buy on trenchcoats and we’ve seen a strong reaction to styles from Burberry this season,” says Natalie Kingham, the buying director of Matchesfashion.com. She says the different fabrications – PVC at cult brand Wanda Nylon, rubber at Burberry – have given the trench a boost, which adds “a point of difference and updates a classic item”.
At Asos, Ryan says that the most popular trenches are still the classic ones – in khaki, with epaulettes and storm flaps. This may be because part of the success of this trend is that it’s not a trend at all. Instead, it is a rediscovery of a perennial by a new generation. “The influencers are showing ways to wear it,” says Rebecca Lowthorpe, fashion features director of Grazia. She points to the Balenciaga trenchcoat worn by Kim Kardashian late last year as a key moment: “That did more for macs than anything.”
The rediscovery of a classic factor suggests this is more than a flash-in-the-pan trend – its versatility means consumers will like to wear it longer than a season. There’s no doubt the trench is weather-friendly in different climates – it protects its wearer from rain, and the loose shape allows layers to be worn underneath. “It’s a great thing that will live on,” says Lowthorpe. “It’s one of those rare items that is classic while being interesting, too.”