September style edit: 18 must-know fashion highlights from the world's most influential editors

This month saw the release of the September issues from all of the major fashion magazines. Meadhbh McGrath outlines what you need to know for the season ahead


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There’s one ensemble that appears in every one of this year’s September issues, and that’s the opening look from Celine’s autumn/winter show: a white silk blouse with a printed pussy-bow neck scarf and black blazer over pleated, heritage-check culottes and glossy knee boots.  It’s pure ’70s Parisienne cool, and fashion editors can’t get enough of it. After a critically panned debut, creative director Hedi Slimane’s sophomore effort has proven to be a raging success. Elle offers a defence of culottes, this season’s “statement piece”, noting that they featured 27 times in the Celine show and mark a “course correction” in fashion: after years of courting millennials, the industry is shifting its focus to “looking like an adult” and giving the conservative bourgeois look new bite. Image, too, praises this “celebration of grown-up style”, hailing the Celine collection as a reflection of “the woman you’ll want to be this season”.


Perhaps the most interesting thing about the big fashion issues is that for Vogue, one of the leaders of the pack, the fashion is just a sideline to the main show. Meghan Markle’s guest editorship has generated furious debate in and out of the industry, though little of it has anything to do with the clothes. Instead, the focus is on her ‘Forces for Change’, a group of 15 women including climate campaigner Greta Thunberg, New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern and actress Salma Hayek. Meghan’s soft activism dominates the issue, and even the usual trend reports are devoted to practical workwear rather than fanciful fashions. In her editor’s letter, she dismisses fashion week as “superficial” and the typical September issue as “shallow”. Time will tell whether fashion’s embrace of activism is just another passing trend, or something more genuine.


If you aren’t familiar with the Irish writer and disability advocate Sinéad Burke, now is the time to catch up. Burke stars on the cover of Vogue, shot by legendary photographer Peter Lindbergh in a custom Burberry trench, and inside she speaks about her work on inclusive fashion. She also features in the Elle Power List, a ranking of 20 industry trailblazers. Next to the likes of Rihanna and Givenchy designer Clare Waight Keller, Burke is credited with “changing the way we talk about disability in fashion”, as Elle cites her successful campaign to add ‘duine beag’ to the Irish dictionary and her work with brands including Burberry, Gucci and Prada.


‘Sustainability’ is the word on everyone’s lips, and alongside the usual boldfaced names, the September issues champion lesser-known labels such as womenswear brand Mother of Pearl, Allbirds trainers and jewellery designer Pippa Small. Meghan Markle’s Vogue highlights some of her favourites, including Outland Denim and Veja’s hit trainers; Marie Claire recommends updating your wardrobe at a swap shop, and Irish Tatler considers how the disposable nature of fast fashion is driving an embrace of traditional craftsmanship, from the Aran jumper to the tweed coat.


Speaking of tweed coats… If you want to get ahead of the pack, look out for a long herringbone tweed style, ideally complete with some punk hardware. Prada’s coat with carabiner belt is a knockout, lending a “contemporary update to a timeless classic”, according to Harper’s Bazaar. It also plays a starring role in the September editorials: Red proposes wearing it with aviators and jeans or a crisp white cotton shirt for a “city-smart” rather than “lady of the shires” effect, and in Elle’s celebration of “this season’s la Parisienne mood”, a white shirt again forms the base, alongside fishnet tights and cleated-sole houndstooth heels. Buy now, wear forever.


All eyes are on the waist this season, thanks to Northern Irish designer JW Anderson’s want-it-now collection, which brought shape to checked coats, capes, fluid midis and structured blazers with wide canvas belts. Vogue urges readers to “buckle down” as “cinched silhouettes are back”, while Red calls the waist belt “your new necessary accessory” for adding definition to blazers, coats and cardigans, heralding a “more ladylike and elegant” effect after a season of loose silhouettes.


For autumn/winter, it’s all about a rosy outlook – thorns included. The magazines agree moody florals are back again, and Alexander McQueen’s overblown blooms and rose-strewn tailoring are particularly popular. In Marie Claire’s gothic fairy-tale shoot, the brand’s rose-sleeve blazer gets a punk edge with an earful of silver hoops, while LOVE’s tribute to the decade pairs McQueen’s duchess satin dress with a button-down shirt, white socks and lace-up shoes. Irish Tatler recommends layering florals with leather and wool for a “grunge and roses” effect, as Red highlights high-street interpretations including Zara’s belted blazer and Essentiel Antwerp’s long-sleeved jumpsuit.


You can’t beat a new bag for what Elle calls “that ‘back-to-school’ feeling, without the first-day anxiety”. There are super-sized totes and bite-sized cross- bodies, but the reigning shape for autumn/winter is the ladylike top-handle bag. The Chloé C mini remains the It-bag of 2019 but, for a more wallet- friendly option, Red showcases brightly coloured versions from Whistles and Jigsaw alongside picks from affordable luxury brands Wandler, Loeffler Randall and By Far.


Take your pick between Celine’s knee-high, solid-heeled shape and Prada’s chunky, clompy style for boot of the season. The big news in footwear, however, is the return of the Mary-Jane. Oxblood is the shade of choice, and Miu Miu’s patent-leather version shows up in Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, where they are deemed this season’s most comfortable office shoes. More accessible are the croc styles from Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Debenhams that appear in Elle and Red, which notes, “They may be old-school styles, but they feel brand new again.”


The neutral tones of the past few seasons continue to rule (Red and Elle both suggest adding some graphic patterned tights, as seen at Fendi, for an easy wardrobe refresh) but for a palette cleanser, try an unseasonal yellow. Irish Tatler encourages readers to think of Lanvin’s lemon hue (right) “as your new neutral, and wear as you would white or ivory”; Image recommends egg-yolk yellow knits and textured silks, and Elle suggests brightening up the dull weather with sunshine shades from canary blouses to marigold dresses.


Fashion really, really wants you to wear leather this winter. That means leather shirts, dresses, trousers, skirts, trenches – the works. According to Elle, a leather button-down provides a “sleek alternative to jumpers”, particularly in lighter and brighter colours than we’re used to, and Vogue’s editorial illustrates how to wear vivid hues on a range of body shapes. For a vegan option, look to Nanushka’s leather dresses, featured in Red and Irish Tatler.


Once considered a faux-pas, the hottest combination for 2019 is red and pink. Bazaar advises contrasting soft pink tones with “scarlet, burgundy and a dash of daring”, while Prada’s colour-blocked off-the-shoulder dress pops up on Mariah Carey in LOVE, on Christy Turlington Burns in Harper’s Bazaar and in Marie Claire’s “dark romance” shoot. Elle dedicates an editorial to the unlikely pairing, teaming voluminous pink dresses with opaque red tights and kitten heels, and layering a bubblegum-pink pussy- bow blouse under a crimson belted coat.


That would be Antrim-born Nicola Glass, now into her second season as creative director at Kate Spade New York. She unveiled her first collection just three months after the brand founder’s tragic death, and Marie Claire commends Glass for “sensitively overseeing a total house revamp, a cool new look for ready-to-wear and the launch of some hit bags”, along with last season’s fashion- editor-favourite lilac boots.


She beat Gigi Hadid to win Model of the Year, and now she’s ruling the September issues, too. Adut Akech takes to the streets of New York in Sies Marjan’s autumn collection for a LOVE editorial, and appears in a Vogue shoot showcasing emerging Commonwealth designers. The 19-year-old, a former refugee from South Sudan, also graces Vogue’s cover as one of the Forces for Change, and reflects on the conflict in her home country, saying: “I want to help people to understand that refugees are normal people, just like everybody else.”


The other most frequent face this month is Christy Turlington Burns, who came out of runway retirement after 25 years for the stellar finale of Marc Jacobs’ autumn collection, and stars alongside the designer in the brand’s striking black and white ad campaign, shot by Steven Meisel. Turlington Burns is another of Vogue’s Forces for Change, honoured for her maternal health advocacy, and Harper’s Bazaar salutes her in a lavish editorial as one of 2019’s “icons”, next to Kate Moss and Celine Dion.


Ever heard of “sound bathing”? It’s an alternative healing practice where you’re immersed in sound vibrations, and it has the royal seal of approval from Meghan Markle. Vogue calls gong baths “the ultimate in relaxation”, while Image recommends it as “the meditation method for those who find it impossible to meditate”.


Forget all of those minimalist “natural beauty” looks – the smoky eye is back. Marie Claire spotlights Tom Ford’s dramatic metallic look; Georgia May Jagger models a rust-coloured version in Vogue, and Red suggests ditching the brush and smudging it on with your fingers.


Elle charts the rise of the “bespoke face”: after years of Botox and fillers, women in their 40s and beyond are now paying to undo it all and “reclaim the faces they left behind”. Frozen foreheads and juicy lips are out; “now true beauty comes in the form of a face that wears the patina of age with elegance and pride” – aided by just a little more Botox and fillers to “rebalance” things…

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