NEW YORK, Apr 24, 2002 — “Venerable” can be a dirty word for a brand that is trying to reinvent its image. But English label Jaeger has managed to shake off the stuffy connotations of the v-word with its fall/winter 2002 collection – ironically, by dipping into its own archives.
“People were starting to say that our clothes were getting older faster than our customers,” laughed Jaeger Design Director Sandy Verdon when we met at Boylan Studios last week.
Those days appear to be over though; while still sensible, these clothes are far from geriatric.
Taking inspiration from its 1970s archives, Jaeger came up with a Mary-Tyler Moore-in-Central-Park feel that is thoroughly now.
Chunky cable-knit sweaters with matching super-long scarves (Verdon even refers to them as “Mary scarves”) are paired with wide leg, low-waist tweed pants or A-line skirts.
Satin blouses feature soft, flowing cuffs that can escape from the sleeves of a leather pea coat.
The classic Jaeger trench is updated in wool, and of course there’s a very Mary belted Mac, adorably reminiscent of the girl who might just make it after all.
The collection also includes a few graphic looks, pulling together black, white and red. One floor-sweeping black and white coat is a direct replica of a Jaeger piece that David Bailey photographed in the ’70s.
Other looks are totally 2002 though, like velvet or wool pieces beaded with tree bark patterns. And Verdon proclaims vicuna, a slightly darker and bolder neutral, to be the new camel. She updates classic pinstripes by using it on charcoal wool in a three-piece suit.
As the temperatures drop, Jaeger looks to Vienna for the military-style coats, tooled, soft leather cropped jackets, and luxuriously reversible long shearlings that make up the winter portion of the collection.
In some of the pieces, this sensibility melds with English country details like moleskin collars or stylistic nods to the jodhpur.
Verdon says she envisioned a young Viennese showgirl coming home after a festive evening, wearing her boyfriend’s military jacket over her shoulders when she designed many of the pieces.
And while Jaeger isn’t known for doing a lot of eveningwear, its signature collection does up its offerings in that area for winter: a wraparound waistcoat is paired with tuxedo pants, and gauzy tops are decorated with Klimt-esque black and gold beading.
And what of Bella Freud’s young capsule collection for Jaeger? For her third at the British house (she joined Jaeger in July 2000, a surprise move after speculation had her signing with French fashion house Balmain), Ms. Freud maintains the hip edge she was hired for; a youthful sensibility that company chief Pat Burnett once characterized as “fun and frippery.”
Continuing with the international theme at Jaeger this season, Freud went to Carnaby Street and experienced “a Mr. Freedom moment” in her pieces. There’s a suggestion of English “properness” in the striped trousers and twin sets, Freud explains, but she doesn’t hesitate to inject them with cartoon colors or throw in a chiffon blouse emblazoned with graphic stars.
For those looking for a military feel that’s funkier than the signature Jaeger looks, Freud also offers a ribbed sweater with stitched insignia and fitted khaki jackets. In a “poetry-reading, Carole King mood,” she produced some see-through frilled paisley dresses and a patterned sweater inspired, once again, by one of Jaeger’s ’70s looks.
For evening, Freud took the tux look from the signature collection, but added rock’n’roll flair: pants are white with a black stripe, and blouses are ruffled. Her inspiration was Steven Tyler — not someone you’d consider a typical Jaeger icon, and certainly no one to whom the label “venerable” would ever be attached.
But that could be what Jaeger is looking for, and it’s giving Freud free reign in that regard. “I mean, I can’t go mad or anything,” she says, “but they are liberal, even though they have that history.” And for now, it seems that history is breathing new life into Jaeger.