As Boden goes edgy, does it mean the… death of the yummy mummy
08:51 GMT, 16 July 2012
Laid-back look: Elle Macpherson
The news last week that Boden, the go-to brand for yummy mummies and their families, is to launch a collection called Shoreditch after one of London’s hippest neighbourhoods has caused something of a stir in Middle England.
Featuring a bohemian mix of punchy prints and textured fabrics in an interesting palette of subdued shades, rather than the usual exuberant candyfloss hues, the new range is a marked departure for the label renowned for being safe rather than cool, pretty rather than edgy.
And it’s not just Boden that is taking a more fashion-conscious approach to design. I’m not quite sure how to break it to you but Laura Ashley has a sexy black leather pencil skirt in next season’s collection, amid a range of pared-down contemporary tailoring.
This autumn Cath Kidston, the doyenne of whimsical shabby chic, is appealing to those with a more modern aesthetic with a new accessories collection.
Even John Lewis, the spiritual home of the middle classes, is getting in on the act, as it launches a cool collaboration with sought-after designer Alice Temperley.
So, why are these brands, bastions of the school run in affluent areas, changing tack Could it be — whisper it — that the demise of the yummy mummy is nigh
For some, she has been a figure to aspire to, with her perfect hair and immaculate wardrobe; for others the phrase is spat out with a sneer.
Either way, the yummy mummy was to the Noughties what the Sloane Ranger was to the Eighties — a caricature of a woman with a privileged life and an easily parodied style.
From Wiltshire to Wilm- slow, she was easily identifiable thanks to her uniform of Chanel-style two-tone ballet flats or Converse sneakers, with skinny J Brand or Topshop Moto jeans (dark indigo until recently, and now a bright sherbety hue).
She’d be seen in a stripy Breton top from Petit Bateau or Joules, a jaunty Boden ‘Rainyday’ mac and the obligatory Cath Kidston oilskin satchel or Mulberry cross-body bag slung insouciantly from one shoulder. But take a closer look and there are signs of growing discontent amid the very people who hitherto embraced this clean-cut, cosy style. Across the land, women in their droves are rejecting their platinum blonde blow-dries and immaculate manicures in favour of less contrived looks.
Perhaps, as she’s tightened the family’s purse strings and watched her husband’s colleagues being made redundant, the yummy mummy just doesn’t feel comfortable appearing quite so…well, chirpy and pristine, as she leaps out of her 4×4 to drop Chloe and Harry at school.
Now her style icon is more likely to be Elle Macpherson than Jools Oliver, and she’s investigating new shopping opportunities with European imports such as Cos, Maje and Sandro, as well as trend-driven alternatives such as H&M’s collaborations with cool labels like Marni.
Boden is famous for its signature gilets and crisp shirts which have made it a firm favourite
among middle-class shoppers, counting David and Samantha Cameron as fans
A former London-based fashion PR who writes Mrs Tiggywinkle’s Diaries — an anonymous blog about her new life as a rural mother, explains it thus: ‘It’s just become so tedious seeing all those glossy Stepford wives at the school gates. Those Boden show-ponies who wear a head-to-toe look are just like a flock of sheep who seem to want to cook fairy cakes and shout about their perfect lifestyle. It’s just so nauseating.’
And Justine Tabak, creative director of womenswear at Boden, says: ‘When people are over-familiar with things, it never seems as special.’
Starting next spring, Boden will launch six new collections a year. The John Lewis collaboration with
Helena Christensen modelling the Shoreditch cardigan for Boden
Alice Temperley (called the Somerset collection) will be in store in September. ‘I wanted an effortless, feminine and functional wardrobe that draws on our classics for women in their everyday life,’ says Alice.
Prepare to witness Temperley’s trademark delicate lace teamed with slick black cropped jackets featuring bold brass-button details, a hip satin-backed crepe jumpsuit and chunky, patent lace-ups. You see, even the most feminine of labels has toughened up a little.
While Cath Kidston’s retro prints remain ever popular (like Boden, her formulaic florals have done the balance sheets no harm, with 53 stores in the UK), she has added chic ranges of plain leather handbags and matt oilcloth luggage to her range for autumn in response to demand for an understated look.
That goes for Laura Ashley, too. Best known for floral prints and floaty Seventies dresses, which were re-invented for a collaboration with Uniqlo, the brand has introduced a more contemporary take on the signature look, including bold Fifties-style sundresses.
LK Bennett, a favourite with every yummy mummy and her top style icon the Duchess of Cambridge, is also shaking off its demure image with a sexy capsule collection for autumn, called Black Ribbon. The range, featuring sharp tailoring teamed with alluring lace, is designed to celebrate ‘inspiring, accomplished and stylish women’.
The big question is, will Belinda Earl (former Jaeger and Debenhams CEO) be able to woo back the lucrative middle-class mother to Marks & Spencer The chain remains a favourite for every YM in need of new lingerie but if Earl — as new style director — can succeed in injecting a little va-va-voom into its collections, perhaps school-gate mums will be parading her wares in place of Joules and Boden come the start of the next school year.