John Lewis launches luxury womenswear line Modern Rarity - and it reminds us of Céline

Modern Rarity
Pieces from the Modern Rarity AW16 collection

John Lewis has announced that it will be creating its first ever luxury womenswear label aimed at shoppers who want to look more Celine than Balmain. Modern Rarity attempts to reach a more grown up customer who is tired of the throwaway nature of the high street and wants to invest in cool, but quiet, pieces that will last longer than just one season.

Rather than delivering constant drops of must-have trend items as we have come to expect from high street giants such as Zara and Topshop, Modern Rarity is all about longevity, offering subtle, but stylish, pieces. The debut AW16 collection, which will land on September 8, is comprised of 90 items which all are designed to look, and feel, expensive. There is an infinite number of outfit combinations thanks to silhouettes made for layering and a muted colour palette of soft, earthy tones.

An oversized knit layered over a crisp white shirt at Modern Rarity

"The customer dynamic has shifted in recent years," explains buying fashion director for John Lewis, Ed Connolly. "The trend for fast fashion is fading, and today's customers desire beautiful design and great quality pieces that transcend seasons."

An oversized cashmere coat from Modern Rarity

Of course John Lewis isn’t the first high street retailer to bring this stealth luxury mindset, championed by labels such as The Row, Celine and Jil Sander, to women working with a smaller budget. The real success story here is COS which has become fashion editors' not-so-secret workwear weapon thanks to its smart, timeless pieces, and M&S and Jigsaw have also turned their back on showpiece trend items in favour of wearability. For AW16 M&S is also backing minimal workwear,  launching a 20-piece collection called the Big Easy made up of slick tailored trousers, versatile tunics and elegant shirting. 

A Palmer//Harding shirt in Modern Rarity

For this minimalist aesthetic to really work on the high street however, the cut and quality needs to be impeccable so that the pieces really do look expensive and long-lasting. With this in mind, it is a smart move by John Lewis to collaborate with guest designers each season to elevate the collection with a handful of special pieces. For the AW16 collection it has teamed up with shirting golden boys Levi Palmer and Matthew Harding of Palmer// Harding to create a capsule collection of five structured shirts, ranging from £100 to £150. 

London-based Palmer//Harding is an industry name, and so while this partnership might impress the seasoned fashion crowd, it certainly isn't going to cause shoppers to sprint to the shirts in an eBay-fueled frenzy as we have seen from previous designer collections, such as Balmain for H&M. But it does seem like recently shoppers are becoming more and more cautious when it comes to these celebrity and designer high street collaborations, and look for items that they would want to buy with or without the designer clothes tag. Beyonce and Alexa Chung's recent ranges were popular, of course, but they didn't seem to have the same hysterical build up as many celebrity collaborations before them, such as the initial Kate Moss for Topshop line. 

Layered grey and white pieces by Modern Rarity

While many shoppers will not be lured into John Lewis by the name Palmer//Harding, they might be lured in by what the designers bring to the collection. With a higher price point than many would expect when browsing the department store (a cashmere coat is £550 and most of the pieces are over £100), the success of Modern Rarity will hinge on the design being spot on. 

"For a retailer to create a brand with this standard of design and quality is truly a rare thing," say the Central Saint Martins graduates. "We're really pleased our shirts have a part to play in this as it feels like the perfect fit."

See more of the key pieces from the first Modern Rarity collection, which will arrive in John Lewis on 8th September, below...

An oversized knit by Modern Rarity
Pieces from the Modern Rarity AW16 collection
A Palmer//Harding shirt in the AW16 Modern Rarity collection