Prada? No, M&S has gone all high fashion

Just as you were gearing up for summer, the High Street giant - which has just announced profits hitting the magic £1 billion mark - reveals its most stylish Autumn range yet

Bright satins, sequins the size of ten pence pieces and street-wise quilted jackets - the latest women's wear from Marks & Spencer hits all the right fashion notes.

Just as you were gearing up for summer, the High Street giant - which has just announced profits hitting the magic £1 billion mark - has one eye on autumn.

The store (which accounts for 11.4 per cent of the clothing market) is pinning its hopes on high fashion looks with affordable price tags to keep us shopping as the credit crunch takes hold. Indeed, M&S borrowed heavily from the designer catwalks.

High street chic: (from left) Mustard dress and bracelet, prices to be confirmed. Hair feather, £9.50. Tights, £8. Feather headpiece, £15. Black broderie dress, leather gloves and shoes, prices to be confirmed. Satin dress and jewellery, prices to be confirmed. Clutch bag, £19.50. Tights, £8. Shoes, £19.50

There was more than a hint of Prada in the heavy lace dresses; a touch of young British designer Christopher Kane in the fish-scale sequin knits; the padded nylon gilets nodded to Giles Deacon; and there was a dose of Roland Mouret's red carpet glamour with the satin shifts.

The new collection proves M&S has come a long way in the fashion stakes since Sir Stuart Rose took the helm in the summer of 2004. Let's just hope that the key looks on display yesterday actually end up in the stores.

M&S has a sneaky way of getting fashion insiders in a tizz about their clothes, only to disappoint shoppers by running up just a handful of the most wanted items and selling them in their flagship London store.

But it promised this won't be the case this time.

Prices have been kept down, too: all the better for High Street shoppers feeling the pinch.

Under wraps: Black cashmere polo, £49.50. Belt, £19.50. Quilted gilet and leather gloves, prices to be confirmed (left). Satin trench coat, £79. Mock croc bag, £35. Cashmere polo, £49.50. Jewellery, prices to be confirmed (right)

Stand-out pieces such as a blue satin trench coat will set you back a reasonable £79. If your style is more classic than high fashion, you won't be disappointed. There's plenty of timeless pieces, such as chunky cable-knit sweaters, sharp tailoring and ankle-length plaid skirts.

The key classics to watch out for include a smart camel cashmere coat for £449 and cashmere polos from only £49.50.

Helen Low, head of womenswear design at the store, believes next season's collection has a real feeling of luxury.

"Fabrics such as lace, leather and suede feature heavily," she says. "There's a real return to quality items which offer value for money. Shoppers want pieces which they can cherish, but which are still fashionable."

Accessories are big business for M&S. Trendy leather totes, a bargain at £35, will be snapped up; patchwork leather clutch bags are on trend and cost just £19.50; while black patent shoe-boots (£25) look set to be best-sellers.

The company has seen lingerie sales take a dip, but this collection sees a fight-back with the sexiest range ever. The Autograph range has flirty halfcup bras and lace cami knickers that wouldn't look out of place in Agent Provocateur.

The Ceriso range's silky fabrics, cute polka dots and ruffles should attract younger customers. Prices for these indulgent little numbers begin at £7.

Now that should really have customers queuing up this autumn.


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