Before we get into the detail of the article, I really want to thank the team here for letting me post here with them. It means a lot to be able to get something published for my Mens Fashion and Footwear Blog at great site like this.
Queen Letizia of Spain is a fan and fashion editors love the timeless style, quality fabrics and purse-friendly prices.
Not so very long ago, if you asked a fashion editor where they got their high street hit, they would have said: “Zara”. They knew what day the flagship store on Regent Street had its deliveries and on that day they were standing outside on the pavement, waiting for it to open. They didn’t leave until they’d scored that perfect tweed jacket that could pass for Chanel or the very-Erdem floral skirt.
It’s the reason why, by the time the likes of you and I got there, there was nothing left: the jacket we saw in Grazia had long-since left for Vogue House. Recently, however, the fashion pack have shifted allegiance, but without telling the rest of us. This is blatantly unfair, so allow me to spill the beans: the brand they all want now is Uterqüe, which just happens to be owned by Inditex, the Spanish owner of Zara.
“Being an Inditex brand has been key to the popularity of Uterqüe, but there are also differences from Zara,” says Carla Sierra, fashion features editor of Vogue Spain. “It’s not just in the price range, it’s in the business strategy. All the other Inditex brands are based in Arteixo in Galicia, but Uterqüe’s headquarters are in the much more cosmopolitan city of Barcelona. Also they have limited production runs, they do capsule collections and, unlike Zara, they advertise. They’re aware of trends, but they have a much more timeless approach to fashion than Zara, which is much more trend-focused.”
And as well as those in-the-know fashion editors, Uterqüe — pronounced ooterkwey — boasts a royal fan in the trim form of the Queen of Spain. Letizia — hands-down Europe’s most stylish royal — has whole swathes of Uterqüe clothes, from natty tweed jackets to colour-block dresses, trousers and skirts. Why? Because they’re on-trend without being trendy; the labels say 100 per cent silk and 100 per cent wool, not polyester mix; and the price tags are mostly under £200, apart from the leather.
“Like many contemporary royals, including Kate Middleton and Mary Donaldson, Crown Princess of Denmark, Queen Letizia wears a perfect balance of high and low-cost fashion,” says Sierra. “It’s a sign of the times — they all aim to look glamorous but still in touch with the reality of their countries. Letizia has worn Uterqüe many, many times as it’s one of those retailers that allows her to wear elegant pieces at competitive prices. That’s probably the secret of their success.”
Launched in 2008 as an accessories brand, it rapidly expanded into women’s ready to wear and now stocks everything from a £24 keyring to a biscuit-coloured reversible sheepskin coat for £1,095. Collections are kept tight, prices are reasonable and the materials are the best. Look on the Uterqüe website now and you’ll find a pair of supremely glamorous white 100 per cent wool trousers for £99, a pale grey silk/cotton fine-knit sweater for £64 and a 100 per cent silk T-shirt, a snip at £54 in the sale. And don’t get me started on the black leather leggings at £285 (for comparison, Joseph’s are £695) and the perfect £64 plain black cropped stretch trousers. The pleated leather bucket bag with a bamboo handle is purest Gucci for £185 and the snow-white cashmere sweater at £185 is as desirable as it is impractical. The shoes are mostly a little flat or low-heeled for my taste, but if flat and low-heeled is your thing, I expect you will love them. If I were an ankle-boot sort of girl, I’d be very happy with the high-heel style in tan suede for £125.
“Uterqüe is a smarter, less asymmetrical alternative to Cos,” believes Sasha Slater, deputy editor of Harper’s Bazaar, who has her eye on the £185 camel cape-coat with three-quarter sleeves for her autumn wardrobe. “The junior fashion editors at Bazaar all love the shirts: they have nice detailing but are not too wacky and the prices won’t frighten the horses. And the quality is definitely a cut above.”
Indeed it is. Many of the clothes have mass-produced counterparts at Zara, albeit made of lower-quality fabric and with a price to match. Zara, for instance, has a camel cape similar to that coveted by Slater for £69.99, an oversize white cashmere jumper for £129.99 and fake leather leggings for £25.99. But the key to shopping like a fashion editor — or indeed a queen — is to go to Zara for low-price, one-season trendy pieces and then, as Sierra says, “If you want a pair of great, affordable, Made in Italy leather loafers to wear to work, go to Uterqüe.”
The brand finally arrived in the UK, online-only, in 2011 and has been amassing its fanbase of fashion people ever since. Although they now have 66 stores in 13 countries, there are no plans to open one here: why Qatar, Kuwait, Portugal and even the Canary Islands deserve a store more than us is a source of considerable personal bitterness, but there we are. We will have to content ourselves with the website.
“Uterqüe isn’t as popular as Zara, even in Spain,” says Sierra, “and they probably won’t ever be. Having said that, I don’t think they pretend to; they’re different. After all, you can’t really compete with the most popular fashion phenomena in the world.”
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