How To Wear The Brown Trend

How To Wear The Brown Trend

Former Tatler fashion director and revered stylist Anna Bromilow knows a thing or two about trends. Here, she reveals why brown is back in favour and how stylish women make it work...

The last time I bought a brown item of clothing, I was 18. I was shopping in Warehouse and found a brown, belted puffa jacket (I was a student, so it took a good few months to pay off). Strangely, I don't have fond memories of wearing it at all – in fact it became a sartorial noose around my neck, the repayments weighing heavily on my shoulders. As such, it’s not a colour I’ve reintroduced into my wardrobe since. In fact, in my professional life I've actively edited it out of client's cupboards and dropped entire looks off editorial rails because of it. Too classic, too equestrian, too safe, too murky… give me clean, modern black any day. You can imagine, then, that it’s come as quite a surprise, decades later, to find myself hankering after this natural tone once again.

It’s not always clear why trends emerge – often fashion goes in circles. But my new love of earthy tones is more than just an influence from street style and the catwalk. This difficult year has forced many of us to reconnect with nature. With a limit on international travel, we’re spending more time exploring the UK, escaping to the countryside and autumn's spectacular shades have been more prolific than ever. At the height of a lockdown, black can feel wrong – specifically, morbid and heavy. But you can still get your minimalist fix from alternative neutrals. This renaissance of brown and rust is one such example.

For me the key with brown is to treat it like chocolate – it should be luxurious, simple and all about texture. Leather, suede, wool and rich corduroy are natural bedfellows. I'm generally not a fan of wearing it in the evening – in fact, chiffon and frills are definitely to be avoided. The key is to keep it simple, working with an elegant colour palette for the rest of your look and investing in modern classics. Think Max Mara, Ralph Lauren, and vintage Gucci.

A good place to start is to invest in a pair of knee-high boots. From tan to chocolate, brown offers a softer contrast than black. Paired with a trench or camel coat, Isabel Marant and Saint Laurent have some of the most lust-worthy, wearable styles – from cowboy boots to suede buckled beauties. When it comes to sexier options, Jimmy Choo always deliver. Of course, if you're not ready to commit to an all-over brown footwear moment, an earth toned flash or trim still has covetable appeal – as Chanel's Instagram-able pirate boots prove. Mango have also produced a stomping boot in black and brown if heavy duty is more your thing this season.

A chocolate knit is another good option. Emilia Wickstead and Cecilie Bahnsen both have some fab cable jumpers this season – they're elegantly chunky and cropped to sit well with high waisted flared jeans or a midi skirt. Just remember – anything too oversized can start to look mumsy, so modern silhouettes and texture are everything. Ganni's basket weave cardigan (with its peter pan collar) was an immediate sell out and Zara have been quick off the mark to produce something similar. As for other high street knitwear, Mango is always a safe bet. Their versions are earth toned Isabel Marant-style knits, with wide shoulders that look great with high waisted leather trousers or paper bag waists. Nanushka and Masscob both styled their brown knits with unexpected pops of colour (think bright slip skirts) – yellow or pink make for fab contrasts. However, my favourite way to style brown knitwear is in the tonal direction. Seraphina's warm donkey brown corduroy skirt celebrates texture and tone to perfection. If you're brave enough to wear high waisted cords (always invest in good tailoring), then Three Graces and Bella Freud are best.

Brown leather has serious street style approval – Bottega's runway trench so elegantly tailored. The secret to styling it is to keep things simple – nude and stone in modern silhouettes are an ideal pairing – steer clear of prints to avoid an overtly vintage look. Dodo Bar Or have gone for an earthy palette this season and their leather culottes are really desirable – style with long boots, a roll neck and a blazer. Meanwhile, Arket's leather tan leather shirt works beautifully with deep tones – but if real leather is out of your price bracket, then Topshop have a slick liquid vinyl trench. Finally, Bottega's dark chocolate leather Cassette bag gives any look a modern, luxury finish.

As for me, my tan shearling coat will be coming out to give my looks some Max Mara edge, and I'll also be weaving in heritage tweed in the form of high waisted trousers and a jacket. Also, don't be afraid to mix brown in with leopard. I have dark hair and slightly olive skin and am aware that browns work better on me, but if you are fair make sure to gravitate towards warmer, flattering hues and combine with camels. Also playing with make-up, particularly burnt caramel and honeyed rust tones (Victoria Beckham Beauty nails it on this front) immediately brings everything to life.  

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