Back To Cool

Forget the new teacher, the school bag, the sharp colour pencils and the familiar old friends. When it comes right down to it, back to school has only ever meant one thing: wearing your best new duds on the first day of class.

Distressed jeans, brightly coloured graphic tees and skater hoodies may be seen in the halls of high school, but for the younger crowd, fashion this fall is about versatility. Whether it’s A-line shift dresses that can be paired with skinny jeans and leggings or layering tees and flannels for guys, kids’ fashion puts the fun into funky.

“Kids’ clothes are all about fun and function,” says Sarah Kelly, owner of Kanata’s Elm Hill Kids.

“It has to be wearable and hold up for a couple of rotations through all the kids in the family. These days, people don’t want disposable clothing.”

Focusing on Canadian brands such as Calgary’s Haute Tots and creative, hip labels like Tea Collection from California, Kelly says kids’ back-to-school clothing doesn’t have to be about recognizable brands and what-everyone-else-is-wearing. “I’m a big believer in locally-owned businesses where you can buy something that is carefully sourced and unique.”

The same is true of back-to-school fashion for grown-ups, whether they’re teachers or working women transitioning their wardrobe to the next season. For autumn, the colour story is muted: soft olive green, unusual mulberry tones, russet, burnt orange and warm grey.

With strong nods to the architectural, geometric fascinations of the ’70s, as well as the strong profiles of the ’80s, this season’s office and classroom wardrobe is about voluminous tops or bottoms (but not both), layering and in many cases, dynamic patterns, says Cas Greenman, owner of Ottawa’s Vanilla stores.

Such is the case for Aventures Des Toiles, a French prêt-a-porter label that commissions original art, then makes digital prints to be used on soft, malleable jersey. At the other end of the spectrum is the classic-edgy yet determinedly versatile work of Toronto’s Franco Mirabelli, who uses structured techno fabrics to create sexy corporate separates. “It’s one of those seasons where it’s all over the place,” observes Greenman, who still designs a line of basic jersey shirts as well as stone and silver jewelry for her two stores. “It’s all about versatility. That’s the fashion story for autumn.”

Children’s clothing from Kanata’s Elm Hill Kids 499 Signature Centre. The store is having its grand opening Aug. 25, 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Adult clothing sourced from Vanilla 256 Elgin St. and 279 Richmond Rd.

Connect with Julie Beun |life@ottawacitizen.com