Fashion editor Erica Davies helps upgrade your autumn aesthetic

Erica Davies walking down the road holding a bag
Gilly Ferguson,-Writer

Our Meet the Maker series sees us interview the lifestyle leaders helping to shape the future of shopping. This time, Fashion Editor & Stylist Erica Davies puts the joy back into dressing with her exclusive collection of cocktail coats and wider-calf boots

If you’ve found yourself wondering what to wear today, let alone what to wear all autumn, you’re in luck, because Fashion Editor Erica Davies knows the fashion formulas that will let you look and feel fabulous. Whether you’re stuck in a sartorial rut, hoping to shop more sustainably or on the hunt for the best winter coat, she’s here to help you and your wardrobe step into the new season in style.

Indeed, the popular author and professional tastemaker is also preparing for the autumn launch of John Lewis + Erica Davies, her second design collaboration with the brand. Comprising an exclusive 16-piece collection of wider-calf boots and 12 celebratory coats, each design has been crafted to put the joy back into dressing and created with Davies’ signature dose of positivity to encourage us to jumpstart more than just our wardrobes.

So, how does she do it? Here, Davies reveals her top style advice, the career-defining moments she’s most proud of, and how she tackles the daily juggle.

Erica Davies for John Lewis: How to wear the high street’s best coats and boots of 2022

We’ve thought really hard about these coats and boots – I want them to spark joy. I want you to feel amazing in them!

Erica Davies,-Fashion Editor & Stylist

How did your collaboration with John Lewis come about?
Back in 2020, I wrote an Instagram post about how I was struggling to find knee-high boots on the high street that would fit me – the standard circumference on a pair of knee-high boots is 39cm and I’m 40cm. It might not sound a lot, but that centimetre actually makes all the difference at the tightest part of your leg. 

I’m a size 14, which is under the UK average size, so what does that mean for women who are bigger than me? Or for women who’ve always gone horse riding, done gymnastics or simply have very pronounced calf muscles? It’s a huge issue for a lot of women. 

After the post, I was inundated with comments, including some really emotional ones, with women saying, ‘I’d written knee-high boots off’ or ‘I had to be cut out of a pair when I tried them on in a shop, it was the most mortifying moment of my life.’

Everything on offer was just so clunky, with faux suede, lots of zips and buckles, and zero style. So I messaged John Lewis and said, ‘This is what I’ve discovered, this is what’s available, and this is what I think should be available.’ I basically wrote a 20-page proposal! That was last year. Fast forward to our first collection and not only did it sell out, but we had such an incredible response we immediately started talking about this – our second – which I am so excited about!

On the boots, what makes this year's collection so clever?

We’ve taken on the learnings from last year, so now they’re bigger and better! Our bestselling Viola boot goes up to a shoe size 9, has a chunkier tread and comes in black, taupe and forest-green leather, while the Valerie has a lower heel height – it's got a 1970s vibe and classic western-boot feel. Overall, we’ve added in a mix of more traditional shades, including black, chocolate, tan, navy and burgundy, as well as some really exciting blush-pinks, cream and gold. We’ve designed a collection of coats for this capsule, too!

Yes! On the coats, what was your inspiration? What makes them so special?

The whole coat conversation started because I told John Lewis about a vintage coat that I had loved and lost in a move – it was my big regret! It goes back to that time when women got really dressed up to go out, whether they were off to the opera or out for drinks, and they’d have these fabulous velvet capes and coats of all different styles. 

I wanted to get back to that time, but nobody on the high street is creating these multi-purpose coats that have interest, so our coats add something extra to your outfit. I’d like them to be heirloom pieces that you wear and love, and pass down to children, nieces, sisters, friends – one of those items that your pals can borrow. I like creating a wardrobe worth sharing.

How would you like your coats to make the wearer feel?I want them to spark joy. I want you to feel amazing in them! We’ve really thought about the different colours, too. The hot-pink tuxedo coat is total #Barbiecore – very chic, fitted, with two buttons. There’s also a timeless black version that you’ll wear for years and years. The faux-fur olive coat (I love the shade) will go with so many beautiful autumnal colours, and the turquoise coat with orange trim is pure fun. Meanwhile, the amazing jacquard coats were totally inspired by Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw. I love the way that she wears vintage coats over contrast prints – that’s the energy I wanted to recreate.

There are two types of coat people. One favours the functional A-to-B number, the other has a coat for every occasion. Need we ask, which one are you?
I am a huge coat person! To me, coats make an outfit – I have a wardrobe full of them. I’m certainly not a capsule-wardrobe person when it comes to coats!

If you had to pick one wear-everywhere coat from your collection, what would it be?
The black tuxedo coat. You can wear it with a white T-shirt and trainers and look really cool or put it over a black-tie dress and feel  fabulous.

Erica Davies’ favourite coat and boot combos

John Lewis designs clothes for multiple moments and maximum cost per wear. With that in mind, what would you wear for the following occasions?

1. You’re working from home, but heading straight out for drinks with school parents afterwards…
I’d wear the Aztec coat, plus the burgundy patent-leather Vaughn ankle boots.

2. You’re cheering on your football-loving niece from the sidelines, before heading out for Bonfire Night…
The Retro Floral Jacquard Trench Coat, Orange Mix which feels very autumnal, with the 1970s-style Vaughn boots in gold.

3. It’s a drizzly Monday morning and you’re running late for a work meeting…
It has to be the yellow coat, and Vienna boots in blush leather.

4. School drop-off is at 9am and your office Christmas party kicks off at 10am…
For the school run, I’d wear the Viola boots in black with the black tuxedo coat over some sort of two-piece loungewear set, which I’d change out of en route, before slipping on the Vaughn boots in gold for the party.

Erica’s Best Style Advice

How do you plan your outfit for the day? Do you dress by mood, weather, occasion or all three?
I check the weather first, then think about what I’m doing that day. If it’s an at-home writing day, I won’t make an effort – I’ll slather on all the face oils! If I’m shooting, I’ll dress up a bit. I tend to wear the same things on two-day rotations. 

What’s your most worn outfit?
In the summer, it’s wide-leg linen trousers and a cotton poplin blouse. In the winter, wide-leg jersey trousers and a cashmere crew neck. Plus, my furry Birkenstocks in the winter and my normal Birkenstocks in the summer.

What’s the one style rule you live by?
Style is what you want it to be! It’s about wearing clothes that make you feel great and comfortable. There are a lot of people with a lot of opinions about what you should or shouldn’t wear, but the only voice you really need to listen to is your own. 

Style is not about body shapes and sizes – it’s about proportions. If you can get the proportions right, it doesn’t matter what you wear. If you feel comfortable, you’ve nailed it

Erica Davies,-Fashion Editor & Stylist

Are there any styling myths you’d like debunked?
There are a lot of style rules that I completely disagree with now. It’s not about body shapes and sizes – it’s about proportions. If you can get the proportions right – whatever your size and shape – it doesn’t matter what you wear. If you feel comfortable, you’ve nailed it. I’m grateful to social media because it’s really democratised fashion; it’s shown that you don’t have to be 5ft 9ins and a size 8 to be considered stylish. People take it really seriously, but fashion can be good fun and it can alter your mood. Just put on the yellow coat in the morning and see for yourself – it cheers you up!

What three trends will define autumn/winter 2022?
Colour, sequins and 1990s minimalism, which I’m quite enjoying, actually – the whole Gwyneth Paltrow and Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy pared-back satin look is gorgeous. I’m not sure I can do it anymore, but I like seeing it on other people.

Name your top three timeless buys that will last a lifetime
A camel coat, wide-legged black trousers and white leather trainers

What’s your top tip for getting school-run ready in a rush?
Tinted moisturiser with SPF – I always feel better with a glow, plus some kind of coloured lip balm and blush. I love Bobbi Brown Pot Rouge for Lips and Cheeks, which I use on my eyes as well. In winter I’ll just throw on a really big coat – even if you’re in the worst tracksuit in the world, it won’t matter with the right coat!

Your Instagram brings so much joy! Have you made a conscious decision to keep things bright?
In a way, yes. Of course I’ve got a lot of other things going on, sometimes it’s useful to talk about the tougher stuff but it can also be painful when you’re going through it. I do want my Instagram to reflect the colour and positivity of life. It’s self-editing I guess, I’ve never shared my children, but in a way we’re all sharing of much of our lives as we choose to – and that’s fine by me. I like to keep it light and bright, that’s still me, I’m just not showing every part of my life. 

As an advocate of joyful dressing, have you got any tips for anyone who’s struggling – perhaps they’re postpartum, having a ‘meh’ day or stuck in a style rut?
Think colourful – even something as simple as red lipstick. Start off small, something you can easily mix in with what you’ve already got – it’ll make a huge impact to you but shouldn’t mean you have to rethink your whole wardrobe. Don’t think you've got to change everything immediately, it will take you a while to feel yourself. It can be anything – weight gain, grief, loss – it’s something to build up slowly, just be kind to yourself. 

When it comes to shopping for fashion, where should we spend – and when should we save?
Definitely invest in quality fabrics – it doesn’t need to be new: pre-loved is great. But do get the best version you can, like cashmere. And bags! You’ll never lose money on a bag and can always re-sell it. Invest in coats, boots, bags and quality fabrics.

Have you got any money-saving tips when it comes to Christmas outfits?
Renting is the way to go – I’m planning to rent out some of my own dresses this year. I realise that not everyone will be able to afford full-price clothing with the cost of living crisis, so I’m delighted that my coats are going to be part of the John Lewis Rental service, too.

What’s your most frequently asked question?
It’s generally about paint colours – I’ve got a particular colour in the living room that I’ve been asked about millions of times (Farrow & Ball in Dix Blue, if you’re wondering). It’s either that or very specific questions like, ‘What shall I wear to a wedding?’ or ‘Where should I put this rug?’.

Life advice – how Erica Davies makes it work

What are the best – and worst – parts of your job?
The general workload can be tough and you do find yourself constantly ‘on’. Most nights I’m in bed at 10:30pm answering messages, but knowing that – in a very small way – I’ve helped somebody feel better about themselves is really special. Having come from a newspaper background, you don't get the immediate response from people like you do on social media, which is good and bad, but it’s predominantly good and I’ve got the most amazing audience who really get me – that means a lot.

How do you switch off? Do you have any boundaries set for family and work?
If we go out as a family, I don’t look at my phone, but the kids understand and my husband is really supportive. I do need to give myself chunks of time off social media, though, for my sanity. Sometimes I notice it’s building up and I come off for a few days, just to recharge my batteries. The majority of the time it’s manageable (I only post once a day), and I have a big notes section on my phone, where I write captions and ideas down in advance, which helps.

What advice would you give yourself, in hindsight?
You’ll be okay. Stay true to yourself. You don’t have to do what everyone else does – carve your own path.

What’s been your proudest moment to date?
Definitely launching the John Lewis collection – and I’m not just saying that! Finding a gap in the market, and helping women to find something they were genuinely looking for has been a huge personal high.

You’ve designed our dream coats and masterminded the suits-all boot – what’s next for Erica’s empire?
Ha! I don’t know yet. Watch this space!

John Lewis + Erica Davies is available online and in the following John Lewis stores: Oxford Street, Glasgow, Kingston, Cambridge, Cribbs Causeway, Edinburgh, Bluewater, Nottingham, Peter Jones, Trafford, Liverpool, Cheadle, Milton Keynes, Leeds and White City.

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