Whether you’re still living through lockdown, or easing back into some semblance of normal life, warmer weather calls for a wardrobe switch up. Step away from the loungewear and embrace an easy movement-boosting silhouette. Day dresses, lightweight, comfortable and with alluring design details are a sublime way to spring into the new season.

Discover the doyennes of daytime dresses

Merlette

Dresses by Merlette

Australian designer Marina Cortbawi founded Merlette in New York in 2016. Her easy, voluminous dresses have become the hallmark of the brand, with a design roster which also includes blouses, skirts and separates, all responsibly-made from natural fabrics. Lightweight Pima cotton from India makes up the mainstay; all fabrics and yarns are fully traceable. 

‘I wanted to create thoughtfully-designed realistic pieces for a woman to wear everyday,’ says Cortbawi, speaking from her atelier in Williamsburg, New York. In recent months, the brand has experienced an uptick in ‘house dress’ sales online, demonstrating the versatility of the elasticated and pocket-detail cotton pieces that are washable, comfortable and versatile. 

On the brand’s moodboard for S/S 2021? ‘This season was centred on a painting called ‘The Dancers’ by Rufino Tamayo, a modern Mexican artist,’ Cortbawi explains. ‘We usually start with one or two visual references and pull the colour palette, texture and details from these. The painting is about movement, optimism and freedom, which is what’s needed at the moment.’

Asceno

dresses by Asceno

‘Buy well and buy less’ underpins this London-based brand’s ethos of creating only what’s needed: elegant, versatile, seasonless essentials that can be mixed and matched with existing items in your wardrobe. Asceno co-founders Poppy Sexton-Wainwright and Lauren Leask launched their brand six years ago, based on a pair of chic silk pyjamas that were much more special than simply something to sleep in. ‘Early on in our friendship we knew we wanted to create a clothing brand that was paired back and relaxed,’ says Sexton-Wainwright. Enlisting strategic consultant, Rayna Barasch, now Asceno’s third partner, the line has expanded to include more styles that meet their brief of beautiful, understated pieces ideal for evenings in or trips away.

‘Now that the weather is getting warmer, our linens are really popular. They are organic, easy to wear and light,’ says Sexton-Wainwright of the crisp and gently tailored organic linen PJs, trousers and dresses. Asceno is also focused on responsible production and is ‘moving as fast as we can along the path to a fully sustainable future,’ says Sexton-Wainwright. ‘We produce in family run factories in Porto, Portugal and Shanghai, China, making only small production runs of our seasonal items to reduce excess and waste. We are launching organic and responsibly produced bamboo silk this June.’

Matteau 

dresses by Matteau

Australian sisters Ilona Hamer and Peta Heinsen are the masterminds behind Matteau; word play on the matt texture of fabric and ‘eau’, meaning water. Their line of refined, minimal resortwear is based around a core, timeless offering that includes their tiered low back sundress, cropped cocoon blouse and full gathered linen skirt. ‘We had something really particular in mind and that’s the only way we wanted to do it,’ says Hamer of the two years they spent developing the line. The sisters combined their talents – Ilona is a successful fashion stylist based in New York and Peta’s background is in marketing – to manifest in immaculacy cut and considered pieces with a realistically wearable approach. ‘They work for so many women of different shapes and sizes, and we love to be able to give them the styles that work for them in updated colours and prints each season,’ says Hamer. ‘It’s so special to be able to work with family every day.’

Tove Studio

dresses by Tove Studio

London-based Camille Perry and Holly Wright pooled their 15 years of industry experience in fashion buying and designing respectively and founded Tove Studio in the summer of 2019. Specialising in breezy summer dresses (the full skirted Maren slip dress and ruched Ceres dress are best sellers), the duo also offers paired back silk blouses and trousers. Perry says, ‘The craftsmanship in the collection is important to us. We want our pieces to be impeccably made using fabrics that are luxurious, but also sustainable. Our collections are mainly comprised of silks and organic cottons - both fabrics that feel incredible to wear, will last a lifetime and at the end of this time will degrade naturally.’ With an emphasis on high quality fabrics, Perry explains, ‘We source our fabrics from all over the world, from Italian mills through to those in Asia. We produce in both Europe and Asia with highly skilled teams that we have worked closely with throughout our careers.’ §