gemnewcol.jpgGemma Cartwright talks new season Topshop...

Each season, along with the joys of Fashion Week, the fashion press also endure a few weeks on what I like to call the Press Day Diet. At least twice a year (sometimes four or five times) big PR agencies and in-house press offices organise press days where they showcase next season's designs to those in the know. Magazines work on very long leads and need to photograph stuff well in advance, so this is when print press start filling out request forms for samples. The fight for the 'right' samples at the right time can be tough, so going to these events and picking out key items that readers will love next season is vital.

Right now we're smack bang in the middle of the Autumn / Winter press days, and the invitations are coming in thick and fast...

For the lucky ones - those who don't have daily deadlines to meet - press days are a great excuse for a few days out of the office looking at clothes, filling out forms and collecting goody bags. For others (particular antisocial desk monkeys like me) it's a chance to meet the PRs who send out the press releases and deal with the frantic emails and finally put a face to the name. For all of us it's a way of seeing how trends have translated from the catwalk to the high street, helping us to plan forward features. And why do I call it the press day diet? Well, if you work it out right, you don't have to buy or prepare any food or drink for an entire day...

Depending on the agency and the brands the represent, these affairs vary from small and friendly showroom visits (French Connection upped the ante by turning theirs into a Cluedo board - Miss Scarlett, in the library with the gorgeous black tea dress - and serving a full roast dinner) to huge champagne-fulled events brimming with people, like the Arcadia press day we went to today.

With Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge, Wallis, Dorothy Perkins, Evans and Burton under their umbrella, the Arcadia event is huge, and the half an hour we'd allocated to spend there was definitely not enough! This time around, The Royal Academy (home of On | Off during Fashion Week) was transformed into every fashionista's dream, complete with DJs, drinks, nibbles and even head honcho Phillip Green, who was posing for photos in the Topman room.

So what should we expect from these brands for Autumn / Winter? Well, Miu Miu fans should head to Topshop, where they have a harlequin story that pays definite homage to the clothes in the amazing Kirsten Dunst ad campaign. Think tiny ballet dresses with striped skirts, checkerboard fabrics of woven chiffon and gold tunics trimmed with embroidered musical scores. There's also a Christopher Kane influence, with sheer printed dresses and frills, and lots of chunky knits. And I mean chunky. Some of them were even sprayed gold.

Highlights at Miss Selfridge included a huge party dress range; loads of beaded flapper offerings, a gold-on-black lace party dress with long sleeves and a cinched waist, lots of green (strapless, tiered, frilled) and structured silver volume. There was also a great 70s-inspired story for daywear. Think high-waisted jeans, metallic shot check shirts, Missoni style chevron scarves and furry gilets.

Wallis' more mature take on trends meant a plethora of sleek 70s style dresses, a faux fur dress jacket with bracelet sleeves that looked like it was straight out of the Matthew Williamson show, and a knee length wrap dress covered completely in matte gold sequins. Not for the faint-hearted, but absolutely showstopping.

At Dorothy Perkins, the real stars of the show were the coats. From a frill-trimmed, raw-edged grey 3/4 number to a beautiful beige cape, there was something for everyone. Party dresses and tops were also predictably glam. From red, strapless and form-fitting to a rosette covered purple swing top, there was a style for every shape. My favourite was a black swiss dot devore number with a peter pan collar.

And your man? Buy him a 3 piece suit, or team tartan ties with oversize gingham check shirts. Jackets are tuxedo style and trimmed around the lapels, and shoes are super shiny. Jeans? Nah!