“Nowadays coats can be a statement piece on their own,” says Delpozo designer Josep Font, someone who has become known for creating those that rival the dress as the hero piece. In a season known for its classic, sensible clothing, Font’s Pre-Fall lineup offers a blue floral jacquard cape (complete with ruffled sleeves and a metallic sheen) and an anything-but-ordinary trench cast in plaid and complete with crepe sleeves. This isn’t outerwear for wallflowers. And he isn’t the only one aware of the power of a fabulous coat. More often than not, Miroslava Duma is snapped wearing one, while Giovanna Battaglia’s outerwear hits include a floral Rochas caban, a yellow striped Max Mara anorak and a micro check Prada coatdress that’s cinched at the waist. In each case, rather than simply catering to the temperature, these coats contextualized a look, adding dimension, styling and personality that a single-item outfit simply can’t—there’s room to play. In the same way the allure of sporting a stack of bangles has past and it’s now about earrings, the coat has become the current must-have. So what makes a great one?

“Materials, quality, and the perfect silhouette,” says Rochas designer Alessandro dell’Aqua. And he would know. For his Pre-Fall collection alone he designed over twenty different styles and offers a wide selection within each season—even for Spring. “The coat is one of the strongest pieces of a look and always a star piece in my collections.” Accordingly, it should be the star of your closet.

If the case has been made that a collection of fabulous coats is a must, why should you start thinking about yours in early August? As any smart shopper knows, the good ones go fast. If you’ve ever returned from summer (one spent focusing on “buy now, wear now”) to find the season’s amazing styles sold out in your size, you’ve likely learned your lesson. For those that haven’t yet suffered through that, taking my suggestion should save you from ever having to.