Margaret Howell’s show this morning was everything we’ve come to expect from the minimalist brand with a cult following--simple, chic, muted and boyish. It opened to strains of Roy Orbison’s "Pretty Woman," yet there was nothing pretty about these clothes. Models stomped out to the best of Orbison in berets, military shirts, heavy woolen kilts (again! More kilts!) and thick combat boots. There were masculine suits, enormous overcoats, and one slightly questionable pair of brown cords. The most interesting thing about the collection is the way Howell managed to evoke an entire mood in few colors, and few pieces. Howell's shows are never overly stylized--a sweater hanging over a wide pleated skirt paired with simple brogues or boots is as busy as it gets. But the tones, fabrics, and even the placement of the buttons transported us back to 1960s Britain.
By cutting the trousers loosely and placing the waist high on the hip, she managed to succeed more than any other designer at creating realistic-looking men’s clothes for women. The military shirts and coats were devoid of detail, but somehow the cut and pocket placement made an obvious reference to British army uniforms of the early 20th century. The subtlety of this collection, although it was not the most exciting show, made for a nice change from all the sheer/leopard/leather that we’ve seen at every other show this season and last.