When is a camel coat not a camel coat? When it's a whole collection - that seemed to be the message of Hannah McGibbon's latest show for Chloe. Wide-shoulder jackets were cut with swinging lapels in caramel-coloured cashmere, high-waisted slightly flared trousers (sometimes in leather and fringed down the side seam) came out in beige, swinging babydolls and blouses with pie-crust frills in tan, pussy-bow shirts in taupe satin, jackets in cognac, oatmeal, nude. My synonyms are spent. By outfit twenty-something we were praying for some colour - the closest we got was a decidedly dodgy black leather tracksuit, a couple of pale blue chambray shirts and a coat and suit in grey wool.
A 'focussed' (polite terminology for unadventurous) palette is all well enough, if the clothes themselves are saying something exciting and new. But that was the problem. There was a vintage feel to much on display - and by vintage, I mean 'second hand' rather than 'classic collection'. Ignore the clobber the front row are sporting, and this collection could have taken place anytime between 1974 and 1986 - Cerutti, MaxMara, Basile, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein. Take your pick, they were all in there. The notable name missing is Chloe.
Which begs the question: what does Chloe stand for? That's evidently difficult for MacGibbon to say right now, but it's an answer she should get down quick smart - especially with Chloe's former head making waves at another C-word maison with an eye for Frenchy finishing. There was a lot of good stuff in this show - the swinging coats were fantastically proportioned, there were interesting textures and combinations of fabrics in that endless, sand-blind sea of taupe - textured wool knit for a cape, a jacket with a surface magically corrugated like a chocolate-bar, or the fresh simplicity of a wool shirt worn a leather dirndl. That, however, was in essence a clever styling trick. It's going to take more than a few of those if MacGibbon wants her collections to start making a real mark.