For the past few seasons Richard Nicoll has explored the idea of dressing the working woman. For so modern a concept, it sounds oddly dated, strangely mundane, much less appealing to a designer than fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants fantasia.
This season Nicoll took his inspiration from the twenties and moths, apparently, although in actual fact this collection was a further refinement of that idea. Paying lip service to those themes, the twenties was reflected in a relaxed sinuosity to the silhouettes, while moths came across in fluttering wings of silk, the irridescent textures of Hurel velvets, and the dusty, fuzzy shades of the garments. That colour palette was faultless, a further step in Nicoll’s three-season showcase of his supreme skills as a colourist. His hand is probably the surest in London - after all, that saturated colour-blocking we’ve been seeing everywhere can be traced back to his S/S 2009 offering. This time, the teals of A/W 2010 and last season’s baby pink and ivory were joined by a dose of dingy chatreuse, pistachio and khaki.
When dressing the working woman all roads lead, inevitably, to Giorgio Armani. That’s no insult: at the height of his powers, Armani was difficult to beat when it came to this kind of minimalist luxury. There was more than a touch of that famed Armani ease to Nicoll’s clothes, the relaxed glamour of a silk gazar sweatshirt shrugged over a chiffon ankle-length skirt, of loose crepe trousers sitting low on the hips, or his lurex-flecked parka whipped up with a whorl of ostrich-feathers at the hood. It’s rare that sports luxe so deftly straddles those two disparate disciplines, but Nicoll’s offering seemed a cross between survival gear and Paul Poiret’s opera coats, with none of the stodgy stiffness of the former nor the pomp and bombast of the latter.
There were a few missteps. Nicoll got hung up on the idea of a skirt sliced mini at front and dropping to the ankle at the back. Couturiers got obsessed with that at the end of the twenties too, a period of transition - like our own - between short and long skirts. It felt a little unsatisfying here. There were also some minor niggles - what Nicoll classed as vintage cycling knitwear with cryptic Latin terms for various moth species emblazoned in crystal across the chest. If they sound out of kilter with the rest of this show, it’s because they were. Would the collection have lost anything in their exclusion? Certainly not - a rare oversight easily forgiven in Nicoll’s resolutely, rigorously minimalist aesthetic.