Aquascutum occupies a tricky position in contemporary British fashion. Essentially the staid and dowdy sister of luxury goods behemoth Burberry, the brand is nevertheless resolved to revitalise its fortunes and reinvent itself as a high-fashion brand. Its seasonal showing at London fashion week, lavishly staged and packed with top models, has gone some way to cementing the impression of a brand at least on the rise, if not necessarily a cutting-edge must-see. The difficult task has been forging Aquascutum's identity, other than its unenviable twin roles as trench purveyors by appointment to the royal household (dowdy endorsement if ever there was one) and Baroness Thatcher's tailor of choice during her days at Number Ten. You can't really fight history, and thus Aquascutum's design team have played into this idea of prim propriety and old-school refinement: sometimes successfully, other times not. Autumn/Winter 2009 was frankly a mixed bag - a 1950s snapshot of the late great Eartha Kitt, arms outstretched and Aquascutum clad, topped the programme notes, but any influence of the archetypal sex kitten was well-hidden. Instead, the label presented a collection influenced by the great British traditions of restraint and respectability, part Miss Jean Brodie, part Margot Ledbetter. Silk headscarves swathed hair and foreheads in rare touches of bright colour, while the clothes themselves, in quiet shades of oatmeal, biscuit and caramel, whispered wealth. Furs were casually flung across shoulders, trenches billowed in tissue-taffeta and pussy bow blouses were starched and firmly knotted. There was a repressed idea of sexuality - I think - under these clothes (check the terribly Bell De Jour bourgeoisie air of a natty knitted suit tugged taut across firm buttocks) but too often it could simply come across as frumpy: extracting sex-appeal from an acre or so of dour checked silk, or a frayed and fettered black coat that resembled a ravaged bin-liner, is even beyond the skills of the stellar model cast Aquascutum managed to pull in. That said, this show did give us our first true supermodel siting: look number nine was modelled by none less than Yasmin LeBon, a wry smile playing on her lips and a wiggle to her hips as she teetered around the venue. If nothing else, that rare moment made this show entirely worthwhile.
There was a repressed idea of sexuality - I think - under these clothes but too often it could simply come across as frumpy.