'These boys are to blame for this dreadful print thing' sighed one fashion journalist at the Basso and Brooke show. In a way, he was right - whether 'this print thing' is dreadful or not is a matter of opinion, but certainly Basso and Brooke were first off the starting block almost a decade ago with their playful and often powerful collages of pattern and texture. When they first began, those were buoyant verging on pornographic, traversing that boundary of taste London has made it its duty to question since the early seventies. But, for Autumn/Winter 2012, Bruno Basso and Christopher Brooke have decidedly and definitely grown up.
Once again, whether that is dreadful or not is a matter of taste. There was a charm to their printed-patchwork, meshing together monochrome graphics and menswear suiting - a houndstooth transforming, like an Escher etching, into a tessellated checkerboard of rhomboid tiles straight from a seventies lounge-diner, for instance. The blown-out, stylised florals again had a feel of the decade that taste forgot, like blown glass or ceramics marbles with sticky, sickly colour. That's hardly overpowering by Basso and Brooke standards, and the shapes too were well-behaved, even mumsy, mid-calf dresses and sinuous satin jumpsuits billowing around the body. Tramline-narrow print dresses hung a little too much like an elongated potato-sack to be entirely easy on the eye, but the knitted cashmere sweaters printed with a hodgepodge across the front promised comfort for wearer and beholder.
Is comfort what we really want? The reason this collection didn't gel was because it felt a little bit too relaxed, and relaxing. There was nothing to challenge - indeed, there was an easy familiarity about everything, treading into waters traversed by Christian Lacroix (and his Bazaar) in the early nineties, and with considerably more commercial success by Dries Van Noten from the early noughties until, well, today. An identity crisis is never something Basso and Brooke have suffered from, but a rediscovery of the exuberance and invention of their youth wouldn't go amiss. They were NEWGEN once too, it would be nice if they could still generate something new.