After wallowing in a cognac-coloured haze of late seventies/early eighties nostalgia for a few seasons, it felt as if Hannah MacGibbon sharpened up her game for S/S 2011, at least judging by the collection she pumped out for Chloe today. Pumped is an appropriate term, as there was a pulsing, throbbing energy to the clothes she showed, caught in the movement of a skirt, the line of a sleek coat, and the pace of models marching out in flat sandals.
Generally, the line was lean and close to the body, feeling energetic and tense in a palette of subdued neutrals shot through with bright, Elizabeth Arden scarlet. It reminded one of the early nineties - specifically that British Vogue cover by Peter Lindberg featuring a soon-to-be-immortal phalanx of models wrapped in Giorgio di Sant'Angelo stretch-tulle bodies and blue jeans. It would be easy to riff off about the skirts in the collection having a slouchy, blue jean ease, or the obvious link between those di Sant'Angelo bodies and MacGibbon's pleated tulles, but this collection felt more worked through than that.
There were airs of the era-defining Minimalism of Donna Karan and Calvin Klein, and even of Tom Ford's early work for Gucci. That underlines a certain American quality to the clothes, the sleek professionalism and minimum of fuss that American sportswear has become known for. Some of those draped evening gowns even resembled Halston, or Claire McCardell - another American institution well worth reviving.
But again, that's an issue with MacGibbon. Revival. Her Chloe collections always have a tendency to veer towards appropriation rather than invention, whether in those early-nineties Americanisms, or in the touches of Phoebe Philo's Celine that continue to colour her worth (she sent out a couple of leather breastplate frocks that were dead ringers for S/S 2010). Admittedly, this time it felt tougher, meaner and leaner than the cuddly camel coats of 1940s Land Girls of the past few seasons. But wasn't lean and mean what the harsh climate of Nineties New York was all about? The clothes themselves looked good. But the spirit felt borrowed.