One never expects to see radical reinvention at a Margaret Howell show. The British designer prides herself on providing her committed customers with similar, fuss-free, quality items season in, season out. Men go to Howell for old favourites, rather than high fashion.
But Howell's pragmatic, bankable vision doesn't make her any less interesting. Rather than offering a new rewrite each season, she's made her shows notable for the small changes. Today they came in the form of playful accessories - navy revolutionary berries which gave her models the look of a minimal Che Guevara. In keeping with her classic restraint, Howell had not run away with the military theme. It could be found in small details like the neat buttoned shoulder tabs on her easy cotton shirts or the perfect army green she'd used to colour her outerwear. The comfort of Spring/Summer ran through the collection, from the soft joggers to the loose fitting boxy jackets, while muted knitwear added to the showcase's cosy, utilitarian elegance.
It's easy to write Howell's collection off as well produced minimalism, but in this collection, underneath the simplicity, there was a pointed nostalgia and romanticism. The styling of the collection saw models dressed like clean cut workers from an age gone by. They were bus conductors or train drivers in their inky wool trousers, breezy double pocketed shirts, neat knit ties and pin stripe suits (a particularly lovely one, worthy of your favourite school teacher, closed the show). This season's menswear showings have hammered home London's tendency to make its men dress like maximalists. In the face of other designer's dandyisms, Howell's streamlined, clean masculinity was a welcome palette cleanser.