What does it say about fashion now that the sighting of a few plain, modern, well-made clothes on a runway is capable of sending a frisson of excitement through a grateful crowd? The fact that a skinny tailored black pantsuit, a charcoal-gray double-breasted military coat, and a deluxe shot taffeta parka are suddenly coming from the former fashion dead zone of Aquascutum (a British raincoat brand established, like Burberry, in the 1850's) certainly adds interest to the case.
Michael Herz and Graeme Fidler, both in their 30s, have been brought in to give Aquascutum's men's and women's labels a style makeover. Their taste is for modern urban luxe, much in the minimalist vein of Helmut Lang or Jil Sander, except that they tend to go mad with tulle-and-lace English deb dresses, too. They did a good job of abstracting ideas from Aquascutum's heritage, making a neat black coat-dress with epaulets, as well as a slew of short trenches belted over all those net dance skirts. But this launch collection wasn't quite coherent. At times it was too conceptual; take, for example, a tricky turning of jacket hems inside out to show linings. And the repetition of the Mac-and-frock look raised the curious question of why a raincoat company should be so enthusiastically pushing girly eveningwear. The truth is that what's missing from fashion now is strong, believably utilitarian daywear. If Herz and Fidler build on the few very desirable examples of that they showed in this collection, they'll be heading in a promising direction.