It's rare to see polish, modernity, and quality together in a single collection on a London runwayand all the more exciting when it's coming out of a great British background. After three seasons, a convincing revolution really is under way in the back room at Aquascutum, where Michael Herz and Graeme Fidler are recutting the heritage of the coat-and-tailoring brand into great-looking twenty-first-century shape.
The best symbol of change is their chrome-yellow bouclé coat, slightly bubble-shaped, with bracelet-length sleeves: right proportion, right length, and right on the money in its reference to Cristobal Balenciaga. Better still, it's a piece Herz and Fidler developed from the company's archive, which contains racks of beautiful coats aimed at well-dressed ladies who appreciated Balenciaga's style in the fifties. The duo's knack: knowing how to turn an authentic reference into something young and of today.
In fact, the outstanding items in this collection were all coats: collarless ecru ottoman shapes with slightly stiff volumes; a brown high-collared cossack with a raised waist; a pale washed-silk trench. One black coat came with a belt decorated with silver flower-and-leaf embroideries commissioned from the specialists who work on British military regalia. There was plenty more going on here, too, in the way of short Empire-line dresses and complicated deconstructions of trenches and pantsuits. Herz and Fidler's creative enthusiasm can't be faulted, but they do their best work when they keep things simple. Several editors in the audience found their gaze slipping enviously toward the immaculately undeconstructed men's jackets. That could be a good way for women to go next seasonbut in the meanwhile it's good to see these young designers finding a voice.