Men's shirting, velvet bows, gray herringbone tweed, dotty voile, green corduroy, and black patent leather: On paper it reads like a disaster in the making. Still, one of fashion's big pleasures is the surprise of being proven absolutely wrong by a designer. Once in a blue moon, in the right hands, the most-unexpected things suddenly look fantastic together, and that's exactly what happened at Richard Nicoll's first solo show.
Nicoll (an Australian who graduated from Central Saint Martins with a master's degree) said he was inspired by Victorian housemaids, but what he presented was a completely original look free of the historical whimsy that turns so many young designers to mush. It involved voluminous, self-striped white leg-of-mutton shirts tied at the neck with black velvet bows, tight bras or bodices layered over them, and either pegged tweed pants and eighties biker jackets, or soft, slouchy cuffed cord shorts. It takes a lot to pull such complicated elements together into something crisp-looking, especially when it's all styled with polka-dot stockings, high ankle boots, and the odd pair of patent gauntlets, but that's what Nicoll did. Better still, seen separately, all those pieces are beautifully made and totally wearableparticularly his shirts, which look like they could be the foundation of a nice little business on their own.