Pure modern English with a classy accent and breaking new fashion ground with it. Michael Herz's Fall collection for Aquascutum marked a pivotal moment at which the designer found a perfect equilibrium between his own instinct for what feels right—the long, slim silhouette he started last season—and the heritage of this august yet stodgy British coat and suiting company.
After a season's absence from the runway (while the company was sold to Harold Tillman, who is also chairman of the British Fashion Council), Herz has come back with a design clarity that could rival that of many a bigger brand. On the one hand, he was among the first to commit to long, fluted skirts and narrow dresses (a movement in London that's gaining momentum by the day), and he made them work for Fall by styling them with small, leather-belted jackets; white shirts; capes; and pointy silver flats. And on the other, he's found a device that neatly ties his ideas back into the tradition of Aquascutum: a series of seventies advertisements about the virtues of the house camel coats—the fabric of which is now, of course, at peak desirability again.
On the runway—a presentation on the ground floor of the flagship store on Regent Street—Herz interspersed fragile dresses featuring diagonal shirring with modernized elements of sensible English outdoorwear, putting the quilted liner on the outside of one jacket, cutting jacket-cape hybrids, and using simplified drawstring poacher pockets.
The effect—from the beginning to the lovely gold jacquard tissue dress at the end—had a freshness, simplicity, and elegance that was thoroughly convincing. Sometimes, Herz has seemed daunted by the weight of carrying the responsibility for the brand heritage and reacted by overthinking his design and trying too hard to please all sorts of customers. Now that he's concentrating tenaciously only on what he believes in, it's all come together.