Well, that was a surprise. Pretty much the entire audience at the Matthew Williamson show today did a double take when the first look emerged on the runway. As the decidedly un-vampy Hanne Gaby Odiele approached in a clean, shift-shaped, mustard-colored overcoat with graphic inserts, you could spot people rechecking their invites to make sure this was, in fact, the Matthew Williamson show. As Williamson himself acknowledged, this season he was determined to offer his woman a new proposition—and to that end, he jettisoned all things tight-fitting and billowing chiffon, and served up a collection full of geometric tailoring and relaxed shapes. That was a risky bet, but it paid off. Williamson managed to put most of the essential elements of his brand into his new look, using color audaciously, evoking his wanderlust through blanket wools and dreamy landscape prints, and maintaining his signature use of embellishment. The bohemian sensibility was there, too, borne out in the collection's eclectic mix of patterns and prints, as was Williamson's characteristic emphasis on prettiness. It wasn't so much that the clothes were quieter this time out as that they sang in a more moderate key.
Not all the looks worked: In particular, Williamson had a tough time translating this new, laid-back attitude into convincing eveningwear. But his paneled coats were hard to argue with, as were the very pretty skirts with tiered pleats. And the fur-shouldered gilet bearing a rose-patterned tapestry weave had real, expressive force. Long story short, there was remarkable development here, much of it very promising. This was the most relevant a Matthew Williamson collection has looked in ages.