Richard Nicoll said his approach to his latest womenswear collection was really simple: "It's how I'd want to dress if I was a woman." But there was also enough in the collection of how he likes to dress as a man to give the clothes a particular boy/girl frisson. Not androgyny, more the kind of polymorphous glamour that is something of a Nicoll signature. For Nicoll, the oversize men's shapes—coats, jackets—will always reference David Byrne in the Talking Heads tour movie Stop Making Sense. But there was also a picture of Debbie Harry in a tank top pinned to the wall of his studio, and somewhere between those two poles, the contrary conservative/rebellious spirit of the collection took shape. "Special normal" was the designer's own tag for his mix of luxe and casual. He talked about "fabrics in disguise," like his "denim," actually a cashmere woven. Which meant that a look as seemingly utilitarian as a drop-waisted "denim" jumpsuit was actually the consummate expression of Nicoll's hi/lo ethos.
New for him were biker details, from a jacket in orange leather all the way to subtle references like the diagonal zip on a sleeveless shift, or the draped lapel on a cocoon of ice-blue silk. Nicoll also used patterns from nature for the first time: A croc-stamped jean jacket paired with baggy "denim" pants, or a croc-stamped angora sweater paired with a skirt in dove-gray patent leather both offered a relaxed take on luxury. So did Saga furs intarsia-ed into herringbone patterns (more of that polymorphous glamour).
If confidence has sometimes been a distracting issue for Nicoll in the past, his new collection had the subtle swagger of a focused designer who knew he'd done good. And it offered further proof that if Nicoll starts with himself (anyone who saw his recent appearance in cult trans mag Candy will know just how great he'd look in the orange organza dress with which closed the show), he can't go wrong.