The latest challenge of refashioning a square old British brand into acceptable shape for the twenty-first century has fallen to Michael Herz and Graeme Fidler. Back in the day, Aquascutum was a venerable raincoat brand and gents' and ladies' suit maker, but now, under new Japanese management, it finds itself in the same position as Burberry ten years agoa moneymaker, but nowhere on the fashion radar.
Herz and Fidler, in their second season on the runway, are attacking their problem by romancing the technology of the raincoat and co-opting pieces of a man's wardrobe for women. Herz said he imagined what would happen if a couple washed up on an Indonesian shore with one suitcase intact. The resultsomewhat more intellectual than the costumes of Lostis essentially a collection of floppy, washed, sometimes cut-up trench coats, crinkly sun-dried cottons, and dresses made from patchworks of Indonesian checked fabrics. All, supposedly, what the pair would end up with, once they'd started improvising with what clothes they had, pieced together with local finds.
Well, the Aquascutum castaway would need a good sewing machine to wash up alongside that suitcase if she wanted to wear stuff like this. Apart from one beautiful long dress made out of pinstripe shirting, Aquascutum's Indonesian print and toile de Jouy dresses were short and fitted and cut with a multiplicity of complex darts and gathers, complete with every seam meticulously finished with bias binding. True to the company's reputation for reversible raincoats, Herz promised that each and every garment was as beautifully finished inside as out.
But in the end, the guys need to learn a bit about woman-think. No woman obsesses over the way the inside of her dress is finished like Herz and Fidler. By the time the show was over, their absorption with such details left them with what looked like a zillion renditions of the same dress, in everything from a bright seed-packet floral to a gilded linen. Although these were paired with different treatments of the trencha cropped bolero jacket, a puffy dark muslina new vision for the brand has yet to be completely articulated.