"It's like a metamorphosis," said Michael Herz, pointing at the Polaroid lineup of the Spring collection he designed with Graeme Fidler. "She starts off with the sober recognizable raincoat, and then gradually there starts to be color, and then she becomes a butterfly." Well, not literally, but you could see his point. Following the slate gray mac, lovely dresses kept on emerging amid the more sensible tailoring. There were fitted shifts, one woven in painterly blues "like a seascape," another in white organza with black cream and ivory appliqués. An asymmetric T-shirt dress introduced an easier, younger line, and then, at the end, hand-drawn fifties-style rose prints broke into full bloom. Charming, wantable, and very wearable.
The clever thing is that none of it looks weighed down by the idea of "English heritage," which is one of the burdens that sometimes scuppers young designers charged to revive a classic brand. In its old sense, Aquascutum is a carapace that needs to be broken away from, though not entirely. What the Herz-Fidler team has decided to retrieve and update is the label's reputation for quality and workmanship, and in their hands, it's rich and quirkily done. Embroideries based on abstractions of the traditional paisley turn out to be made of silver hooks and eyes or stitched in multicolored strands of chiffon. Thanks to surprisingly luxe moments like this, plus the sense of youthfulness and ease they're now playing up, the pair is gaining confidence and respect. As Herz says, it's like a metamorphosis.