Minimalist elegance is a concept that's slipped from view since the late nineties, but in London it's marching back. The standard bearer is Richard Nicoll, whose show re-energized the monochrome aesthetics of clean, sporty dressing by drenching it in great doses of color-blocked tangerine, cyclamen, nude, and aqua. Nicoll said he'd been influenced by early Helmut Lang and (not so obviously) the late fifties, but if he meant the ease of mid-century American sportswear it makes sense.
It was uplifting to watch a young designer find something new to say about the validity of T-shirt-and-pants dressing and think about simple but impactful combinations of separates. That might mean an oversize T-shirt top in blocks of nude organza and pink silk tucked into a long, slim cyclamen skirt, or a tank with a one-shoulder toga drape over narrow pants. It's not the easiest thing to make borderline bad-taste colors seem cool, but there was something in this collection that palpably moved the audience. Likely, it has to do with Nicoll's growing into himself and acquiring the confidence to let his Australian understanding of relaxed, hot-weather lifestyles come through. If so, it's an epiphany that may well connect him with underserved customers in warm climates all over the world. After all this, Nicoll ended his show with a surprise finale of his Richard Nicoll Shirt second line, which has quietly developed into a cute collection of cotton dresses and shorts. Impressive on all fronts.