"What we sell is dresses," was
Richard Nicoll's pragmatic post-show declaration, but that was way too prosaic a rationale for the clothes he'd just presented. He was also drawn to the idea of "minimal glamour," and sensing that this may be a transitional moment in fashion, he'd found something he liked in the couple of years in the mid-seventies, between the end of glam rock and the beginning of punk. Most particularly, the designer focused on David Bowie's manifestation as the Thin White Duke, who fell to Earth trailing clouds of monochrome Weimar decadence. Station to Station, Bowie's classic album of the era, is about to get an extravagant relaunch. It provided the soundtrack for tonight's show.
The collection was as blinding in its focus as Bowie's performances were on the Station to Station tour in '76. Black and white dominated, in stark combinations that evoked fetish erotica: A black bra worn under a sheer white top, for instance, paired with a long white pleated skirt, was the sort of look Nicoll might see summing up the forties' influence on the seventies. (It was also an original take on an idea that feels everywhere at the moment.) Claiming inspiration from a photo of Tina Chow in one of her sensuous Fortuny dresses, Nicoll felt pleating was a way to create flattering volume. The pleating throughout this collection struck a curious chord—elegant, but tough.
Nicoll was selling himself short when he mentioned "sleaze," but he was keen to get across the idea that there was something a little disreputable at work here. Few would dispute that idea applied to a pink patent leather dress with a ruffled neckline, or the black leather bustier veiled in white, or even the dress in black bouclé shot through with Lurex. In this context, even the pleats flaring over much longer skirts could have dressed a chic madam in a Weimar cathouse. "We want to up the bar without feeling ostentatious," Nicoll said as he reflected some more on his dress business. Without compromise either, he could have added. And, with Bowie ringing in one's ears, it seemed reasonable to believe he might have tapped the Zeitgeist.