Like a pearl which is formed inside an oyster by a piece of grit, Maia Norman unites high and low in her Mother of Pearl collection. She's a hardcore surfer girl, so there is always an easy, sporty element in her clothes. Here, she introduced a swimwear range, and you know she knows this stuff like the back of her board.
Equally, Norman is Mrs. Damien Hirst, and collaborations with artist friends like Keith Tyson and Jim Lambie have loaned a distinctly arty edge to her collections. The latest—with Fiona Banner—may be the most conceptual yet, with a group of items printed or embroidered with a ten-digit ISBN (an International Book Standard Number), which is the standard used to register and identify publications in the book world. A T-shirt was helpfully printed with an explanation of the whole process. In essence, it was another way to create a collectible edition, just as artists number their work, and your response to it would probably be determined by how inclined you were to trawl downtown with a great big ISBN whacked across your trackies. More alluring was a print of letters so small they looked like binary code. They actually told a story, until they dissolved into pure shape, almost an ombré effect on a skirt. Banner's most immediately accessible contribution was the words "Don't Look Back" interpreted in various ways, including an obliterating starburst of caviar beading.
Which cued the most striking aspect of the collection—its curious undertow of almost ladylike luxury. Silky tees with a zip in back were positively demure. But it was Norman's artful use of skins that really stood out. They hardly seemed like leather, as in the ponyskin used for a mint green top or an orange skirt (tastefully paired with a cashmere jumper). Countering that, and hinting at Norman's naturally anarchic leanings, was a group you might call "council estate chic." That would include the little blouson and the shell suit. The lady and the chav? Norman certainly covers the waterfront.