Over the years, as Wendy Nichol has established herself as a cult phenomenon accessories designer, it's been difficult to put a finger on her aesthetic. Her jewelry is typically spare and geometric, with a punkish edge, whereas her bags often feature lots of fringe and have a more bohemian feeling. Now Nichol has introduced her first apparel collection, and at first glance, the clothes seem to complicate matters: Where do these minimal, relatively androgynous pieces fit into the scheme of things?
Dig a little deeper, though, and Nichol's worldview emerges. Simply put, she makes clothes—and jewelry and bags—for urbane women with a romantic streak and a need for stuff that just plain works. The romantic streak reveals itself in both the collection's vintage touches—construction Nichol describes as 1900's-inspired, as in a shawl-collared jacket that ties at the waist or an apron skirt—and in her fabrications, such as sheer chiffon, washed charmeuse, and handkerchief linen. You can ascribe both a sense of romance and a utilitarian point of view to the collection's easy, mostly oversize shapes. Elsewhere, the make-it-work thing comes to the fore, as in neat sleeveless button-downs and soft trousers and culottes that look like mix-and-match wardrobe essentials for next spring. Nichol's clothes are too spare to be as instantly appealing as her accessories, but upon close inspection, the handmade quality that's a trademark of her brand makes them memorable.