Richard Nicoll defined his pre-fall collection with a series of oppositions: decadence/austerity, sensitivity/armor, fluidity/structure, masculine/feminine. You could also add Woody Allen and Jean Muir to that list, the cerebral urbanity of one and the rigorous sensuality of the other. (His mum was a big Muir fan when he was growing up in Sydney.)

Nicoll is a troubling designer. He has riveting ideas, but he trips himself up on the way to realizing them. One of his assets is a fierce pragmatism. Nicoll sees pre-fall as an opportunity to consolidate his best sellers, and he enjoys creating something that is tangibly commercial because that is the solid foundation on which he can build something new. At the same time, he is tortured by what he sees as unchallenging retreads. He should relax. There was plenty in his pre-fall collection that will please his fans, and that should please the designer.

One of Nicoll's other assets is the peculiarly fetishistic undertow of his designs. Go back to those initial oppositions to find its expression here. The day-to-night quality created disorienting work-and-play contrasts between solid jackets and sheer skirts. A duffel coat layered over a skirt with a ruffled hem achieved the same effect. The innate, peculiar body-consciousness of Nicoll's designs was evident in all that sheer stuff, but he was equally partial to bands of leather that emphasized a detached stiffness. The dichotomy is essential to his work. It's probably the reason why he feels so conflicted. It also means that Nicoll is one of the rare designers whose pre-fall collection makes you really wonder what he's going to show next.