After yet another presentation of subtly calibrated variations on a theme, the question had to be asked: What does Margaret Howell actually get out of doing a fashion show? Surely her clothes are made to be cherished by their ardent fans, not paraded like seasonal fripperies down a fashion catwalk. "I like styling," said the designer after her show. "I know straight away whether something works." So that's it—she's doing a little market research.

Howell definitely hit a timely note with her latest collection. It offered what felt like fifty shades of gray, in the nicest possible way. "A lot of fabrics only work in these colors," she explained. By that, she meant tweeds, herringbones, and flannels in soft tone-on-tone layers. Shades of earth and sky also snuck in, but the overall impression was the solidity of stone: an island off the coast of Scotland, perhaps, though that may have been the power of an argyle sweater's nostalgic suggestion. But the very notion of "power" has no place in Howell's ethos. Her new collection stayed true to her roots, harmonizing classic bits and pieces for a wardrobe of clothes designed to make you feel at one with the world.