Resignation was a clear victor over enthusiasm when Margaret Howell conceded this morning that mounting a fashion show was "part of the job." Why she should subject herself to fashion week stress is a particularly relevant question for someone whose designs are so much more about "clothes" than "fashion," signifying maturity and intelligence and a lifestyle to which ten minutes on a catwalk can do scant justice. Still, Howell insisted that a show was actually a good way to get to know the clothes. "It's a kick when it works," she said. "I love getting something right. But the real result is what sells in the shop." That spirit of pragmatism sounded much closer to her heart.

In the end, a winning narrative emerged from the small collection that Howell presented. It was darker in tone than usual ("A bit too dark," she worried), but that set off the deep violet of a shirt or the blue of a sweater. She also rationalized that the tweeds were darker because they were to be worn in the city rather than as "camouflage for the country." In fact, the notion of the country-comes-to-the-city offers itself as an ongoing Howell theme. Here, the subtly evolved outerwear, slightly boxy suiting, lug-soled shoes, and wide-brimmed hats hinted at the honesty and earnestness of a countryman in the process of being urbanized. The soundtrack seemed to agree, starting out with bucolic acoustic guitar and ending with the mutant funk of Talking Heads' "I-Zimba."