If there were a medal for fashion creativity under fire, Michael Herz should get it this season. As he was designing the Aquascutum collection for Spring—a tight and focused vision of army-surplus fatigues over soft, long dresses—the Japanese owners of the British trenchcoat-and-tailoring brand put the operation on ice and announced they were selling the company. To his credit, Herz continued working with fast-dwindling resources and with personnel leaving by the day. In the nick of time, just days before London fashion week, Harold Tillman, the chairman of the British Fashion Council and the entrepreneur owner of Jaeger as well as a string of restaurant concerns, bought the company, so the show (or rather a series of presentations in the flagship store showroom) did go on.

Strangely, working against the odds seemed to bring out the best in Herz, who said his way of dealing with the stress over the summer was to get out more, go to music festivals with friends, and, with nothing to lose, only design what he believed in. He edited that down to a personal inspiration: a khaki shirt belonging to his father, who was in the army in Guyana. From there, he extrapolated a series of slim washed-canvas trenches, printed gauze and washed silk forties-inflected summer dresses that had a youthful throw-on ease, and some belted jackets and pants for more grown-up daywear. What it lacked in breadth, it made up for in believability. Aquascutum's new backing ought to give Herz the ability to do more next season, but in the meanwhile, struggling through adversity might have done him a favor: The lesson is that having a big budget to fill a runway isn't necessarily the best way to demonstrate what a designer's made of.