With all the floss that's spun about "heritage" fashion, it's curiously refreshing to encounter a take on the past so personal that it almost feels like voyeurism to be outside looking in. After today's Duckie Brown show, Steven Cox flummoxed the backstage flock with his references to "the Bexleyheath boys." What he meant were the cool kids in the part of South London where he grew up, their style a distillation of the purest sportswear (the Brits call these clothing cultists "casuals"). "A solitary boy in a tracksuit," was Cox's misty reminiscence, "with a pint of Stella and a packet of cheese-and-onion crisps." So that's where the new Duckie collection began (with the tracksuit, not the crisps), in lean layers of sporty black nylon.

The description of the clothes suggested volume—a puffer vest, a six-pleated pant—but there was only somber elongation. The puffer was deflated. The melancholic reason for this was in the show's dedication "to Diane." Cox's mother died three weeks ago after a long illness, and the shadow of her passing made this a very difficult collection for Cox and his partner, Daniel Silver. That undoubtedly explained its subdued quality, and also the sense of escape into a past that was easier to cope with than the painful present. But at the same time, the elegiac mood loaned the collection a persuasive narrative drive, from that prosaic nylon opening passage to a finale of rose-printed organzas and silks. The same silhouettes connected the two—parka, bomber, sporty short shorts—but there was a clear shift in sensibility toward, in the end, emotion and beauty. If you ever wanted proof of a designer using what he does as balm for a bruised soul, here it was.