Richard Nicoll poses himself as British fashion’s great existentialist. He pictures the people who populate his catwalk as outsiders, antiheroes…or, in this case, antiheroines. Just check out the lookbook for his new Resort collection. Against a brutalist concrete backdrop, Nicoll’s models cross paths without acknowledging one another, the very embodiment of chilly urban alienation. During a preview, he talked about “street clothes mixed with accepted forms of elegance, bad taste in high-class fabrics.” Clearly, the man has a very definite point of view.
But fortunately for Nicoll, what he says and what he does are at odds. The clothes he showed for Resort were not chilly at all, but rather supremely cool. Everything he indicated as dubious actually came across as efficiently chic. Python, for instance, struck him as a print in bad taste. It sure didn’t look that way in a reversible parka, reptile-printed silk jacquard on one side, plain canvas on the other. That registered as a very clever multipurpose item. And a long jersey dress embossed with snake said easy, sinuous glamour.
Nicoll made much of a paint-spatter effect, but reproduced in a Lurex jacquard, it seemed more like tweed than some downbeat urban excrescence. And if the designer was courting the synthetically tacky connotations of patent leather, he failed miserably with a blouson in a muted duck-egg blue that looked and felt wonderful.
New to Nicoll in this collection was his embrace of black: a black leather biker jacket, a black silk crepe T-shirt dress, a sundress in black denim whose sweetness was compromised by the long zip that snaked down its spine. A sexy sheath dress was made more so by zips front and back. There is an innuendo hidden in an outfit like that, but maybe that’s where Nicoll’s theory and practice meet. He sees himself pushing the limits of acceptability; we see clothes with a knowing sophistication.