At the rear of Margaret Howell's shop is a long, timber-framed skylight, a hangover from the space's days as a Victorian carpet dealer's gallery. Most of its original panels have been replaced over the years with dirt-caked, corrugated plastic or wired security glass. It's the kind of detail that Howell appreciates both in architecture and clothing; the found, the imprecise, the if-it-isn't-broke-don't-mess-with-it. And it's the detail that adds warmth and character to the cool, white-walled William Russell interior which doubles as Howell's show space.
That doubling up means that, uniquely in London, the clothes are seen very much as they will be by customers at the end of this year. And they're also seen much as they will be in real life; most men don't, after all, spend their days walking in front of psychedelic video screens or pulsating neon ceilings. In Howell's quiet, skylit space, though, both the models and the clothes looked like they were simply walking down a winter London street.
The light, and the narrow proportions of the runway, meant that the collection's tiny details were as visible to the audience as they would be to a customer — the woven diamond details on the back of roll-neck sweaters, the whip-stitched edges, the raised pockets, the bands of contrast color blocked onto unexpected tunic-style vests. And beyond that, Howell's subtle Vermeer colors shone as they couldn't have done in a larger venue — gloomy peat, charcoal, flannel and indigo, broken into with flashes of chestnut, mustard, puce and duck-egg blue. There's no doubt that they'll look equally desirable when the catwalk is dismantled, the hanging rails returned to their positions, and the space reverted to its primary function — showing, and selling, Howell's thoughtful clothes.