Otherworldly. That was probably the only link that could be made between the two women who anchored Richard Nicoll's collection this morning: Laurie Anderson and Tinkerbell. Anderson's flatly ethereal voice provided the spoken-word soundtrack; Tinkerbell suggested the metallic fairy silhouettes that dangled from bags and the dress - made of ice-blue, shimmering fibre-optic strands, which opened the show.
They represented two very different kinds of magic, and two different kinds of escape. And in his collection, which evoked the potent shadow of turn-of-the-millennium minimalism, Nicoll seemed to want a bit of both. On the one hand, delicate slip dresses (suspended by barely-there webs of spaghetti straps) unfurled to reveal pastel paisley-print linings and dip-dyed colour; on the other, second-skin activewear came wrapped in scaled-up handknits, and zip-slashed gingham shirts were paired with utility-detailed separates in clinical lilacs and mints. It was the same kind of tension the designer had explored in his recent topsy-turvy, inside-out menswear show. And the idea of escape - from uniformity, from dress codes, from rules in general - was an intriguing one.
Inevitably, it meant the collection wasn't as calmly coherent as Nicoll's shows usually are, except for the closing sequence, where his delicate palette switched to seductively assured violets and blacks. But it's clear Nicoll is chafing to move into a different direction: when he came out to take his quick bow, he already had his rucksack strapped to his back.