In her show notes this season, Margaret Howell described her process as one of “review and renewal.” You might not initially think of Howell’s steady, near-seasonless approach to design as one of constant renewal, but on closer inspection, it’s a maxim that holds true. After celebrating 50 years in the business last year, Howell has been quietly updating some of her classic pieces from the 1970s and ’80s—all stored in an archive a few blocks away from her flagship store in Marylebone—and casting them in a fresh new light with a few gentle tweaks.
While the utility and studied minimalism that has made her a stalwart of the British fashion scene was all present and correct, Howell also added a few more mischievous notes this season. In the lookbook, washed wax cotton sou’wester hats came cheekily tilted askew, while silk bandanas were tied around models’ necks, fluttering in the artificial wind of the studio in a way that gently recalled the irreverent spirit of Ray Petri’s London-centric ’80s Buffalo movement. Howell’s signature chore coats were nipped in at the waist with utilitarian belts, while loose navy trousers were tucked into white socks pulled far above the ankle, pantaloon-style, making for a more playful silhouette than usual.
Delightful they may be, but you don’t necessarily come to Howell for the more offbeat moments seen in her dynamic lookbook images, but instead for reliable (and effortlessly timeless) wardrobe staples. Don’t worry: she has you covered there too. As ever, the highlights were in the tactility of Howell’s irresistible combinations of textures: crisp cotton gauze shirts dyed a sherbet yellow underneath a perfect day-to-night linen trapeze dress—featuring pockets, of course—or for men, stiff Japanese denim jackets over buttery soft Egyptian cotton tees. Light and easy summer knits came in subdued, earthy shades, while the tailoring had a relaxed feel, with some of the women’s trousers blooming into a subtle flair. Balancing her reliable eye for functionality with something that felt breezy and looser, for Howell’s loyal army of fans, there was plenty here to be charmed by—and with the youthful styling of her lookbook, there might be a few pieces for a new audience, too.