Margaret Howell’s Quiet & Detailed Restraint for S/S’12

by Katie on November 10, 2011

Before reviewing every collection I always give the designer’s name a cursory Google search, and I came across some surprising facts about Margaret Howell.

1. Jack Nicholson insisted on wearing his own Margaret Howell corduroy jacket for his role in Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Steven King’s ‘The Shining’.

2. Margaret Howell designed uniforms for the staff of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum in 2006 which are still in use.

3. Howell actually started her business in 1972 as a cottage industry in her Blackheath flat.

Okay, so fact number 2 might not be so unexpected. Howell’s designs have always retained a utilitarian edge and timelessness. What is more surprising is that the 40 year-old label is embraced by such a young demographic. Relatively unknown outside the cognoscenti in London, Howell’s work is embraced in provincial cities throughout the country such as Nottingham, Leeds, and my adopted home city of Manchester, where her clothing is a favourite with every style-savvy, twenty-something shopper.

Alongside Folk and Nigel Cabourn, the Margaret Howell brand has an authenticity and honesty which gives it an almost heritage-like patina.

For her Spring/Summer 2012 collection Howell offers some subtle nods to lots of current trends. The drop waists and full skirts of the Fifties, wide deckchair stripes and sailor caps, colour-blocking, and some inconspicuous polka dots are all there, yet the distinctive Howell handwriting remains.

The overall mood is of restraint. This is a demure collection for intellectual wallflowers with a respect for craft and detail.

Another interesting Howell fact – Grace Coddington chose a Margaret Howell piece in 1982 as her Dress of the Year. In the 2009 US Vogue-themed documentary ‘The September Issue’ it is Coddington, not editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, who quietly exudes an expertise and keen eye for design. This is the Margaret Howell woman.

Review written for Katie Chutzpah blog by Lee Clatworthy (@TeamChutzpah).

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