“Contrast,” commented Joseph creative director Louise Trotter, “has always been a big theme for me.” This season, she went on to say, she was really pushing the opposites—East versus West, tranquility versus energy, rawness versus refinement. The yin/yang of it all was apposite, given that Joseph is a brand that has sometimes seemed in the midst of an identity crisis. Is it a much-beloved multibrand shop with a house label that trades in elevated staples that help fill in the blanks of a designer wardrobe? Or is it a luxury fashion brand with a directional identity all its own? Joseph seems to want it both ways. No surprise, the brand has had mixed success with its more directional silhouettes, even as it reliably turns out excellent versions of the kinds of clothes it’s known for—knits, leathers, top-notch outerwear, fantastic pants, and slick menswear-inspired tailoring.

That’s plenty to get right, but Trotter et al. seem determined to push. This time out, they came close to having their cake and eating it too with a collection that mixed Japanese themes and sporty Anglo ones. Trotter said she was focused on “naive, post-technical” materials this season, and the coarse silks and linens, selvedge denim, and plonge leather used throughout the collection gave it an appealing sense of hand. There was also a lovely artlessness to the loopy knits, as well as the lace and organza skirts with razored, unfinished hems. The more restrained the silhouettes, the more the grace of the materials and the details emerged. A collection highlight, for instance, was the super-simple plonge leather tank dress worn by Sam Rollinson, which exemplified the less-was-more rule here. There were also some great denim pieces, a touch confused by the styling, and the knits and the sheer shirting popped, too. On the other hand, the sculpted sleeves were rather mannered, and the oversizing often came off slack. In the end, though, the show was convincing—you wanted to buy into the attitude. And that, of course, was the point.

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