It feels more than a bit absurd to profess that Margaret Howell, a designer who is remarkably reserved in all facets of her work, has been generating a lot of buzz lately. And yet, with a New Balance collaboration on the way and a quintessentially crisp collection in stores now, it seems that Howell, who has oft been described as a “fashion outsider,” finds herself squarely in the center of menswear’s general purview. Despite this heightened level of interest in her designs, it would be tough to imagine Howell responding, or even thinking twice about the fact that her name has been orbiting through publications and conversations with greater frequency as of late. With nearly forty years in this industry under her belt, it’s clear that for Howell attention is not the end goal.
This attitude can be perceived in each of her designs, all of which bare a specific production date but look as though they could be from 1972, or 1996, just as easily as they could be from 2014. Howell, who founded her eponymous label out of her house in 1970, started incredibly small, producing nothing but shirts (which she wholesaled to the likes of Ralph Lauren), but today her company has grown into a powerhouse of English style. And that’s what most important about Howell, she has never lost her English edge. Her clothes still carry that air of classic Anglo refinement, even if they are decidedly more casual than the wares you’d find on Savile Row.
Howell has always prioritized quality over trend, partnering with companies like John Smedley and Macintosh to create clothing that might be forward thinking from an aesthetic perspective, but is grounded by her country’s heritage of highly durable goods. Howell’s minimalist creations might be too understated (read: too normal) for some, but if there’s one thing Howell knows after all the years, it’s how to make a garment that endures. A Howell jacket today is likely to get just as much wear ten, or even twenty years from now, and there’s not really many “fashion” designers that can make that claim.