Tonight, in a gallery in the middle of a rain-drenched Hyde Park, Pringle of Scotland celebrated its 200-year anniversary. Characteristically, it was an understated celebration; after all, for most of that long history Pringle was simply a local knitwear factory, part of the great wave of innovation that turned a homespun craft skill into an international industry. But since its adoption by the American leisured classes in the Fifties, the label has come to stand for a particular kind of nonchalant luxury — one embodied by the iconic pastel-coloured Argyle patterns once favoured by the likes of Grace Kelly.
In the last decade or so the house has undergone numerous reinventions, many of which have honed in on the ironic appeal of that Argyle print. But under current director Massimo Nicosia, Pringle has had a rather more serious rebirth; one based on the core principle of elevating knitwear into an independent luxury category. And today’s show was a confident progress statement on that mission, with 34 looks which focused almost entirely on that notion. Simple, largely single-colour silhouettes drew the eye into the inventive, intricate surface treatments Nicosia had developed — wool interwoven with strips of carved mink, or moulded into strong, memory-formed curves; chain-mail embroidered with cashmere, worn tapestry prints, and beads clustered into coils of shell-like embellishment. The colour palette had an equally gentle sumptuousness of its own (the evocative show notes referred to liquorice, nightshade, ruby, ebony, blush and slate). And yet, thanks to the casual ease of the collection’s individual elements — fluid sweaters, languid twin sets and floor-skimming scarves — Nicosia’s vision retained a sense of compelling purity. The show closed with the simplest possible combination: a cable knit sweater over slim trousers. It wasn’t a showstopper, in the traditional sense. But as a means of marking the anniversary of one of Britain’s oldest fashion houses, it was a quietly eloquent way of closing the circle; back to basics, in the most ravishingly wrought sense of that word.