The challenge of minimalism is where to go next. With the recent movements of minimalist majors Raf Simons and Jil Sander, the topic is more ripe than ever. Given her undeniable influence and status as near-deity to much of fashion’s cognoscenti, perhaps Phoebe Philo was feeling more pressure than usual this time around.

After a one-season semihiatus from the runway (in the late stage of pregnancy, last fall she opted for two small in-store presentations), Philo returned to a traditional show for spring. In a tight lineup she proposed several ideas, some strong and others that felt labored and uncomfortable, as if the next step may not be an obvious reveal. It made for interesting viewing.

Philo’s clearest message (other than that she knows her Helmut Lang) was a twist of fabric, a wide bandeau of sorts, across the bodice of T-shirts and other tops. Sometimes tone-on-tone, sometimes with an additional twist of black netting against white, these tacked together loosely in back for a rough-hewn effect. This “rawness” continued in unsewn hems, whether fully frayed or with a few long threads flying about. But it was a conceit about which Philo seemed hesitant; she used it quite randomly, so the net effect was, why?

No need to question why she scaled back on her proportions — it seems that designers everywhere got the sexy memo. While Philo still loves a slouchy, mannish silhouette, she also included looks with leaner, more sensual lines. Another nod to the vibe: dresses with deep V-necklines inset with graphic netting. Yet even here she seemed more uncertain than committed.

Philo’s surest hand was with accessories. Her silly flat slippers lined in vibrant fur — they looked like upscale pedicure slippers — were a runway-only (and possibly, some editors’ pick for next fashion week) witticism that managed to amuse. As for Philo’s new handbag, a soft pastel clutch rolled over on top like a paper bag, it was terrific. And happily so. For all the justified hoopla surrounding the Phoebe phenomenon, it’s her bags that rev the registers.

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