“The Internet doesn’t throw up much about Lady Rhoda Birley,” Peter Jensen’s show notes warn. Yet seeing the first image a Google search yields of her — clutching pruning sheers, one foot in her beloved flower beds — set the designer’s mind racing.
He reprised the quirky style represented by that photo into a charming spring collection built on colorful cardigans, mannish shirts and trousers, and flaring tea dresses in gingham checks or broderie anglaise. Learning that this passionate gardener — mother of Fifties fashion plate Maxime de la Falaise — cooked Lobster Thermidor to feed her roses compelled him to print the crustacean on a mustard yellow sweatshirt. “She claimed that they loved it,” he related.
Jensen’s presentation fed the narrative as models mingled inside a framework greenhouse surrounded by pots of gladiolas. They wore tall straw hats worn askew over headscarves, just like Birley did.
The collection straddled the whimsical — cartoonish prints of hills dotted with sheep — to the practical, like the sleek, lightweight Made in Denmark clogs that grounded every look.