Isolation can exert a powerful influence. With a nod to the notion of a closed community and the pioneers who arrived in a new land with their steamer trunks packed with precious pieces – delicate silks and exquisite French lace, alongside their most humble and practical garments – Zambesi’s 2010/11 summer range continues a dialogue that has been underway now for almost three decades.

Instead of grasping outwards at the world Zambesi take an introspective approach, an attitude that manifests itself throughout the collection: as in previous seasons, pieces re-use vintage materials sourced from Zambesi’s own workrooms; there are the references to the label’s archive patterns recreated with new interpretations; fabrics and shapes are reworked in new, unexpected ways - like the burst and flourish of exposed gauze and silk in the Victorian detailing on the cuff of a sleeve.

Clean, modern and minimal, the collection includes considered renditions of deconstruction – razor-slashed silk garments that are not casually ripped apart but meticulously shredded and then refined and expertly finished.

Fabrics are either lightweight and delicate or they express a raw honesty of purpose. So the fragility of French lace, parachute silk, sheer cotton silks, wool gauze and transparent mesh is anchored by the pragmatism of the everyday – fabrics like cotton sweatshirting, coated linen and pinstripe suiting.

Foundation colours predominate. The heavier neutrals – navy, black and cement, mix with soft lingerie shades of vintage cream, faded ballet pink, nude and plaster grey.

Zambesi Woman

Delicate chemise slips in parachute and sheer silk come with shirt-tail hemlines. Lingerie influences also inform the slip dresses and blowsy, unstructured silhouettes that billow romantically with tiny gathers at the bust. Wool gauze overshirts have boned hoop necks. Screen-checked silk dresses are oversized and sheer. Parachute silk loose pants are toughened up with ribbing cuffs and waists, while hoodies in the same silk have slashed detailing. Archival favourites revisited include the lightweight sheer silk bomber in iconic shades of cement and navy. Suiting pieces include skirts with detached waistband detailing. Acidwash t-shirting with distressed mesh fits neatly into a collection where texture and colour combine together as one entity. The season’s unisex t-shirt print is a Victorian steampunk rendition of fob watch, key and locket motifs.

Zambesi Man

The importance of texture is equally prevalent in the men’s collection this season with sheer check short-sleeve shirts, parachute silk shirting, and wool gauze-exposed suit sleeves imbuing the range with lightness. Key detailing includes the dominant patch pocket – seen on school blazer-style suiting jackets and waistcoats, and trompe-l’oeil pin-tuck detailing with cotton sweatshirting sewn to the front of shirts. The short-sleeve shirt appears in several fabric renditions marking it as important for the season. Trousers are either pleat-fronted with a cuff, flat-fronted with a cuff or in a regular slim leg, but all versions adhere to a lean silhouette. The modernisation of the double-breasted suit with new, narrow lapels and altered proportions comes in subtle navy pinstripe. Two-button suiting is in muted charcoal or navy herringbone.

Trenchcoats are abbreviated and modern in technical fabrics and prosaic shades of cement and plaster grey. Untreated chambray and madras checks add a collegiate air to bomber jackets and shirts. Shorts come in suiting and heavy cotton, with single pleat fronts and large rear patch pocketing. T-shirting includes draped cowl neck versions while viscose knit polo shirts are the logical endpoint of minimalism.


French lace pieces from the Zambesi storeroom re-emerge blended with random combinations of cotton lace and tulle in unique, reworked neckpieces.

Long silk kerchiefs have a roguish quality. Neckties worn as adornment come in heavily textured silk herringbone, or subtle linen herringbone in soft nudes, pink and black.

The Armadillo bag returns in boned soft-washed canvas.

Cuffs in plaited leather are refined, not rough. Lace frill cuffs for the wrist and neck hint at Victorian austerity in antique cream and jet.

Belts are canvas webbing in cream with black leather detailing, and classic black leather belts wrap broadly at the hips.

Hand-blocked capeline hats come in two styles, in natural or black straw.

Black leather bags come in laptop sized and compact versions, all with utilitarian shoulder straps and steel stud fastenings.

Women’s boots have slash detailing, solid block heels and peep toes. Men’s shoes have a buccaneer silhouette in black leather and steel hook fastenings.