I first came across Boudicca under less-than-auspicious and typically obscure circumstances almost three years ago. Brian Kirby and his partner Zowie Broach were, like me, talked into visiting the sleepy seaside town of Rijeka in Croatia and taking part in the twice-yearly "collections" there.
Croatia, you might think, is hardly fashion central, unlike say Paris, Milan or New York. And you'd be right. The idea behind our involvement - naively enough - was that to bring a little slice of London to an area hardly known for its fashion forward approach - but still wanting to make a name for itself through its clothes - could only be a good thing.
Broach puts it more pragmatically: "Hey, it was a holiday. We did it because they asked us to. And it was good practice. It was mad though, wasn't it?" It most certainly was. Six hours and around 50 designers into the event, at around one in the morning - in Croatia, fashion shows are clearly, well, an eclectic affair; an eclectic affair that goes on, and on, and on - Broach and Kirby had their moment. To say that their designs were at odds with everything around them would be an understatement. Croatian fashion turned out to be disappointingly bourgeois - a far cry from the radical creativity in the face of adversity we had been led to expect. There were moments of madness, of course (dogs in psychedelic shades and ra-ra skirts adapted to fit the canine form) but for the most part a deluge of ill-conceived Armani and Versace rip-offs were the order of the day. The spiky, raw-edged sexuality of Boudicca's designs put all this to shame - it was also a million miles away from anything anyone in the audience had seen before. Several seasons on in the rather more design-friendly environs of London Fashion Week last March and Boudicca, by now a more complex and thoughtful label, is still very pleasantly surprising. To begin with, next autumn/winter's collection is inspired by Howard Hughes - the least likely of fashion icons. To be fair, Broach is quick to point out that Hughes' own look - not a famously good one - is not the key to the collection, rather it is his reclusive lifestyle. "The collection's about the world we live in," she says. "We are increasingly single - we work alone, travel alone, live alone - but we'd rather be part of a couple, we'd rather have company." Next season then, Boudicca devotees can look forward to a beautifully tailored "Embrace Me" jacket which not only comes in the type of rich fabric you want to reach out and touch, but also has pockets at each shoulder allowing any potential admirer to hug you inside your clothes. The equally accomplished "Solitary Dress" is slashed at both sides of the waist leading straight to skin, meaning the wearer can hug themselves if they're feeling lonely, poor things. Also idiosyncratic was the way in which the designers chose to show their clothes. …