Fashion: The next big spring

For a fresh new look, focus on the latest from four British designers, says Fashion Editor Tamsin Blanchard. Pictures by Sheridan Morley
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IT MAY not feel like Spring just yet, but on Planet Fashion the season is well on its way. Most women do not begin the season with a brand spanking new wardrobe; one key piece can be a treat. We have selected four designer looks - from four British labels - to get you into the mood.

It would not be spring 1998 without a mention of Alexander McQueen. You hear his name often enough, but what are his clothes actually like? They're not at all pointed shoulders and bum-hugging trousers. It's intricate cutting that makes his clothes so special. According to Angela Quanitrell, who buys his collection for Liberty, McQueen is bought by women who want something more than just a skillful bit of tailoring: they want to be noticed.

For something a little less formal, YMC is a two-year-old British label for both men and women, selling functional clothing - those in the know recognise the cool minimalism of a khaki YMC jacket or the unfussy cut of a pair of trousers.

If you want a tip for a new name, invest in a piece of Tristan Webber. This is his first collection since graduating from Central St Martin's and he is a name to watch. Browns bought Webber's graduation collection, selling it "to order" which means that they had a few select customers for his sliced and spliced leather in mind. This season he will reach a wider audience. Look out for sharply tailored red leather jackets with a split seam up the back.

Antonio Beradi is another St Martin's wunderkind who makes seriously sexy clothes. Backed by an Italian manufacturer, his clothes are beautifully finished. Fresh from his collection shown at London Fashion Week, Berardi has designed a leather collection for Italian company Ruffo which was presented in Milan last night, and is hosting a tea party for another label, Soll, at the end of the week. Berardi knows how to make a show- stopper - the Sicilian lace dress worn by Naomi Campbell for his show last October took 14 women, four months to make, and will be available to order, at a cost in excess of pounds 14,000. But he can also make wearable clothes, including plunging V-neck sweaters in black, blue or baby pink, pleated mini skirts, and basket-weave tango dresses.

Food for thought: if you like your fashion a little more stark and intellectual, Belgium's Martin Margiela is the man. His first collection for Hermes is unveiled in Paris next week. The leader of the deconstruction movement of the early Nineties, Margiela has turned clothes inside out, taken them apart and sewn them up again, and even unpicked the Stockman dress- making dummy and used it as the basis for a collection. For spring, Margiela has used the humble plastic carrier bag as inspiration. His signature label tacked onto each garment has become synonymous with the best of modern design.

All the clothes featured on this page are available at Liberty. `The Independent' is hosting a reader evening at the store on Wednesday 25 March, 6.30pm -8.30pm. The first 250 readers to apply for tickets are invited to be talked through the collections for men and women by `The Independent' stylist, Sophia Neophitou, and the fashion editor, Tamsin Blanchard. Expert advice will help solve your new season shopping problems and there will be a 15 per cent discount available on fashion purchases bought on the night. Tickets are pounds 5, including a free goody bag from NARS cosmetics, champagne and canapes. Send a cheque payable to Liberty Plc to Jo Childs, Liberty Press Office, Regent Street, London W1R 6AH.

Above: Black and white Prince of Wales check and pinstripe dress, pounds 255 by Alexander McQueen, available from Liberty, Regent Street, London W1, Browns, 23-27 South Molton Street, London W1, Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge, London SW1, Harrods, Knightsbridge, London SW3, Joseph, 77 Fulham Road, London SW3. Far left: Red leather jacket with slash back, pounds 750, by Tristan Webber, from Liberty, Koh Samui, 65 Monmouth Street, London WC2.

Above left: Black & silver lace-up dress, pounds 1,800, by Antonio Berardi, from Liberty, A La Mode, 36 Hans Cresent, London SW3. Above right: Beige skirt, pounds 75, sky blue t-shirt, pounds 35, grey jacket, pounds 165, all by YMC, from Liberty, Duffer of St.George, 29 Shorts Gardens, London WC2, Browns Focus, South Molton Street, London W1, navy socks, pounds 4.99, by Hue, from department stores nationwide; loafers, pounds 49.99, by Office, Neal Street, London WC1. Stylist, Sophia Neophitou Hair and Makeup, Fiona Moore for Jo Hansford, Model, Camilla at Storm

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