FASHION : A little bit of what you fancy

Sleek and tattered, hot and cool, London Fashion Week was short on consistency but dizzy with verve and variety. Marion Hume and Tamsin Blanchard report from a busy runway
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Looking for a theme during London's fashion week was like looking for a needle in a haystack. There were charming country clothes, Cruella de Vil gowns, hot pants, fluffy bunny sweaters and some original and experimental tailoring. There were simple, sleek clothes and tattered rags. And, because this is London, there was a non-PC controversy and a sighting of Princess Di.

But how do you review such diversity? The fairest way, we thought, was just to let you know what we saw, so you will have some idea what to buy, and what not to touch when the autumn/winter collections arrive in the shops in six months' time.

Hussein Chalayan

Highlight of the season was from Cyprus-born Chalayan. The collection, Along False Equator, featured circuitboards, maps, weather charts and runway lights on sharply tailored wool suits as well as Chalayan's signature, untearable paper, waterproof nylon and neoprene. There were also beautifully tailored long coats in plain navy wool, and trousers with darts cut around the bottom to hug and flatter.

Betty Jackson

The week's strongest knitwear: Jackson gave us button-front knitted bodices and bright wool coats in orange wool or black fake fur. This was a soft respite from hard, structured tailoring. For more formal days, Jackson suggests a satin collar, button-front, body-skimming catsuit with wide trousers. For evening, there were knitted halterneck dresses and a series of simple black dresses in jersey and chiffon.

Ben de Lisi

This was his dbut show, although de Lisi has been providing simple, elegant eveningwear for years. He didn't mess about with daywear, but instead showed option after option on the little black dress, the long sheath dress, the prom dress, the party dress and the after-dark trouser suit (the latter beautifully tailored, sharp Seventies-style). "I am not here to invent some poetic masterpiece. I simply want to show you what I do best."

Margaret Howell

Howell has British style and casual charm wrapped up. There was a varied collection of tweeds, flannels and velvets. Long, lush velvet dressing gowns, worn over trousers and crisp shirts, or with silky smoking jackets wrapped and tied beneath, weren't groundbreaking, eccentric or shocking, but traditional, attractive and wearable, reflecting the side of British fashion that doesn't grab headlines, but ends up in wardrobes.

Helen Storey

When she is good, she is very very good and when she is bad, she is horrid. She was good, with a very strong collection. There was wickedly sexy tailoring in satin, complete with a bustle effect that doesn't require that you wear a cage under your dress, great drop-dead slinky gowns and daring peekabo bottom cleavage in what looked like just another slip dress. Clever and spirited, with softer, lusher pieces of devor eveningwear.

Fabio Piras

Simple shapes were cut carefully to the contours of the body and the result was flattering tailoring in navy and grey wool, herringbone tweed and flashes of yellow and of sheer red Lurex. The collection was jammed full of clothes you could actually wear, including very proper dresses that granny would approve of, the simplest of tailored suits with a jacket that zipped at the back so as not to spoil the line, and wide trousers that were split open from the calf, or fastened at the hem with cufflinks.

Sonja Nuttall

This was a comprehensive collection of dresses, suits and coats that showed off Sonja Nuttall's full tailoring potential. The collection was serene, with long empire-line dresses, a black needlecord frock coat with box-pleat short skirt. There were also the most comfortable mannish wool trousers and cut-away double-breasted jackets with peaked shoulders. Fabrics were subtle - velvet looked as if decaying leaves had become fossilised inside it.

Clements Ribeiro

Another dbut. Since showing as part of the New Generation last season, Suzanne Clements and Inacio Ribeiro have employed tailors to work with them, and the result was well thought out. The designers sell well in Japan, but should also do well here. A black satin dress and matching coat were pure Audrey Hepburn, while Bridget Riley-type black-and-red circle printed nylon coats, jackets and fitted shirts kept a modern edge. Neat little fitted coats were made of duck-egg blue satin embroidered with gold, and camel-wool schoolgirl coats will be a must-have next winter. Clothes for little princesses.

Ally Capellino

Simple kimono dresses in cream or grey wool, or with a delicate flower print creeping over the shoulders were the high point. The belted catsuit featured, too, in business-like pinstripe suiting. Knitted dresses with cowl necks were long, and a pale-blue skinny-rib sweater had flared sleeves. There were also neat dresses with knife-pleat skirts and some sparkly Lurex.

Bella Freud

Jaunty tailoring with high-waisted cigarette pants and short skirts with frilled hems. The wide trousers and cardigan jackets looked as though they were made for days in Deauville. There was a safari suit in cream, and a demure navy cocktail dress with huge pussycat bow at the neck. Freud in sweet and saucy mood.

Alexander McQueen

The Emperor's new clothes: rape victims staggering in dresses clawed at the breast were a sick joke, as were knitted dresses that M&S would make better for a fraction of the price. McQueen likes to shock. To admit to not liking his collection is to admit to being prudish. So, we admit it. He is a skilful tailor and a great showman, but why should models play abused victims? The show was an insult to women and to his talent.

Red Or Dead

A mish-mash: space 1999 nylon padded jackets; shiny Lycra catsuits worn with fluffy moonboots; anoraks with football scarves; gangster suits; tango dresses, and Seventies-style frilly evening suits. Phew! There was even a bit of shiny black plastic S&M gear for good measure!

Edina Roney

Here's someone who knows what a trend looks like. Hadn't we seen those nip-waisted suits somewhere before, Galliano, Paris, last March? Hadn't we seen the siren golden gown? (Very Versace). Hadn't we seen virtually every piece? But fashion is not about being original. Here was a collection that covered all conceivable bases, with a certain gusto.

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