BY LINKING up with chain stores and larger design groups, some of Britain's top designers - including Abe Hamilton, Bella Freud and Joe Casely-Hayford - will this month become available to their biggest-ever markets.

Freud and Casely-Hayford have designed collections for Stirling Cooper and Top Shop, and Abe Hamilton has produced a more up-market but still affordable range for Browns Own Label, as well as having his collection sold at branches of Jigsaw.

'I've never wanted to restrict myself to one market or age group,' Hamilton says. 'Even if it is a simple tunic, I think it is important to have something in my collection that conveys my spirit but which is affordable to most people.'

Browns Own Label is the latest in a line of in-house collections of well-priced basics. The range is created by a small collective and Hamilton, who has been nominated for this year's British Fashion Award for the New Generation, has designed a collection of evening wear.

The label is the brainchild of Caroline Collis, the daughter of Joan and Sidney Burstein, who own Browns, the designer emporium in South Molton Street, London. 'I would like the label to bring in new customers who might not normally shop at Browns,' says Collis, who sees the Browns Own Label shop, which opened last month, as a showcase for young British clothing and accessory designers. Each season the spotlight will be on a new young designer.

Hamilton's 'capsule' collection comprises six pieces of velvet and devore separates - shifts, wrapover evening skirts, long cardigan coats, wide trousers and long shoe-string strap dresses. Prices start at pounds 95 for a devore T-shirt.

'It's very important that we keep the clothing more affordable to a larger public,' says Collis. The idea is that the clothes will bridge the gap between the high street and the more expensive designer ranges carried by Browns. The collection also bridges the size gap - all the clothes go up to a 16.

At much more of a street level, Bella Freud is enjoying her collaboration with the 25-year-old high-street chain of Stirling Cooper. 'It is perfect for both of us,' she says. 'There was a gap at Stirling Cooper in tailoring and knitwear - exactly the things I am good at.'

While raising Stirling Cooper's profile, the collection also makes Bella Freud's clothes available to people who could not normally afford them. The collection is just starting to trickle into the stores. Prices are extremely reasonable, starting at pounds 32.99 for a white shirt up to pounds 99 for a black velvet ankle-length fitted coat.

Other pieces in the range are pale blue and navy melton peacoats with matching skirts, tweed suiting and a range of velvet.

High street/designer collaborations are mutually cost-effective. They also mean the high street need not rely on copying from high fashion. With Bella Freud they have the real thing. 'I have not had to compromise and can still use quite good quality fabrics, because they buy in such huge quantities,' she says. For her own label, she always has to produce something new, while she can reinvent favourite well-tested shapes for Stirling Cooper.

Meanwhile at Top Shop, Joe Casely-Hayford has produced a modern punky collection which will be available nationwide from November. 'We see designer link-ups as the way forward,' says Top Shop. The range includes satin jackets, trousers with bondage straps, cotton shirts, a satin kilt and a tartan dress, starting at pounds 29.99. A fitted jacket in brown satin costs pounds 59.99. A Joe Casely-Hayford mainline jacket sells for around pounds 300.

(Photograph omitted)

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