YOU could call her the Donna Karan of Camberwell: Pascale Smets designs clothes on the basis of what she wants and needs in her own wardrobe. The results are practical, classic and flattering styles that demystify fashion. 'If clothes don't make you look better when you put them on, then what's the point of them?' she asks. Hers sounds a blindingly obvious policy, but in practice it is rare enough to have marked her out from many of her contemporaries.

At 27 she has had her own business for three years, after stints in Paris, working for Daniel Hechter, and in London, where she was employed by Jean Muir. 'It is,' she says calmly, 'a night- mare running a fashion business in this country, for all the usual reasons - difficulties in finding factories that will make up small runs of clothes, plus a widespread belief among retailers that British customers won't invest in decent clothes.

'When I started, my boyfriend thought it would mean bumping into lots of glamorous supermodels and drinking champagne all day. In fact it's mostly climbing up dingy stairwells to studios in the East End and quite a lot of tears. On the other hand, I couldn't work for someone else any more, and I don't want to live anywhere else.'

Next week she joins other British designers to show her spring collection to the press (she has also been nominated in the Designer of the Year New Generation category). As in her previous collections, there is nothing too elaborate, too gimmicky or too throwaway in her ranges - just well cut jackets and waistcoats, slim trousers, bodies and wrap skirts in extremely covetable fabrics (silks, silk jerseys and viscoses) and tempting colours (lilac, cream and gold).

Smets is a pragmatist - a welcome trait in a designer. 'I like to think of my clothes being ageless and - as far they can be - timeless. My mother wears a lot of them, but so do I.

'These days age seems less important than attitude. I'm not built like a model, so what's the point of making clothes that only work on them? Fashion should be about looking good, not just jumping on the latest bandwagon.'

Pascale Smets' clothes are on sale at Fenwick of Bond Street, London W1; Eva in Ipswich; Lacy's in Oxford; Moon in Glasgow; Tokio in St Christopher's Place, London W1 and Brompton Road, London SW7; Bamboo in Leicester; Rebecca in Marlowe, Buckinghamshire; Charlie in Barnet. Jackets from pounds 260; skirts from pounds 100.

(Photograph omitted)

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