Fly the elegant, well-tailored flag

They might not weigh their hems with chains, but neither do they weigh down their designs with detail. Marion Hume salutes the n ew breed of Brits who are creating grown-up, well-crafted clothes
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Indy Lifestyle Online
If you are a young designer, or a young design duo, it is probably easiest to launch yourself on to the fashion scene at a time when clothes are simple. Take the shift dress, so popular last summer and so easy to make (unless you get into tricky b ias cutting). A few metres of fabric and a good sense of colour and you might just get away with it.

But what if you are a young designer, or a young design duo, trying to make your name at a time when the current taste is for slender, refined tailoring? Such is the trend now, as womenswear moves away from second-skin Lycra body-cling and the loose and floppy layers of recent times. A taste for tailoring makes things a good deal more complicated. It is not something to attempt if you do not know what you are doing, as every tiny fault has a knack of making itself visible.

Thankfully, some young Brits have taken the time to learn their craft instead of inflicting ill-made tailored suits on an unwilling world. Go to Owen Gaster, Sonja Nuttell or Copperwheat Blundell and, while you won't find a suit made to the standards of Yves Saint Laurent, neither will you get one with lumpen stitching, ill-conceived shaping, uneven shoulder pads or trailing threads.

For years young British designers have been labelled as innovative, but have also been hindered by the expectation that their offerings were likely to be badly made. In truth, that was often the case before. But these days anyone tough enough to set up their own design label can be relied upon to make clothes that are as well crafted as possible.

There are restrictions: you won't find chains weighing down hems or hand-stuffed shoulder pads in the collections of Sonnentag Mulligan or Copperwheat Blundell. But you will find modern clothes, free of over-the-top detailing, that will not let you down.

As we approach the next round of international fashion shows, which throughout March and early April will take us through Milan, Paris, New York and London, the London shows are once again assuming more importance. It looks most likely that our most famous names - Vivienne Westwood, Rifat Ozbek, John Galliano - will show abroad again, while that most refined of designers, Jean Muir, will have a small-scale presentation. But newer names, including those you see here, are helping London to reassert itself.

During the past few years, the London fashion season gained a tarnished reputation (which, to be fair, was not entirely deserved). It was dubbed the "London Fashion Five Minutes" because if you blinked, you missed it. Next month our most exciting talentswill show their wares between 11 and 14 March, hardly a long haul compared with the fortnight in Paris but more than five minutes all the same. Vidal Sassoon and Renault cars are providing sponsorship.

The names here (the mouthfuls are the result of duos who have combined their names on joint labels) are helping London to win back attention. Meanwhile, their current collections are in the shops. So if a lime-green, single-breasted jacket with wide-legged pants is your kind of outfit, visit Sonnentag Mulligan. If your after-dark taste stretches to a tuxedo jacket with matching satin binding and striped satin trousers, take a look at Pearce Fionda. For once, here are clothes that fit grown-up women, that are elegant but not overly sedate; and that are well made and well priced. Fly the flag.

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