London goes girly with Luella and Christopher Kane

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Girls just want to have fun. That was the message from the British designer Luella Bartley at London Fashion Week yesterday, where she unveiled a collection of sweet, colourful dresses and separates with a pop twist.

"I get a bit sick of this skinny black uniform," Bartley said from backstage at the Luella show, referring to the de facto dress code of the fashion pack. The prom skirts, giant polka dots and candy colours on her catwalk might be just the thing to replace fashion's passion for black with a more uplifting aesthetic come spring/summer 2010.

Fifties couture-inspired shapes were given a youthful feel with shorter lengths, cheerful colours and patterns. Coats came with rounded shoulders and volume at the back or in neat, fitted styles fastened with a large bow – tomato, candyfloss pink, forget-me-not blue or buttercup yellow. The full-skirted prom dress – a staple Luella piece – came in pale coffee or grey taffeta with giant, darker spots, and black satin with an antique rose print.

Ultra girlish details came from heart shapes cut into dress bodices and big plastic hair bows. Anna Wintour was seated in the front row but it was "It" girl and MTV presenter Alexa Chung, also present, who typified Bartley's young, breezily hip audience.

Bartley said that she was inspired by Factory Records album sleeves, the Hacienda nightclub – and Blue Peter.

A girlish air also characterised the Christopher Kane show. The feted 27-year-old Scot's previous shows were inspired by Planet of the Apes and the film Carrie. This time, Kane imagined a girl repressed within a pseudo-religious cult trying to express herself, combined with The Brady Bunch.

The clothes had a surface innocence, with flared and shift-style knee-length dresses in pale blue and brown gingham-print silk, and ice cream colours. This contrasted with more complex ideas and a nascent sexuality, in the form of beading, corsetry detailing, visible bra-cups, cutaway and sheer panels.

Underwear has been one of the week's major trends. Kane graduated three years ago; yesterday his show was watched by Anna Wintour, Sir Philip Green and Donatella Versace.

At Marios Schwab – a designer who made his name around the same time as Kane with body-conscious designs – a more serious aesthetic prevailed.

Prone to intellectual inspirations, Schwab – who has been appointed the creative director of the revived US brand Halston – cited the cultural significance of the number three as a reference. This translated into sophisticated three-part dresses with cropped, pleated silk tops layered over tunics and longer, ruched and bunched skirts in combinations of parchment, purple, black and forest green.

Today at London Fashion Week

*Fashion East

Established in 2000 by Lulu Kennedy, the Fashion East scheme showcases young designers. Ones to watch this year include Holly Fulton, who last season showed cartoonish takes on art deco designs.

*Peter Pilotto

This duo's mineral prints and unusual futuristic shapes are a favourite with fashion industry insiders looking to make a statement.


The big one. Designed by Christopher Bailey, this British brand has relocated from Milan for London Fashion Week's 25th anniversary. There's a star-studded party afterwards, so it's one to glam up for.

*Roksanda Ilincic

The former model who creates avant-garde but still pretty party dresses has designed a range for high street brand Whistles.

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