New SEASON New TRENDS

August isn't over yet, but in the shops it's already autumn. It may be too early to be buying a winter coat, but if you're in the market for a new suit, dress or even lipstick, the following 12 pages of key catwalk looks will show you what to search for. Tamsin Blanchard and Melanie Rickey report

SEEING RED

BACK in the Eighties, Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons declared that red was "the new black". But this autumn there's nothing new, old or in-between about red. The message is simple: this is the colour of fire, danger, sex and the devil (oh yes - and Heinz tomato soup), just like it's always been. The latest reds will add instant life to any wardrobe that is getting a bit frayed around the edges: a splash of pure, unadulterated scarlet, whether for a winter woolly, a coat or a pair of tights, is all you really need to give last year's staples a new lease of life. TB

CLOSE-UP: SCARLET WOMEN, SCARLET LIPS

"Just say to yourself: `I've got very beautiful lips'; then take your lipstick and apply it. Okay?" Alison Steadman's immortal line, as Beverly in Mike Leigh's Abigail's Party, should be taken to heart by every vamp worth her pin-up-red lipstick this season. At all the shows, and in Paris in particular, every shade of red - from vermilion to pillar box - was paraded on the mouths of models, who posed and pouted for all they were worth. They made red lips look easy; but wearing this colour can be scary if you're used to something more neutral - that rather good, anonymous shade of nude that Bobbi Brown does, perhaps, the sort that says "let me be". Red lipstick demands just the opposite: this is the ultimate "look at me" colour. Red lips are sexy, they make a statement, they are brave and challenging, and they alter the dimensions of the face for the better. A woman wearing red lipstick is bound to be noticed, one way or another. Our ultimate Nineties red-lipstick woman? Anna from This Life - even though she never seems able to put her lip liner on properly. MR

TWEEDY TYPES

Does the word "tweed" conjure up images of a tacky Seventies perfume, itchy coats made in Scotland and Miss Jean Brodie? If so, it`s time for a rethink. For tweed has become sexy, smart and tailored. Oh, and practical too. From Vivienne Westwood to Jil Sander, and Chanel to Alexander McQueen, it comes speckled, checked and textured. Colours are nearly always neutral - grey is most popular, followed by fawn and salt'n'pepper. But Chanel does it the best, with muted jewel shades woven into wide trousers, worn with a classic jacket or sumptuous polo neck. MR

CLOSE-UP: EXOTIC WRAPS

Some designers obsess over seams, hems and cut. Others make their clothes "new" each season by visiting country after country and presenting a pick'n'mix from the traditional dress they find there - one season it will be Tibet, the next Thailand. But try to keep up with these biannual changes of exotic destination and you run the risk of looking completely ridiculous. A better idea is to pick out a shawl, wrap or scarf, so adding a hint of exotica without looking as if you're in national costume. Dries Van Noten can always be relied on for sumptuous wraps (above), rich in silk or cashmere, with Indian embroidery or gold Paisley. These aren't cheap; and at prices of up to pounds 695 - more than many of us would spend on an entire winter wardrobe - they're more heirloom than fashion accessory. But Liberty (tel: 0171 734 1234) has a range of generous own-label wraps developed in India, including some in hand- printed silk with embroidered beads and sequins, for around pounds 175. Otherwise go DIY. Buy a length of Liberty's Indian silk in bright yellow or rustic aubergine with chain-stitched embroidery, a snip at pounds 19.95 a metre. TB

TAILOR MADE

Fashion can favour whatever silhouette it likes, but when it comes to actually buying a suit, nothing dictates the style of what you'll end up with like your own body. Luckily, this season's tailoring comes both loose and fitted; both styles have a definite masculine look. If you like to hide under something big and slouchy, there are jackets so wide they'll hang off your shoulders at Jean Paul Gaultier, and trousers by Gucci so loose and baggy they make the biggest girl look slim. Keep an eye out, too, for city-slicker pinstripes, or anything else that looks as if you stole it from the opposite sex. TB

CLOSE-UP: POWER SHOULDERS, AGAIN

Shoulder pads were big in the Eighties. Very, very big. Think Joan Collins as Alexis Carrington in Dynasty, stalking the corridors of Colby Co in her tailored skirt-suit, her padded shoulders wider than Dex Dexter's real ones. Remember Ivana Trump, Nancy Reagan and Joan Rivers? Their exaggerated shoulders illustrated their need to be taken seriously, to be accepted in a man's world. But by the end of the decade, big shoulders were a joke. They were regarded by men as blunt instruments, used by women to jostle male rivals out of the way, and by the fashion professionals who created them as lacking in individuality. The inevitable backlash meant that early-Nineties shoulders disappeared under a veil of wispy floral chiffon and deconstructed tailoring. Padding was a fashion sin, and Power Shoulders, as they were christened in the US, became symbolic of a decade gone wrong. First the backlash, then the resurrection. Two years ago big shoulders would have looked dated, but manipulated by the skilful hands of Alexander McQueen (above), Pearce Fionda and Tom Ford at Gucci, they look modern, new, and - shock, horror - wearable. Well, almost. MR

LEATHER LOOK

Politically correct it is not. Sexy, shiny and raunchy, on the other hand, it most certainly is. Leather has long been the stuff of S&M fantasy, biker jackets and practical outerwear but now it is emerging as a versatile tool for designers too. Antonio Berardi apparently looked to Evel Knievel for inspiration when creating his leather dresses, suits, jackets and gloves; Versace, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren tailored soft kid into elegant dresses, slimline coats, sharp jackets and pencil skirts in an array of bright colours. But it was Ann Demeulemeester who proved that, for the sexiest modern edge, leather still has to be black. MR

CLOSE-UP: KILLER HEELS

Osteopaths will be rubbing their hands in glee: business this autumn promises to be good. Why? Because fashion designers have decreed that the easiest step to instant glamour is a pair of needle-sharp stiletto heels. In other words, how to put your back out and look like a superbitch in one easy twist of the ankle. Killer heels prowled the catwalk at Alexander McQueen's Givenchy show, towered at Prada, and positively defied gravity at Gucci, where, not content to be merely sharp and spiky, they were metallic and shiny too (above). The influence of Prada and Gucci on the shoe market cannot be underestimated. If these labels made hob-nailed boots with 12- inch platforms and yellow laces, the shoe world would follow suit, and before you could say "ugly as sin" you would be buying the high-street version at a fraction of the price. If money (and your physical well-being) is no object, the names to look for are Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choo (he has a new, teeteringly good ready-to-wear shoe line), Gina, Stephane Kelian, Sergio Rossi and, of course, Gucci and Prada. Flex those calf muscles, perfect your balance, and enjoy the trip. TB

GREY POWER

And you thought grey was something that went out with John Major. Well, fashion works in mysterious ways, and this was a colour that cropped up everywhere, in all its endless rainy-day shades. Slate, dove, sludge, call it what you will: the high street cannot ignore such a unanimous decision, and if the designers have got it right we'll all soon be dressing in soft grey jackets, grey flannel trousers and grey jumpers. Don't be surprised if a washing-powder company brings out a product that makes your clothes greyer than grey. You'll need it. TB

CLOSE-UP: SEQUINS

Sequins are normally reserved for circus performers, ballroom dancers, disco groovers and Oscar nominees. And while the latter can head off to Giorgio Armani and Valentino to pick up their glittering masterpieces (each one hand-sewn, of course, by craftsmen), the rest have to do it themselves. For the most part, sewing on tiny sequins is a thankless task; just think of all the mothers who have spent hours, needle and thread in hand, producing something for their fox-trotting offspring in which to Come Dancing. This autumn fashion magpies and proud mothers alike may well be collecting the new variety of sequinned wear: clothes that look as good on the street as they do on the catwalk. Prada showed sequins glittery and bold along necklines and around hems; Miu Miu had them as big as 10-pence pieces, sewn on to little-girl dresses and hanging, suspended, from their hems. Their shoes and bags, too, were entirely covered with tiny sequins in candy colours that sparkled with every step, reviving happy memories of Dorothy heel-clicking her way back to Kansas in The Wizard of Oz. All together now: "There's no place like home." MR

SCHOOL'S OUT

The fashion schoolgirl is back: naughty, staying up all night reading Jilly Cooper novels in her dorm, and sneaking out to meet boys. John Galliano's version wore ludicrously short pleated skirts, loosened ties, high heels with white ankle-socks, and no bra. What would the house mistress say? Fortunately, catwalk schoolgirls weren't all so wayward. At Alberto Biani, Chanel and Balenciaga they were neat, studious and well groomed. Together with the reappearance of masculine tailoring, this look is a sure sign that smart "uniform" dressing and the mini-skirt are back - so be prepared. MR

CLOSE-UP: HATS, GLOVES AND BAGS

The famous fashion maxim that you can never have too many hats, gloves and bags is a rule embraced by shopaholics everywhere. Why limit a winter wardrobe to clothes alone when you can shop, shop, shop to your heart's content for accessories to go with each and every outfit? This season, the designers have taken note. Antonio Berardi has co-ordinated gloves, bags (above, right) and boots; the gloves, long to the elbow, are delicately perforated and cut from the softest kid-skin imaginable. Bags range from Gucci's practical little clutch-bags for evening, to Berardi's tiny tartan purse, attached by a chain to a heavy leather belt (at least you know it'll be safe from pickpockets). And for a hat with which to finish it all off, you can choose from a tight tweed cloche at Katharine Hamnett, a floppy velvet chimney-pot at Dolce e Gabbana (above, left), or - for that special cocktail party - a riot of feathers from master hatter Philip Treacy. Treacy also has a new range of luxury accessories - including bags and hair combs - available exclusively from Harrods. TB

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