A dark vision is next big thing

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WHO IS the next big thing in fashion? At Paris Fashion Week, the search is on to find out. Is it Olivier Theyskens, 21, the Belgian designer from Brussels? For his second show yesterday afternoon Theyskens showed a dark and nightmarish vision of fashion for spring and summer 1999.

Theyskens leapt into the limelight last spring when Madonna wore one of his outfits - a leather waistcoat and skirt - to the Academy Awards. And the stars' stylist, Arianne Phillips, was at the show yesterday, making notes and compiling a shopping list for her clients' spring wardrobe.

The collection was shown with only the flickering of florescent tube lighting to reveal a black leather bodysuit, a leather coat worn over tight black trousers and high heels, and a gothic Victorian dress. Richard Martin, the curator of the costume institute at New York's Metropolitan Museum has been quoted as saying: "Olivier Theyskens is the most modern designer working today." But one outfit Madonna is probably guaranteed not to wear is a flesh-coloured bodysuit with hair sprouting from the crotch, ribs and across the back.

Neither the excitement about Galliano and the Queens appointments at Dior and Givenchy has died down. The American designer Mark Jacobs, who presented his second collection for Louis Vuitton yesterday, has settled into showing slick, but sterile, collections to sell luxury pounds 600 handbags.

The Irish designer Sharon Wauchob, 27, a graduate at Central St Martins, will show her second collection on Thursday with the creative direction of the stylist Joanna Thaw.

And today, Benoi't Meleard, a 27-year-old French man, was due to unveil his first collection of shoes, called "Cruel''. According to the fashion bible, Women's Wear Daily, it will be the scoop of the season.

The next Big Thing? We shall see.