Britain's designers bring out the stars in Paris

Fashion: Mickey Rourke models in Nigel Curtiss' first catwalk show
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The Independent Online
British menswear is making its strongest impact yet on the international fashion scene, as five designers cross the Channel this week to show their collections for spring/ summer '97.

Two other British names have already made their mark at the menswear shows in Milan: Katharine Hamnett, and Vivienne Westwood with her wild combinations of traditional tailoring and high-heeled shoes.

On Thursday, Ozwald Boateng, the newest, sharpest tailor on Vigo Street just off Savile Row, led the way with his third bespoke couture collection, a fusion of ready-to-wear designs and traditional tailoring, at the Cirque d'Hiver. The collection took Mission: Impossible as its theme, the mission in this case being to "keep the crease in your trousers at all costs".

Tom Cruise, star of the film and the man every designer wants to dress, chose to wear a suit by Jigsaw for Men, price less than pounds 200, at the premiere in London on Thursday.

The show attempted to re- enact the opening sequence of the Sixties cult spy series with a burning fuse, a self-combusting tape recorder and a shoot-out. As for the clothes, Boat- eng's collection is not for casual dressers. His suits are leanly tailored, and a brightly coloured, unbuttoned shirt worn with a pair of skinny trousers and finished with cufflinks is as close to easy dressing as this designer gets.

John Rocha, the Dublin-based, Hong Kong-born designer, followed with a collection of clothes inspired by another television series, High Chaparral - with a touch of Californian beach party thrown in for high summer.

Yesterday Nigel Curtiss, 38, who was born in Worthing, Sussex, presented his first catwalk show. Mickey Rourke, star of 91/2 Weeks Part II, due for release this autumn, modelled the clothes. He has sworn his allegiance to Curtiss since the designer dressed him for the movie. "Nigel is a good friend," Rourke said later, but "I wouldn't have done the show if I didn't like the clothes."

Curtiss has built up his name in smart UK menswear boutiques such as Strand in Newcastle and Jones in London's Covent Garden. Shirts sell at pounds 195, but this does not deter aficionados who will buy a shirt whatever the price as long as it has the right detailing or brand name. Like many other home-grown mens-wear labels, Curtiss has a loyal following in Japan, where he is based. His turnover last year was pounds 2.5m.

Also showing over the weekend is Griffin, the utility street-wear label launched in 1993 by Jeff Griffin, which won the BKCC fashion weekly newcomers' award for export. The show is sponsored by Eurostar. On Sunday Joe Casely-Hayford presents his menswear collection.

Paul Smith shows his collection today. The designer, who is celebrating his fiftieth birthday, is the UK's leading designer export, with a turnover last year of pounds 109m. He has 162 Tokyo outlets, and can barely keep pace with demand.

In September a new trade show, Arena, is to be launched at Olympia as the menswear equivalent of London Fashion Week. Here, relatively new names such as Designworks, Burro and Byrne, will show off the commercial and creative success of British menswear.

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