British fashion makes waves in Manhattan

WHAT IS becoming crystal clear this week in New York is that fashion needs no passport to travel. The American designers Michael Kors and Marc Jacobs forged the way when they crossed the Atlantic three seasons ago to head up the houses of Celine and Louis Vuitton respectively in the world's fashion capital, Paris. Now, it seems the tables are turning with British designers intent on taking Manhattan.

The cultural exchange programme appears to be in full swing in New York Fashion Week, with everyone from Ghost's Tanya Sarne, Vivienne Westwood and Nicole Farhi to the leader of the Brit-pack, Alexander McQueen, unveiling their collections. Last night, Nicole Farhi was the first of the British contingent to show state-side.

Not even the high winds and floods brought on by the imminent approach of Hurricane Floyd, expected to hit New York city later today, could keep the fashion pack away.

A much brighter forecast for spring/summer 2000 appeared on Farhi's catwalk - white sparkling suits, supple pearlised leather jackets and hip-hugging trousers, organic-looking crinkled silk separates and fluid jerseys printed with fist-sized polka dots or embroidered with translucent sequins, looked fresh and optimistic.

Why should Farhi show her collection here instead of London? The answer is for sound business reasons, made evident after the show, when Farhi invited her audience to the opening of her uptown megastore - just a stiletto- heeled walk from Calvin Klein's temple of minimalism and Barneys, the New Yorkers' equivalent of Harvey Nichols.

The canny French-born Farhi - referred to over here as Britain's answer to Donna Karan - knows that there is no better way of creating a buzz around a new and expensive-looking shopping venue than to offer up her collection for inspection on the local catwalk.

All of Manhattan's fashion scene turned out for the event, filling the 20,000 sqare foot interior, designed by Michael Gabellini, the famed architect responsible for creating modernist shopping environments for Jil Sander.

Cool neutral-coloured walls, stone floors, long marble tables and what seemed like acres of space, made the autumn/ winter collection that dripped luxuriously from the matt chrome rails look like an artist's installation - although these exhibits certainly carried a "Please Touch" sign. Farhi's latest style statement, a modern mix of trend-conscious yet pure and simple silhouettes, will keep her fans happy.

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