Briton gives Givenchy a Greek look

Alexander McQueen, the Damien Hirst of the fashion world, shocked Paris yesterday by unveiling his first collection for the Givenchy couture house without shocking.

As promised, there were no bumsters, his trousers designed for maximum cleavage. Nor were there models that looked like rape victims, or a designer who mooned the cameras at the end of the catwalk. Instead, the son of an East End taxi-driver took over the position at Givenchy left open when fellow Briton John Galliano moved to Christian Dior last year by showing a disciplined collection of clever tailoring.

Clinton Silver, chairman of the British Fashion Council, said he was proud of the designer, "who has been largely responsible for making London swing again. It was stunning. As always with McQueen, you could see the fabulous cutting. He is going to take Givenchy forward. He is an enormously intelligent young man - not here to make an impression, but here to do a job."

Many doubted that McQueen, who is not interested in playing the fashion game, had the professionalism and polish to pull off the transition from London's most challenging avant-garde designer to haute couture in a world where clients expect to be treated like princesses. But, to his great credit, he kept that strong Givenchy stamp on the collection, taking Greek mythology as his inspiration.

The entire collection was in white and gold. Goddess dresses were draped, Icarus sat in the form of a gold-dusted Marcus Schenkenberg, male modelling's answer to Claudia Schiffer. He watched from a balcony, with enormous wings attached to his back, as gladiator corsets in gold leather marched beneath. Tailored suits and satin sheath dresses in gold had the 40-odd-year-old who can afford to buy couture in mind.

Most importantly, McQueen has won the respect of his atelier. His assistant, Katy England, has been with him from the beginning of the collection and for the past two nerve-jangling weeks of work in Paris. "It's a real privilege to be at Givenchy, and a luxury to have all the talent of the couture house at our finger-tips," she said.

Now its back to McQueen's basement in London's East End, and back to the real world. He will begin work on his own ready-to-wear collection, to be shown in London next month.

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