Conran's elegant antidote to latex and J-Cloths

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A DAY into London Fashion Week and what have we seen? A girl in a blue J-Cloth dress (Red or Dead), Naomi Campbell in a deconstructed leather hobble skirt (Robert Carey-Williams), a model in a surgical pink latex top and hot-pants combo (Boudicca). Hardly the sort of togs any of us are likely to shell out for summer 2000.

It was Jasper Conran, celebrating his 40th birthday this year with his 40th catwalk show, who proved that British fashion can be wearable and still provoke oohs and aahs from the fashion clan. His show more than lived up to the slick fashion seen last week in New York.

Conran's collection - almost entirely monochrome - was reminiscent of latter-day Yves Saint Laurent. Black chiffon halter-neck tops with wide shantung silk trousers, perfect little (or long) black dresses cut to curve from the waist up and flare gently from the hips, and jet- beaded tops, backless dresses and bikinis.

Clements Ribeiro's collection was more mouth-watering still. Fondant- coloured knitwear, sugar sweet dresses dappled with polka dots, and evening wear in white lace and opalescent sequins, all looked good enough to eat - but never veered too close to the sickly. This was London's most feted design duo at their most brilliant.

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