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Debut pair make impact

TWO NEWCOMERS attracted the cream of the world's fashion press at London Fashion Week yesterday and Sean McGowan, 27, was surely the hottest ticket.

Guests scrambled to fit into a downstairs ballroom at the Dorchester Hotel to watch his show while more established designers held their shows (somewhat depleted of an audience) simultaneously.

This was a case of the hype out-doing the clothes. McGowan is two things: an accomplished designer of evening wear and a master at self-promotion who admits the show was a "gamble".

The show itself was a let-down. Twenty-five dresses, all designed with skinny versions of Ivana Trump in mind, do not raise eyebrows in London anymore, even though no shock tactic was left untried. Dresses that did not cover the bottom, shaggy wigs, and exaggerated peaked shoulders were London last year when creativity and ideas were prized over clothes people can actually wear.

That isn't to say that McGowan didn't design clothes that people will want, such as a blue Duchesse satin "swimsuit dress" with Adidas-inspired bold stripes - perfect for the cocktail hour.

The second hot ticket of the day was Robert Cary-Williams, who graduated in June from Central Saint Martins. His show was inspired - like his graduation collection - by military uniforms.

Cary-Williams, 34, was a soldier who left the Army to become a fashion designer, and his vision is post-apocalyptic. Tattered robes, deconstructed flying suits, moulded leather jackets, and canvas smocks formed the back- bone of the collection.

Commercial success will be a long-time coming for these two.