Designs that are shredded and sweet

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THERE WERE fire-crackers, gunshots and a room full of smoke at Robert Cary-Williams' London Fashion Week show yesterday. Such pyrotechnics were at least apposite in the case of this particular designer.

Disenchanted, at the age of 18, by the prospect of taking over his father's dairy farm in Wiltshire he wasted no time signing up with the Army - not a move usually associated with our fledgling designers.

From there he went to art college in Taunton and then to Central Saint Martin's in London where he was in the same year as Matthew Williamson and Antonio Berardi.

Despite the fact that this was only Cary-Williams' second collection, the show included a rare appearance by the new face of Calvin Klein - Russian- born Colette Pechekhonova; Anna Wintour of American Vogue took pride of place in the front row, and Katie Grand of Dazed & Confused magazine styled the collection. But then Cary-Williams is emerging as one of London's most promising talents - the designer set to take over from the likes of Berardi, say, should he continue to show in Milan - as one of London's hottest tickets.

If yesterday's show was anything to judge by, however, Cary-Williams has some way to go. Held in the former Dior store in Conduit Street, any chintz had been thrown out to be replaced by a catwalk in rough wood. The clothes too were a far cry from more bourgeois Parisienne couture.

The theme was basically Victorian, a continuation of Cary-Williams' debut collection and, again, his was a very deconstructed take. This is not surprising, Cary-Williams is, after all, the man who made something of a name for himself while still at college by saving up to buy designer clothes, then slashing them before he wore them.

He likes the fact that something creative comes out of destructive tendencies, he says. It wasn't long before he set to shredding his own designs.

Despite his aggressive technique, his clothes at their best are strangely romantic. Shredded underskirts and petticoats looked sweet; the normally rather severe frock coat, in this designer's hands, had soft edges. Clothes were often held together with nothing more than huge lengths of zip; pretty sugar-pink zips.

What was less successful, however, were acres of surgical latex - in particular a figure distorting body suit. Equally, Cary-Williams would do well to sew up a few more of his seams.

Worst of all, the sheer volume of smoke that eventually filled the room actually encouraged some members of the audience to leave before the show had ended. Fumigation is not, in the end, what fashion needs.