Fashion: Low on hype, high on traditional values

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The Independent Online
It's not all crazy theatrics at London Fashion Week - although casual observers would be hard pushed to find designers who go about their business discreetly.

Melanie Rickey says they are around, and doing very well.

The Jean Muir label, which has carried on quietly and successfully since the designer's death in 1995, is a case in point: perhaps even the purist case in point.

The collection has been presented in the same serene show room in Bruton Street, Mayfair for several years with music that is always uplifting, and never too loud, just like the clothes.

Yesterday morning's show was a relief to all those assembled. Simply cut aqua green and coral red shift dresses were as beautiful as they were wearable. Navy wool, crepe suiting was loose and easy, in a wide-leg pant, a belted jacket and in trapeze-line tunics that will please any devotee of the late Miss Muir. It is all about the clothes, after all.

Amanda Wakeley is another designer who doesn't need headlines to sell her luxury clothes. Her show on Sunday was straight forward. "Shock tactics have nothing to do with my clothes," she said yesterday. "If I use them I would make a fool out of myself, and the clothes."

But she will push the point - if a skirt is short, then it is very, very short. If a top is sheer, no bra will be worn underneath. Hardly shock tactics these days and although Wakeley admits she has used the odd trick in the past, they are not the secret. "Headlines are nice, but they come and go. They certainly don't make a successful business, hard work does."

Another more traditional designer, Caroline Charles, does not object to the fact that London has become the experimental capital of fashion. "Good luck to them, I don't think the younger designers should be put off from showing what ever they want in London, it's great for London, I love it."

"When you march girls up and down a catwalk season after season it becomes boring," she says.

But ultimately, Charles just wants to do something she feels comfortable with. Ditto Margaret Howell, Paul Costelloe, Nicole Farhi and Betty Jackson, among our best designers whose shows are done in the traditional sense.

Margaret Howell agrees with the criticism that sometimes the more exciting the show, the less the clothes are taken into account.

"Some shows have almost nothing to do with the clothes that actually sell," says the designer whose shows convey what she is about as a person as well as exhibiting her clothes. "You do have to exaggerate sometimes. How you do it is irrelevant. I design from a practical point of view so my exaggerations are purely functional."

And a good thing too, there can be only so much excitement in one day.