Style: McQueen takes London by storm

Do you believe the hype? Or is Alexander McQueen having the last laugh? Melanie Rickey reports from last night's McQueen fashion extravaganza.

As day four of London Fashion Week got underway, a few important things became clear. First, it really is the largest, and best-attended set of shows ever. Second, there is more to British fashion than just innovation and over-excitement, and third, it is worth all the hype, especially when there is an Alexander McQueen show on the agenda.

Last night the 28-year-old showed his ninth London Fashion Week collection in a huge warehouse near Victoria. He called it 'Untitled', although it is rumoured the working title, 'Golden Shower', was dropped because American Express Gold Card, who contributed pounds 30,000 to the staging of the show, didn't approve.

As ever, most details were under wraps until the last minute, although McQueen did let slip that ICI were providing materials and technicians to build the set, which, he boasted, was to be the biggest ever.

The crowd was not disappointed. As they entered the venue, they were confronted with a 50ft-long perspex catwalk, half filled with water and lit from underneath with ultra-violet light. At the beginning of the show, lighting struck and loud thunder sounded. It was McQueen's most focused and wearable collection to date. His characteristically sleek, sharp and modern tailoring was at its purest. Models stalked down the catwalk in a succession of sharply cut pinstripe suits, laser cut leather skirts, shiny snakeskin dresses and strapless jumpsuits with low-cut cowl-backed strapless jumpsuits.

They were followed by men in corsets and skirts and women wearing little more than a few leather straps. Mid-show the deafening music stopped, the water within the perspex catwalk began to fill with a dark ink, 'I Can't Stand The Rain' came through the PA and suddenly, as if by magic, it began to pour.

The crowd roared as the models began their walk again - their eye make- up falling like tears down their cheeks.

Kate Moss walked down in a white muslin dress, the trail of which dragged in the puddles as she left the catwalk.

McQueen's favourite model, Honor Fraser, watched from the sidelines because she said McQueen wants to keep his own label separate from Givenchy.

The show was pronounced a hit. Isabella Blow said: "It was precision, it was chic and simple as it was beautiful. I loved it."

The fashion photographer Mario Testino said: "It's not just the clothes McQueen is good at, it's everything, the environment, the theatricality and the fact that it's all so very him, I love that, it's a great start to the season."

McQueen's unstoppable rise to fame began in 1992 when, upon graduation from Saint Martin's with an MA in Fashion Design, and seven years' work experience under his belt, stylist and talent spotter Isabella Blow bought his entire collection for pounds 7,000.

Three years on, when he showed his controversial fourth collection, 'Highland Rape', Alexander McQueen was the name on everyone's lips.

By last October, McQueen was appointed head designer at Givenchy and he also became the youngest winner of the coveted British Designer of the Year award, a title he is expected to win again this year.

McQueen's rise runs as a direct parallel to the fortunes of the British fashion industry as a whole. In 1993, fashion week had 16 fashion shows and a paltry 50 static exhibitors. In just four years London Fashion Week has tripled in size: there are now 54 fashion shows and over 150 static exhibitors participating in the event. This huge jump is reflected in the money generated by designer fashion. In 1989 the UK fashion design industry was worth pounds 185m, this year it is expected to top pounds 600m, with almost half, pounds 264m worth of clothes and accessories, being exported abroad.

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