A fitted and finished twist for the Nineties

MARC BOHAN, the French couturier who designs for the House of Hartnell, proved yesterday that the traditional skills of the couturier still have relevance in the Nineties.

Mr Bohan's autumn collection, shown at the Hartnell salon in Bruton Street, was a textbook lesson in fit and finish. Jackets were very fitted and long, and looked best worn with narrow skirts cut to below the calf.

Mr Bohan also produced pleated short skirts, for those Hartnell customers who still want to show off their legs.

Three-quarter length car coats in mohair and wool boucle were teamed with cashmere and wool crepe trouser suits, also fitted to flatter. Red was the predominant colour, with gold lace a strong theme for evening.

The ladies who feature regularly in Jennifer's Diary were out in force for the morning show: two countesses and at least half- a-dozen ladies, making notes in their programmes and cooing their delight.

'Divine, simply divine,' said one of them, applauding a black pinstripe trouser suit with a double-breasted corset-waistcoat.

More titled customers were to follow before the day was through. Hartnell's salon is too small to fit everyone into one show.

According to the guest list, the two afternoon shows drew another couple of countesses, a dozen ladies, a duchess, a baron, two princesses and a prince.

At a time when the pendulum of fashion is swinging against couture, this was good news for the House of Hartnell, which has had a chequered history in recent years, and is currently on the lookout for additional capital investment.

Prices for couture suits, made-to-measure, start at pounds 2,000. Hartnell also makes a de luxe range, with day suits selling from pounds 1,000, and a ready-to-wear collection priced at about pounds 500.

A fourth high street collection is currently under discussion with Designer Originals, a London-based manufacturer, with a view to launching next spring.

Manny Silverman, chairman, said: 'We want to make the Hartnell label available to all sectors of the market.'

(Photograph omitted)