New luxury label lacks the edge to challenge rivals

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The Independent Online

Would it be possible for Britain to establish its own luxury goods conglomerate to rival the Italian Gucci Group or France's formidable LVMH?

Well, yes, according to the Luxury Brands Group, it would and, if the powers that be are to be believed, yesterday's unveiling of the Hardy Amies ready-to-wear men's and women's line is the first step. It was, however, tentative to say the least. Even the big-name models that have so far been thin on the ground during London Fashion Week, but flew in for the occasion, failed to bring these clothes – dowdy without the merest hint of Prada-esque irony – to life.

The Forties-inspired strong-shouldered tailoring, which is clearly a nod to the house's namesake in his heyday, looked lumpen as opposed to elegant. Jersey dresses, also from that era, were plain frumpy. Colours were dull and touchingly co-ordinated, the way women used to wear them and the way they wouldn't be seen dead wearing them now.

Amies, a grand old 93 years of age and famously couturier to the Queen, sold his name to LBG, which was formerly known as Cardington, in May last year. The man brought in to head the conglomerate, which has also bought Hartnell, is David Duncan Smith, the older brother of Iain, and formerly responsible for the running of the British end of Prada. He is, unsurprisingly, evangelical on its potential.

"There has never been a British-based luxury brands group, and it's long overdue," he said in December. "A huge amount of the creative talent in the luxury sector is British-trained but talented people have to go to Paris or Milan to get work." Noble sentiments, indeed. The product itself needs work before an admirable theory is turned into a financially rewarding reality.

Later in the day Tanya Sarne, of the Ghost label, showed her autumn/winter collection. Sarne is that rare thing, a British independent label with international recognition. Yesterday's show was as pretty as might be expected from a label that specialises in highly feminine clothes that draw inspiration from vintage fashions but always with an eye to the future.

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