Students opt for restraint in fashion's day at races

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The Independent Online
IN THE style stakes, the Grand National has never rivalled Royal Ascot. Fantastic hats are rare, outfits are far from flamboyant.

But in an attempt to sharpen up the event's image, Martell Cognac, the sponsors, have held a fashion design competition with Central Saint Martin's College of Art and Design in London.

The brief was to design an outfit that reflected the French spirit of the sponsor with an element of French style.

Fifteen second-year BA students entered, eight were shortlisted and yesterday two emerged as the joint winners.

Would we be treated to outrageous creations in the style of David Shilling worn with loud overstated suits? No.

The little navy Edinburgh wool suit, the work of Kristian Docherty, 19, was simple, straightforward and would not cause any false starts. Inspired by the French flag, it was trimmed with red and white and had cost pounds 80 to make up.

This was a surprisingly understated work from a student who normally cites sex and body piercing as his inspiration. 'It's all pierced, everything,' he said.

So why the simple suit? 'I'm really surprised I did something like this, but sex isn't always suitable,' he sighed.

Susanne Deeken, 24, modelling her own Edwardian-inspired riding suit, with tattered silk tulle trimming, razored at pounds 45 a metre, had aimed for a romantic outfit. 'This is much more commercial than what I usually do. My work, although romantic has a dark edge to it, I like witches. My cutting is often more experimental but that would be too weird for the Grand National.'

The weird and wacky can still get in to the county enclosure at Aintree. Martell Cognac has no plans to introduce a stringent Ascot-style dress code.

So will any one be seen sporting either of these designs on Saturday? Unfortunately, Mme Chantal Martell is already sewn up. 'She wears Chanel or Yves Saint Laurent,' a company spokesperson said.

(Photograph omitted)