Celebrity stylist gives Macdonald a spring clean

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The Independent Online

She may be unknown outside the fashion industry, but the Hollywood stylist Rachel Zoe, as personal shopper for twig-thin starlets including Mischa Barton and Nicole Richie, is a woman with power and influence.

When Keira Knightley stepped onto the red carpet at this year's Oscars, it was in a burgundy Vera Wang gown picked out by Zoe. So, lucky Julien Macdonald, who presented his spring/summer 2007 collection last night at the Hilton Hotel in Mayfair, for snagging her as a consultant.

Although Macdonald was granted the closing slot of London Fashion Week and is still one of the UK's best-known designers, his recent collections have been in dire need of updating. The collaboration with Zoe is a move intended to win back some credibility with the A-list. Although he is known for flashy dresses constructed from fine cobweb knits ­ his mother Joan taught him to knit ­ lately his fur-and-sequin trimmed designs have veered towards trashy.

Last night's show was another aimed at disco divas, as Macdonald stuck to ink blue satins and tropical prints for his clingy corset dresses and sheer chiffon draped gowns. Yes, it's Studio 54 again, and in case one missed the reference, that era's icon, Bianca Jagger, was seated front row in the packed hotel ballroom.

For anybody who has heard of Gucci and its former designer Tom Ford, though, the collection looked like well-trodden territory, down to the slutty-secretary skirt suits and token hunk-in-trunks. More original designs were those that exploited Macdonald's talent for knits and beading, such as a golden mini-dress festooned with loops of golden beads and giant sequins.

Fewer walnut-coloured tans, whitened teeth and Swarovski crystals were in the audience at the Jean Muir catwalk show, held yesterday morning at the label's store in central London. Although Muir herself died in 1995, her studio continues, for the most part, to work with the minimalist look she established. Muir's understatement ­ she preferred an ascetic palette of navy and grey ­ and her handling of drapery is currently resonating with contemporary designers.

So, while the floral-printed sheer blouses here felt irrelevant to the Muir philosophy and the mood in fashion, the best pieces were timeless little black dresses cut from fluid jersey, their square necklines traced with the designer's trademark top-stitching.