Farhi wraps up well as Deacon keeps his cool

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The Independent Online

At Giles Deacon's polished show last night, in a former schoolhouse in east London, it was hard to recall that London Fashion Week was ever regarded as an also-ran. His confident collection was a metaphor for an upbeat round of autumn/winter collections here.

Deacon, who is the current British Designer of the Year, has since his debut in 2004 claimed that he wants to dress grown-up women and aim for a couture-level finish. Last night's show made that look very realistic.

Porcupine-quill head-dresses and giant knits using rope-thick yarns were fashion hyperbole, but his short satin dresses in copper or chartreuse, pieced together in zig-zag seams, were both lighthearted and chic, and thankfully free of any historical reference.

But it was also good to see him let his imagination run free in a tortoiseshell-coloured dress, the size and shape of a giant Christmas tree, that was constructed entirely from fans of pleating. And he might have a wild moment or two on home turf - next week he makes his debut in Milan as chief designer of Daks, the more classic-minded British tailoring brand.

There might be a buzz this week about several rising stars, but yesterday the capital proved it can also play host to wearable clothes by designers who experience a real following. Nicole Farhi is one of the few based in London that has a substantial business network, and her autumn/winter show at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden was slick, if a little predictable. The opening taffeta trenchcoat was an elegant idea but one that has been perfected by Lanvin for several seasons, while cocoon-shaped coats in dark grey cashmere were reminiscent of Marni.

And layers of knitwear over a dress and a pair of woolly leggings, well, that's Marc Jacobs last autumn. Farhi has a great eye for fabrics and her customers will appreciate her inky-coloured knitwear next autumn.

This time it was the lowly cardigan that starred, in mohair or silk-cashmere and for the most part long-line and elegant. Farhi herself emerged at the finale to take her bow wearing no less than two cardigans. Point made.

Margaret Howell's strengths are shirting and tailoring - she started by designing men's shirts - and yesterday they were lovely as ever. Collarless shirts with grey culottes or cropped woollen trousers and flat lace-up oxford shoes were in the quietly quirky style that has enabled Howell to establish three shops in the UK and no less than 56 in Japan.

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