Girls will be boys when dressed by Paul Smith

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The Independent Online

Paul Smith's star seems to be in the ascendant at the moment. The trend he set for androgynous looks is sweeping the international catwalks.

When he launched his womenswear line on the London catwalk in the late Nineties - he continues to show his more established menswear line in Paris - he said his intention was to cater to women who borrowed "Smithy" clothing from their boyfriends. When the lights went up on his womenswear show yesterday it looked just like that. Slouchy lightweight tailoring had just the mix of tradition and eccentricity already associated with Paul Smith menswear - fluorescent buttons at the waist of a pair of cropped trousers, say, or crisp cotton shirt dresses with collars and cuffs in contrasting fabrics reworked to suit a woman's needs.

Camisoles and sun-dresses were crafted in striped men's shirting and schoolboy blazers had rainbow stripes.

Smith's signature was still in evidence with prints so bold they caused some to reach for their sunglasses. This is the type of exuberant gesture normally reserved for the linings of Paul Smith suits and boxer shorts.

Out of place, though, was a section of white frothy evening wear - a long ostrich feather coat, in particular, would make P Diddy's wardrobe seem understated. Anyone in search of this type of flashy glamour would be unlikely to go to Paul Smith in the first place: why he would mess with a winning formula is anyone's guess.

Emma Cook is far younger than Paul Smith and one for whom a light-hearted femininity is key. Dresses based around Thirties-style boleros and capes in chiffon and fine jersey fluttered around lithe bodies in a pretty and delicate way. Colours were muted: faded pink and aqua, grey, black, plum and mustard yellow. Although clearly referring to the past, the silhouette always looked modern. Neither is Cook's clothing ever overly cute: cut out leather overlays, insets and belts continue to be an unexpected and slightly jarring quirk, which invests the whole look with the type of eclectic cool that international labels susch as Stella McCartney and Chloé aspire to.

Cook's signature style is immediately recognisable - no mean feat for a designer who graduated from Central Saint Martins only four years ago. She is known in particular for her prints and this season's were as distinctive as ever, including a homage to Fritz Lang's film Metropolis in the form of cogs and wheels.

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