Hippie chic: Stella McCartney steps back in time and into the black

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The Independent Online

With their loose, flowing locks, fluttering, floral-print jumpsuits and wooden heeled clogs engraved with tendrils of leaves, the models at Stella McCartney's show in Paris yesterday looked as if they might have stepped straight out of a David Hamilton picture circa 1970.

For anyone over the age of 14 who might find this reference somewhat worrying, it may come as a relief to discover that, in McCartney's hands, it seemed infinitely manageable – for the most part at least.

The luxe hippy mood that dominated the Milan runways last week is something that McCartney understands instinctively and well. When she was appointed creative director of Chloe in the late 1990s she said that she remembered the clothes that her mother used to wear designed by Karl Lagerfeld for that label in its heyday. The spirit of those very pieces was revisited this time around and looked as lovely as ever in layered ivory chiffon and georgette.

It is by now the stuff of legend that though McCartney was quick to heap praise upon her predecessor he was less generous in return. "Chloe? Isn't that a T-shirt label?" he said, in characteristically serpent-tongued style not long after she arrived. Still, the lingerie-inspired, bohemian mindset that the younger designer brought to the label throughout her tenure there saw profits soar. Her own line, set up in partnership with the Gucci Group in 2007, has not seen such good fortune until now.

It was announced earlier this week, however, that, after a decidedly bumpy start, Stella McCartney Limited has turned a profit for the first time.

In 2004, the Gucci Group president, Robert Polet, gave McCartney – as well as Gucci-backed Balenciaga and Alexander McQueen – a deadline of December 2007 to move into the black. On Tuesday, McCartney reported profits in 2006 of £180,678, compared with losses of £1.2m in the previous year. Turnover last year rose to £9.1m, from £7.3m at the end of 2005. "In six years, Stella McCartney has significantly developed worldwide, becoming an acknowledged brand with a strong identity and a healthy business with a brilliant future ahead," Polet told the fashion industry bible Women's Wear Daily.

The reason behind any such success was very much in evidence for spring/summer 2008. Alongside the aforementioned pieces came more obviously commercial tailoring – easy, wide-legged trousers and equally relaxed jackets. Oversized knits –a well-honed signature – came crocheted this time and in dull gold.

If all this seems rather too well-mannered to be true, it should perhaps come as no surprise that, despite any maturity, there is still a mischievous spirit at play where Ms McCartney is concerned.

A knitted sea blue twinset-and-big-knicker combination emblazoned with snarling baby sharks and presumably intended for the beach if not the water was characteristically cute.

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