Macdonald's sparkling knitwear warms the heart

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The Independent Online

Julien MacDonald loves glamour. He designs fishnet tights, champagne flutes and hairspray cans. But he first made his name back in 1996 with knitwear.

Julien MacDonald loves glamour. He designs fishnet tights, champagne flutes and hairspray cans. But he first made his name back in 1996 with knitwear.

At his spring/summer 2005 catwalk show last night, in the former Saatchi gallery in west London, Macdonald looked like he was returning to his roots.

It is not a moment too soon. Earlier this year, the Welsh designer parted company with Parisian haute couture house Givenchy after just three years. Macdonald's taste for flashy clothes was at odds with the chic Givenchy heritage. He also neglected to exploit fully his talent for knitting, in collections for Givenchy and for his own label.

Macdonald, 32, now only has his own label to worry about. Last night he sent out a silver-sequinned frock with a £2m diamond corsage and pastel pink and white flamenco frocks that made models look like overgrown dolls.

Clearly, he is still prone to tackiness. But there was also an abundance of precious-looking knits, and this is what he does best. Silver lurex knit dresses, decorated with sequins or crystals, looked sweet, as did white macramé-style tiered skirts. The pressures of self-employment have perhaps focused his mind.

Macdonald wants to shift his catwalk show to New York Fashion Week next season. His ritzy approach to fashion does seem out of place in London. The raison d'être of London Fashion Week is now to be the place where fresh new talent is found and nurtured.

Earlier yesterday, Swash showed a debut collection that featured a bizarre cartoon-printed jacket designed to be worn by two people simultaneously. Yet, gimmicks aside, this was a promising collection. Bright psychedelic prints in lime and yellow decorated raincoats and cuffed shorts.

The designers, Sarah Swash and Toshio Yamanaka, trained at Central Saint Martins and live in east London. But they first achieved recognition overseas. This year they won the prestigious Hyères fashion competition in France. After their win, Swash might have left for Paris. But the British Fashion Council invited the duo to show in London, with the costs of a catwalk show funded by a sponsor.

Initiatives like this are intended to stem the tide of designers leaving London.

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