No purple patch for Williamson as Ilincic reigns on the catwalk

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The Independent Online

While young designers have had a good season at London Fashion Week, celebrity-spotters had been disappointed. Until yesterday. Matthew Williamson put that right by inviting Prince to play at the beginning of his catwalk show in Belgravia.

The pop star's twin dancers high-kicked their way down the runway to usher in the collection. However, it wasn't quite as thrilling.

Short Grecian dresses with panels of bright beading in Mayan patterns at the hem were pretty enough. But there were also too many of the dull and commercial fare such as neon-pink T-shirts or linen shorts that lacked any signature. Prints, for which Williamson is known, ranged from tie-dye to a complex tattoo pattern. In cahoots with Sienna Miller he started the ethnic trend a few seasons back – she was photographed wearing his flowing, Indian-style dresses and peasant chic swamped the high street.

His return to the London catwalks yesterday marked the end of a period of self-imposed exile at the more commercially viable New York Fashion Week. Known for his hippy-luxe clothes and his following among the more winsome female celebrities such as Miller, Helena Christensen and Donna Air, Williamson has a shop in Mayfair and second job as creative director of Pucci. For an independent British designer, he has fared remarkably well.

In October the Design Museum will stage a retrospective of his decade-long caree It is a decision likely to be seen as controversial. In 2004 the museum's chairman, the inventor James Dyson resigned after he and trustee Sir Terence Conran fell out with the exhibitions director Alice Rawsthorne, accusing her of championing visual style over industrial design.

Her decision to mount shows on the shoe designer Manolo Blahnik and milliner Philip Treacy instead of "serious" technology were a cause of the row, which saw Rawsthorne herself eventually resign. Even fashion commentators would not claim Williamson's brand of ethnic-chic to be notably innovative and worthy of a full-scale exhibition.

But Deyan Sudjic, who replaced her as director, yesterday said the museum was "very excited" to bring fashion back to its galleries. " We see fashion as an integral part of what we do here. Matthew has come a very long way and is one of the people who make London the vital creative centre it is today."

Earlier in the day the young Serbian designer Roksanda Ilincic evoked old-world glamour in an accomplished show held at the Lansdowne Club in Mayfair. Using couture fabrics such as Duchesse satin and silk charmeuse in startling combinations of orange, chrome yellow and coffee brown, Ilincic's evening gowns demonstrated that London's creative talents can do ladylike as well as cool clothes – or in this case, for the odd hem Ilincic left deliberately raw or feather pom-pom fixed to the hip of a dress, both. " I found an old book of drawings of dresses from the forties and fifties, and just tried to re-make them, really," she said backstage.

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