Sage upholsters models with considered skill

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The Independent Online

Anyone expecting anything as straightforward as a catwalk presentation from designer Russell Sage would be barking up the wrong tree. This is, after all, a designer who has made a career out of in-jokes - he once turned £20,000 of bank notes from a sponsor into a dress.

Yesterday he was in a contemplative mood and this made for a refreshing interlude in an otherwise frantic London fashion week. In place of the requisite 40-plus outfits, shown on a runway to a throbbing soundtrack, Sage took over the house of the Victorian thinker Thomas Carlyle in Cheyne Row, London, now owned by the National Trust. He showed nine outfits, worn by dancers as opposed to models, and all crafted in antique furnishing fabrics.

"Other people have celebrity models. I have a celebrity sofa," Sage said, clearly delighted by the location's auspicious history. "It's been sat on by Dickens and Darwin."

Clothing was site specific. Each garment related to a certain aspect of the room in which it was worn. A hand-stitched tailored paisley dressing gown echoed one sported by Carlyle in a portrait that hangs in the front parlour. A top made from antique curtain lining was modelled on a particularly elaborate tablecloth.

"It's a back to basics thing," Sage declared as he showed a handful of guests around. "I wanted to take a season away from the catwalk.The thing about fashion is that you have to keep up with it.

"I just wanted to go back into the studio and concentrate on getting the clothes right."

Earlier the young designer Jonathan Saunders impressed in a more conventional though inspiring manner. Since graduating last year, Saunders has worked with Alexander McQueen - he designed the feather print for the exotic chiffon show pieces in the designer's spring/summer 2003 collection - and is contributing print designs to Chloë and Christian Lacroix for Pucci.

For his own label he worked with unlikely colour combinations - lime, pale turquoise and grey for example - across breezy chiffon mini-dresses and blouses. He said the inspiration for his prints was "graphic illustrations of the 1900s and abstract art".

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