Smith: fashion will turn its back on thin models

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The Independent Online

The British designer Sir Paul Smith has spoken out against unnaturally thin girls on the catwalk, calling for the use of "bigger models".

Smith, speaking at London Fashion Week, told the Evening Standard: "I think that what will happen is that there will be a move away from these very thin models. All the controversy following what happened in Madrid will mean a move away from those very thin girls. The main thing has to be: are the girls healthy?"

Smith spoke out after showing a womenswear collection at the Royal Horticultural Halls in Westminster yesterday that continued the masculine look he started last season.

Indeed, the first models on to his catwalk wore "mannish" navy blazers and cuffed Bermuda shorts, their waistbands yanked down to reveal the top of rose-print boxer shorts.

Smith realised early on in his career that women often borrow their partners' tailored jackets and v-neck sweaters. The garçonne look has become one of his signatures, which for spring/ summer 2007 is accessorised with lemon-yellow silk loafers, and two-tone shirts left unbuttoned for a frisson of sex appeal.

Designers cultivate a "signature" to differentiate themselves. This applies as much to Smith, asuccess story of British fashion, as it does to up-and-coming designers. Take Roksanda Illincic, the Serbian-born designer who presented her spring collection at the English-Speaking Union in Mayfair. Illincic, 31, launched her own label in 2002, and has already established a signature: voluminous party dresses using haute couture fabrics left slightly unfinished at the hem.

Another aspirant designer, Gareth Pugh, 24, has also managed to nail a certain look as his own. Black latex body stockings ­ entirely covering the face ­ were worn with silver foil down jackets, angular swimsuits fit only for cyborgs and towering lap-dancer shoes. While the controversy surrounding thin models continues, at Pugh's show it was barely possible to tell male model from female model: they were all joyously freakish.

Bella Freud, taking the relaunched label Biba on to the catwalk for the first time, faces a more complicated task. Heading up a brand that already has a signature ­ languorous dresses with art nouveau prints ­ she has to tread between updating the look and keeping the brand's heritage.