Straight out of art college and already a catwalk hit

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The Independent Online

At London Fashion Week, editors and buyers are always looking for a rising star who might equal the success of the British designers Alexander McQueen or John Galliano. If the cheers that followed Christopher Kane's second catwalk show yesterday were anything to go by, the industry believes it has identified a successor.

Certainly Kane, 24, who only graduated from art college last year, has already developed a recognisable signature: his designs are about sex appeal, and not the coy variety either.

Black leather flared mini-dresses with corrugated trimming that resembles ammunition belts, or clingy velvet dresses in blood-red and glittering with crystals are intended for, as Kane himself put it, "a darker shade of female, a predator".

Tailored leather and belts laden with crystal studs the size of doorknobs might sound trashy but Kane has an inventiveness and wit that should deflect any accusations of bad taste. He has also picked up some powerful supporters. Donatella Versace was an early mentor, while the US Vogue editor, Anna Wintour, requested a private viewing of Kane's graduate collection. Another fan of this precocious talent is Naomi Campbell, who reportedly dropped into Kane's studio in Dalston, east London, in her Mercedes to pick out a couple of his figure-enhancing dresses.

Yesterday, however, it was Julien Macdonald's catwalk the supermodel chose to grace. Campbell opened his 1920s-themed show at the Hilton Hotel in a black fur coat, despite the fact that a decade ago she posed for the anti-fur group Peta under the slogan "I'd Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur".

Campbell also courted controversy on Monday night when she joined the size zero debate in comments made at the Elle Style Awards. "Don't blame the fashion industry," declared the Streatham-born model, who said underweight girls on the catwalk were suffering from a psychological illness and were not being pressured into looking skinny. "You can't blame the industry for a psychological disease. It is a disease, like alcohol or drugs, and the industry is not to blame."

Campbell, who won model of the year at the event, praised initiatives to ban girls aged under 16 from the catwalk. And she said her agency, IMG, had issued guidelines to make sure girls at fashion shows are well-fed and that the backstage area is an alcohol-free zone.

Female curves were not in evidence at Paul Smith's show yesterday- but he was drawing inspiration from the notoriously gamine It girls of the Twenties and that era's fad for female cross-dressing. Smith's idea of a garçonne progressed from untucked white men's shirts worn with slouchy ribbed sweaters, and wide-legged trousers in charcoal-stripes, through to a black silk-jacquard dressing-gown coat that might have appealed to Noël Coward.

"A lot of female fans out there like what I do for men," said Sir Paul afterwards. And just as a tuxedo jacket worn over a fisherman's sweater began to labour his point, Smith sent out pretty flapper dresses with art deco cut-out details for the more feminine-minded. On the whole, then, a stylish illustration of why Smith, who started in the Seventies with a menswear collection, has such enduring appeal.

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