Motherhood brings maturity to Stella's slick designs

The latest creation of Stella McCartney is a baby son named Miller, whose birth last Friday kept the designer away from her own autumn/winter 2005 fashion show in Paris yesterday.

She had apparently been working on the collection until hours before going into labour. Her dedication was worthwhile, because this show, at the Palais Brongniart, was a slick and elegant offering, full of wearable clothing, such as a tobacco-coloured single-breasted jacket and matching baggy trousers, or a hound's-tooth check jacket with bell-shaped sleeves and dramatic collar.

McCartney's swingy, A-line coats in black wool or salt-and-pepper tweed were worn with shiny black over-the-knee boots, made from synthetic materials. A staunch vegan, the designer insists on accessories made without leather or fur. To a pulsating ragga soundtrack, her taste for streetwear showed large hoods attached to balloon-shaped tweed dresses or short jackets.

This confident collection demonstrated how McCartney's signatures - in particular, sharply tailored jackets and camisole tops - have matured and become more convincing propositions.

McCartney's label is among several young brands owned by the Gucci Group that has a hip image but is not yet making a profit, and the conglomerate's chief executive Robert Polet has set a deadline of 2007 for those companies to get into the black.

McCartney's position on the fashion landscape has often seemed not to extend far beyond dressing her celebrity friends. At last Sunday's Academy Awards, her close friend Gwyneth Paltrow wore a stunning, putty-pink strapless gown by the designer. But McCartney appears to have her eye fixed on the bottom line, and yesterday's collection should appeal to a far wider audience.

Added to that, several commercial-looking bags on her catwalk - old-fashioned clip-frame purses in tweed or pale pink that dangled from chunky silver chains - were a hint at another way in which she might boost profits.

McCartney's full-volume tailoring hit on a major trend of the autumn/winter 2005 collections, as did the square shoulders of her jackets. Other trends which have emerged this week in Paris include high-collared Victoriana blouses, 1960s space age dresses with references to Courrèges and Pierre Cardin, Bloomsbury-style oversized floral prints and muted colours such as moss-green, mouse-grey and tobacco, along with black.

In the evening, sparkly lurex and shiny panne velvet or satin are key, with Jean-Paul Gaultier's silver-sequinned catsuit only for those who wish to be centre-stage.

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