Relaxed McCartney finds just the right track

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The challenge in designer fashion just now is how to move forward without referencing the haute couture's past glories. With that in mind, the overall mood decrees that clothing is more modern freed of elaborate surface embellishment that has been over-used to the point of seeming dated.

Stella McCartney, who kicked off the proceedings in the French fashion capital yesterday, finds the solution to this problem by borrowing from menswear. Her signature has long been the juxtaposition of more masculine designs - tailoring cut long and lean to suit the female form, boyfriend jumpers and so forth - with pretty dresses. This time was no exception.

For spring/summer 2007, McCartney proposes that the type of relaxed, independent woman she likes to dress steps out in oversized men's shirts, gathered between the legs to become voluminous all-in-ones, then cropped at the thigh. These were worn with limbs bared and sky-high sandals with sculptural metal heels. Skinny black trousers in techno gabardine looked more obviously androgynous teamed with skinny white vests in lightweight fabrics.

There was nothing much ground-breaking about the ideas on offer here. Instead, it was cleverly commercial and - perhaps a rarity in Paris - extremely easy to wear. Just so long as legs are long and slender, that is. The short dresses that have been seen all over the international catwalks this season were present and correct. They came in fine fabrics and gentle colours - khaki, rose pink, ivory, mushroom - and with exaggerated puffed sleeves and billowing cape backs.

More attention-seeking were easy-on-the-eye designs in stronger colours - bright turquoise and emerald green - which also appeared to suitably eye-popping effect on swimwear, which was generally as cute as cute can be.

The love affair with metallics that is so prevalent this autumn looks set to be with us for some time. McCartney decrees that evening dresses - still short and sassy - are cut in gleaming silver and dull gold. Some actually came covered in shiny baubles and, if madam prefers merely to hint at such glamour and glitz, there was a trompe l'oeil print that echoed the effect in black and white organza.

It has taken McCartney some time to find her feet designing under her own name but she appears now to be on just the right track. Her look is relaxed and sexy while never trying too hard to be either of these things. It is an aesthetic that she understands well, not least because she wears it herself. For that reason, there is an effortless simplicity that characterises her designs that is refreshing to see.