The new big idea: clothes you can actually wear

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The Independent Online

After the mad-cap showmanship of John Galliano, the innovative designs of the Japanese, and the rollercoaster highs and lows of the Paris collections, the press and, particularly the buyers, were ready to witness a collection of clothes sansgimmicks.

After the mad-cap showmanship of John Galliano, the innovative designs of the Japanese, and the rollercoaster highs and lows of the Paris collections, the press and, particularly the buyers, were ready to witness a collection of clothes sansgimmicks.

These days few designers can pull off a show without dramatic presentation or wild styling devices, so it came as something of a relief when the Spanish label Loewe issued a wardrobe of wearable, yet never dreary, clothes.

Tough chic was the message from Narciso Rodriguez, the New York-based designer behind the label that knows how to boil down the trends of the moment and serve them up in palatable form. First, the punk look that has reared its head time and again over the past four weeks looked fresh in his hands, with perforated black leather vests and dresses, or burnished black leatherjackets.

As for the other main trends of the spring/summer 2001 season, they were all there: ruching on the shoulders of black-and-white vests; monochrome stripes on shell tops or loose sweaters; lots of luxurious leather cut into sexy, low V-neck dresses, smart cropped bomber jackets and not-too-short shorts; punchy tomato-red suede sliced into hip-riding trousers; and the ubiquitous beaded dress - black, glistening and drop-dead desirable.

What Rodriguez can do better than most, however, is a good suit. His came in white leather or plain black light-weight wool - nothing to scare the horses, just refined and simple skirt suits, the sort most women would save up for and treasure for years.

After the Loewe show, attention has turned on the most pressing issue of the day, arguably of the whole season - that of Yves Saint Laurent. The Gucci group acquired the prized French label earlier this year, and speculation has been rife on what Gucci's creative head, Tom Ford, will come up with for YSL.

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