Cook pushes the boat out with a futuristic splash

By Susannah Frankel,Fashion Editor
Wednesday 19 February 2003 01:00

Emma Cook, one of Britain's most promising names, took to the catwalk at London Fashion Week yesterday.

Starboard Susan, the designer's sixth collection, was as steeped in nautical reference as the title suggested. Cook being Cook, this was hardly literal; no sailor suits, bulging muscles or energy-boosting tinned spinach were necessary.

Instead, a starfish print across skinny jeans and a T-shirt, butterfly-sleeved dresses and seashells embellishing sweet shift dresses in black, pale mustard and rose featured in a show with an overall futuristic mood.

Six months ago, Cook was the first to show clothes inspired by the Space Age fashions of the Sixties and great names including Pierre Cardin and Paco Rabanne. That, too, was a hugely accomplished collection; cute and determinedly upbeat while encapsulating the escapist mood of the times.

Cook apparently touched a nerve. One season later and everyone from Marc Jacobs to Roland Mouret was referencing the very same designers.

Given that Jacobs is one of the world's most influential talents, the fact that Cook preceded him in the revival of this style is all the more impressive.

Cook, 27, is from Manchester. She graduated from Central Saint Martins College of Art with an MA in fashion design in 1999. Her degree collection was a playful study of volume, including exaggeratedly full sleeves. Costumes were finished with tiny tufts of rabbit fur and appliquéd antique embroidery. The shoes were crafted out of Sellotape – a typical quirk of the thrifty nature of up-and-coming designers. It was immediately apparent that Cook was one to watch.

Louise Wilson, the course's famous director, clearly thought so. She invited Cook to work with her on a placement at Donna Karan in New York.Cook's collections have since been inspired by everything from science fiction to Russian Constructivism, all the while maintaining a respect for the arts and craft tradition.

Later in the day, Betty Jackson unveiled her collection. A rich autumnal colour palette of burnt orange and chocolate using opulent fabrics of velvet, satin, silks, leather and suede and quite the most desirable chunky rib knitwear will suit her customers down to the ground.

Jackson is one of very few British designers who have been thriving in business under their own name for more than 20 years. She came up with a wave of bright young things such as Rifat Ozbek, Jasper Conran and Katharine Hamnett in the Eighties. Then, they were the ones to see and be seen wearing.

Today, Jackson is a much-respected part of the British fashion establishment, continuing to design effortlessly stylish and discreetly luxurious clothes for a loyal clientele.

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