Feb 23, 2009
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New generation fires up London fashion week

Feb 23, 2009

LONDON, Feb 23, 2009 (AFP) - London Fashion Week, which gave the world John Galliano, Alexander McQueen and Hussein Chalayan, is 25 years old this year but still providing a platform for the next generation of designers.

Vivienne Westwood - Photo : Ben Stansall/AFP

Christopher Kane, Marios Schwab, Louise Goldin and Danielle Scutt, some just a few years out of graduate school, more than held their own against established names such as Vivienne Westwood, Paul Smith and Betty Jackson.

The place to watch for fresh talent is the Central Saint Martins graduate show, which took place Friday with a playful and experimental display of 18 young designers who played with shapes, volumes and a wide variety of fabrics.

But it is those who are on the verge of making it on the global stage -- and who are being funded this year by the British Fashion Council (BFC) -- who are causing the most excitement here.

"It's the ones who are coming through who are just amazing because as well as being creative designers they create with the actual materials they're using. They're actually making things from scratch," Hilary Alexander, the fashion editor of the Daily Telegraph newspaper, told AFP Monday.

The much-feted Christopher Kane delivered a clean cut collection that used strips of velvet to create geometrical lines in organza dresses, in a palette that moved from cream to increasingly bold throughout the show.

Louise Goldin, who came to attention in 2005, created a stunning line of clothes using leather patches in strong shapes against soft fabrics and a tiled effect of material on material to create definition.

There were rough wool jackets with fur sleeves, and space age leather structured corsets and belts contrasted with soft skirts and trousers.

Marios Schwab, a Saint Martins graduate and best new designer at the British Fashion Awards in 2006, also played with shape with sculpted dresses in hot pink and in white, cocooned inside voluminous garments of identical fabric.

Black tunics were slashed at the neck and hip to display crystals underneath, much as rocks crack to reveal their hidden crystal treasures, a natural phenomenon that also inspired Graeme Black's collection this season.

John Rocha - Photo : Ben Stansall/AFP

The palette grew over the show, from black to three dimensional graphic prints in cyan and red incorporated in blocks onto black cloth, and burst into colour by the end with a fuscia dress with an external bust support.

Erdem, the label set up by by Erdem Moralioglu in 2005, is another new generation designer receiving funding from the BFC, and fused sharp tailoring with romanticism for a luxurious collection dominated by florals.

There were flowers embroidered onto simple shifts, applied in lace or in black crystals at the base of a dress with a puffball skirt, tightly packed into prints, or created out of layers of material stitched to replicate petals.

Fellow NewGen designer Danielle Scutt espoused traditional elegance for sexy, rock'n'roll look with skin-tight dresses and trousers slit with lines of zips to reveal bare flesh, and bodycon shifts with rips into patterned fabric.

She mixed bold shapes and colours, with black pencil skirt suits embellished with bright red fire-like shapes on the lapels and pockets, and a corset of black leather set with a red silk breast plate.

Across town, Modernist, who formed in 2005, decided this year to keep off the runway in favour of an exotic-themed exhibition just off Carnaby Street.

The collection was all black, but the design duo explored contrasts with crocodile skin mixed with cashmere, silk and elastic and finished off with ostrich feathers and human hair.

But while there is clearly no shortage of talent, the question is whether it will stay in London. The pull of New York and Paris is strong, even for those who have only taken their first steps in the British capital.

Kumiko Watari's mighty-T collection of brightly printed oversized T-shirt dresses was part of the Vauxhall Fashion Scout -- another source of funding for new talent -- One to Watch show on Friday night.

"For young designers it's a good place to start out," she says of London, but adds: "I want to show in Paris because there are more buyers."

by Alice Ritchie

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