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Feb 24, 2009
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London fashion beats recession blues

Feb 24, 2009

LONDON, Feb 23, 2009 (AFP) - Designers in London this week showed few signs of bowing to the economic crisis with collections displaying a heady mix of tailoring, gems, luxurious fabrics, strong colours and fun detailing.

Aminaka Wilmont - Photo : Shaun Curry/AFP

There were fewer goodie bags and some designers moved to smaller venues for their catwalk shows, with others eschewing the runway altogether in favour of more intimate -- and cheaper -- exhibitions around the capital.

But the champagne still flowed and expensive fabrics abounded, from fur and leather to ostrich feathers and snakeskin, while everyone from John Rocha to new talent Marios Schwab used crystal embellishments to add a little bling.

PPQ, Ossie Clarke, Eley Kishimoto and Erdem used a spectacular array of colours and prints guaranteed to keep the recession blues away, while high-street fashion icon Topshop and others defied the downturn with punk.

As in New York last week, the established names here kept things classic but with a twist.

Paul Smith added hot pink stripes to army green trousers while Nicole Farhi created 1940s silhouettes in sheer metallic printed chiffon and wove classic tweeds with a rainbow of colours.

"Because of this climate of recession, I wanted to have optimistic colours. I like the idea of colours, that's why the bright pinks were there," Paul Smith told AFP after his show on Monday night.

But he stressed he was keeping to his trademark style, adding: "We've had a successful business so you don't rock the boat, you stick with it."

Vivienne Westwood's ready-to-wear collection was typically irreverant, inspired by the schoolgirls of the British "St Trinian's" books, with suits and dresses fashioned in school stripes, tartan skirts and bright knits.

Betty Jackson kept it soft and feminine with light blues and lemon yellows, and Julien Macdonald's collection included a spectacular billowing blue dress.

Macdonald also adorned long, flowing gowns with huge mirror shards and thousands of tiny crystals, in a trend that saw Graeme Black and Marios Schwab -- both inspired by geology -- create flashes of crystals under their clothes, as if a rock had been smashed open to reveal the glories within.

There was also an abundance of rich fabrics, including at Jaeger London, who used luxurious wools and sharp tailoring for a groovier version of the British label, as well as sumptuous furs, one inlaid with black leather stripes.

Eley Kishimoto based their collection on airline crew uniforms, offering rich wools in bold blue, purple and red, while PPQ chose lime greens, oranges and geranium reds for a vibrant display of hotpants and jersey dresses.

Basso & Brooke delivered their usual refined prints on delicate fabrics, and Erdem created elegant pieces with floral prints and refined finishes.

However, there was a strong element of punk -- perhaps harking back to the 1970s recession in Britain, when the style first emerged -- with Luella ditching last season's florals for a look incorporating tweeds, leathers and chain belts.

Charles Anastase created leather jackets, purple jeans and grafitti-adorned t-shirts, while Louise Goldin matched rough wool jackets with fur sleeves, space age leather structured corsets and belts.

Topshop's Unique collection mixed punk with galactic style with hoodies and sweat pants in luminous colours or printed with space scenes, body con dresses layered over leggings, heavy copper zips and metallic leather.

But some designers kept things more low key, with Antoni & Alison and Modernist among those organising "presentations" instead of catwalk shows.

Abdul Koroma, who makes up one half of Modernist alongside Andrew Jones, stressed it was not just about finances, highlighting the benefits to exhibitions where buyers could touch and feel different fabrics.

"It's about thinking differently," he told AFP.

London Fashion Week also felt the squeeze -- between New York, which officially ended on Friday, the first day of London's shows, and Milan, which begins Wednesday as the final catwalks wrap up here.by Alice Ritchie

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