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The future starts here on the catwalk

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Bunny girl: R&B singer Jamelia poses nude with a rabbit in a poster for the anti-fur campaign

Bunny girl: R&B singer Jamelia poses nude with a rabbit in a poster for the anti-fur campaign

Bunny girl: R&B singer Jamelia poses nude with a rabbit in a poster for the anti-fur campaign

IT WAS a week of lavish fur-filled shows and animal rights campaigns, flagship store openings and designer crystal launches, new ideas and old masters - it was London Fashion Week. London Fashion Week has had to struggle to survive which is a pity because it truly is the seat of fashion innovation, debate and hope.

IT WAS a week of lavish fur-filled shows and animal rights campaigns, flagship store openings and designer crystal launches, new ideas and old masters - it was London Fashion Week.

London Fashion Week has had to struggle to survive which is a pity because it truly is the seat of fashion innovation, debate and hope. But in a world where marketing budgets and brand identity are as important as talent, London can never become king of the hill because it hasn't enough financial clout and its talent is constantly being wooed to foreign shores.

But back to London, and the big news from the catwalk was that the inestimable Marc Jacobs closed fashion week with his prestigious 'Marc by Marc Jacobs' show. A coup for London, as this show is one of the headline shows of New York Fashion Week. Couple that with his London flagship store opening and the launch of his new line of so-must have Waterford crystal and Wedgwood china and you can bet the fashion mavens were having heart murmurs with the anticipation.

On the catwalk itself, for once there were different trends from the various designers. These went from Victoriana to early Sixties' bell shapes - which actually mirrored and complemented one another nicely - to Eighties' futurism and its love of the dropped waist, baggy sweater dress and that era's design gods such as Montana and Versace.

There was lavish embellishment and the return of bold prints. However, in stark contrast to all that, there were oceans of Gothic black wool, matt leather coats and jackets, disciplined yet abundant frills and ruffles, pencil skirts and satin skinny leggings, all worn with big, wide belts to emphasise the waist which is so back.

The word on the street is that masculine is back too. While, yes, braces with trousers, chiffon shirts and tough looking leather did feature, the look escaped that well-trodden sadomasochist terrain and to my eye still managed to look appealingly soft and feminine.

The week opened with a very good collection of Sixties' inspired dresses by Paul Costelloe. The audience loved them. The only problem was placement. Costelloe is associated with 40 to 50-plus age group. This collection (just like his Ryder cup collection) deserves to be situated on a younger fashion floor than where Costelloe's collection is generally housed.

On Monday, John Rocha launched his welcome return to men's wear as he sentgorgeous boys down the ramp, with his gorgeousgirls, in what was a generally dark, but far from depressing, presentation.

After seeing John's collection, I think all men should wear simple, lean-cut garments with jet-encrusted details because they look fabulous. His women's wear was a pared-back, natural evolution from his stunning spring/summer collection, still with hints of Victoriana with his use of ruffled back jackets and shift dresses with bustle-forming, elaborate ruffles at the back.

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The consensus was that his opera coats and jackets with their bell-shaped sleeves and optional belts were very 'wantable' and when worn with his tightly-shaped pencil skirt, it seemed the collection encapsulated where fashion is at with the volume and fitted look.

For many years now, Topshop has been the best supporter of new designers, from giving them sponsorship so that they can afford to show and sell at London Fashion Week to sponsoring fashion shows. Our own Pauric Sweeney always cites the support Topshop gave him in his early days as being key. (By the way, Pauric Sweeney's bags were stunning, full of design authority and brand impact.)

It was at the Topshop-sponsored New Generation shows that we saw many interesting emerging names, many of whom are Central St Martin's graduates - just like Galliano, McQueen et al. Ann-Sofie Back is one name I am watching.

But it was Christopher Kane, who though only a year out of Central St Martin's, is fast emerging as a genuine talent of future commercial strength.

What distinguishes him from others is that there is an inherent authority in his design - you know he knows what he is doing and that he is not simply listening to trends. He uses colour and fabrics boldly, yet wisely. His use of thick velvet (like curtain fabric) in his short dresses and jackets in truly sumptuous colours is fantastic. He is unafraid to use jewels and sharp contrasting fabrics and keep things simple or elaborate and it all works.

Another success of London Fashion Week was its EstETHICa show, launched by Peaches Geldof and theoriginator of T-shirt sloganism, British fashion genius, Katherine Hamnett. In the Eighties, Hamnett was touting "58% don't want Pershing" & "Stop Acid Rain" whereas now it's "Bring Back God" and "Save The Future".

EstETHICa showcases designers working with Fair Trade or environmentally friendly, eco-sustainable ethics. This collection of established labels, as well as emerging young designers from all over the world, proved that to wear ethically sound clothes now meant you could also find real fashion gold in there too.

Sponsored by The Ecologist, which produced a guide to ethical fashion sponsored by Marks & Spencer, the show clearly explained what is being done by the fashion industry and how we can clean up our acts. It is empowering as a consumer to know that if you buy, say, a pair of Del Forte snazzy white denim jeans this summer, you are enabling formerly unemployed workers in New Mexico - who used to work for a well-known jeans company that has now moved on due to better economics elsewhere - to reopen that factory and create theirown jobs and churn theirprofits back into theircommunity. Buy a pair of jeans, return faith to sender.But as Ali Hewson said honestly and starkly, when she launched Edun, "This is a business". To be feasible, ethical fashion has to fill the primary fashion criteria - do you love it, will you buy it?

Well, when it comes to labels such as US label Stewart Brown, whose collection of delicious T-shirts, cashmere tops and cardigans and tailored separates would sit perfectly in Urban Outfitters or Level II at Brown Thomas, there is no doubt you will buy it and want to wear it - a lot. You have never felt fabric so stunning to the touch as organically produced cotton. It is like baby's skin. Sophie Rieu, founder and designer of Irish eco/ethical label Unicorn, who has been at the forefront of these types of fashion shows, uses a stunning merino wool in her collection which will help convert you to the whole concept.

Young UK designer Davina Hawthorne's capsule collection of ox blood and black romantic, Gothic pieces is among my favourites of all of London Fashion week. At the time of press, one boutique in the west of Ireland was considering buying it. You'll be seeing more of Davina Hawthorne's collection on our fashion pages, I am sure.

Another label to watch out for is Ciel which is so stylish and street smart, it nowhas Doc Martens producing footwear for it. Junky Styling is a cool men's and women's wear line with great tailoring and I loved Terra Planaand Charmoneshoes. Hamnett herself was launching her new range of environmentally responsible and ethically-produced gold and diamond jewellery @ www.katherinehamnett.com.

So, it was conscious, as well as controversial, business as usual at London Fashion Week. Long may it last and hopefully London Fashion Week will experience the climate change in popularity similar to the climate change which its designers seek in our ways of consuming.


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