Fashion: Age of the new wave hippie

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London fashion came clean last weekend with a slimmer, sharper silhouette. Skirts for spring are short, sarong-wrapped and slender; the longer hemlines come mainly on dresses. Both shorts and trousers are getting wider, and pyjama pants are being challenged by a revival of 1960s bell-bottoms from the wilder young designers.

Waists are universally back in fashion and cut very high. Fabrics like cotton jersey and shiny man-mades stretch and cling. When it does not fit tight, cotton voile shows the outline of the body.

Colours are bold and bright. London prints make a splash with big flowers, from south sea blooms to psychedelic. Spots give a more graphic feel.

The sounds of the 1960s reverberate through the avant garde collections: mystic prints, shiny satins, hippie bells and platform soles.

It was a good season for designers who could come to terms with the more sophisticated silhoutte. Jasper Conran cuts a good line in jackets (for both sexes) and wrote a fresh lyric to a familiar tune with sure and clear colours – orange, turquoise, lilac, lemon and orange. His snappy short skirt, draped into a bustle at the back was an overworked idea; wide pyjamas has a funky Chanel feel.

Roland Klein cuts a good shape, especially his threequarter jackets, moulded into the waist with a wide belt, lapping the hips on the curve. Klein showed short slim skirts and wider shorts, in a well-controlled collection played in black and white, with flashes of sharper green.

Arabella Pollen has grown up and her light touch with tailoring looks fresh and young, though not inventive. John Rocha is the opposite: full of ideas but without the absolute expertise to execute them. He cut a good jacket shape, collarless, scrolled back on one hip to give a sense of movement.

Paul Costelloe gave us a nice drop of the Irish, using his country’s linen for slim dresses, sweet in white and sophisticated in black and grey flower-embossed cotton. Tea towels made into skinny skirts and midriff tops were fun.

The Fabrex exhibition at Olympia, running concurrently with the fashion shows, emphasized the creativity of London’s fabric designers. Hilde Smith’s bold black and white prints for Bodymap and Brian Bolger’s blocks of houses for Betty Jackson added strength to their collections. Jackson should work on a new silhouette, but her skinny dresses in cotton jersey and her leotard body suits under see-through voile were well done.

John McIntyre abandoned restrained English country style for the cotton picking Deep South where he was overwhelmed by a gaudy pineapple print. His high-waisted long slim skirts and shapely jackets looked better in the opening scenes in black. English Eccentrics relied too much on their mosaic prints in sweet and subtle mauves and petrol blue.

Zandra Rhodes is continually inventive with print, making this season’s strident Spanish theme in fan patterns of black and white, for slim chiffon dresses and some more alarming Infanta creations that lifted at the back to show silk chemises and a lot of Zandra’s new spider’s web of lacy tights. All this was meticulously done, but suggested a restaging of Carmen rather than a fashion show.

Janice Wainwright makes stylish evening clothes, perfectly cut and balanced, and this season in happy colour combinations. Yuki was quiet, except for giant flowers bursting out of kimono knits and some unsure mixes of colour – fuchsia pink with egg yolk yellow or purple. Best were the evening pleats and drapes and body-shaped dresses, cut tight in the bodice, ruched down the front panel.

Bill Gibb’s cut and proportions were eccentric. The same was true for most of the groupings of young talent’, which is a name used by a few (notably Susan Backhouse at Hyper Hyper and Rubeen Tariq at Amalgamated Talent) who show inventive ideas, and abused by many to present badly made clothes. Mark and Syrie’s Baby Doll dresses in pastel colours were silly but fun.

Jean Muir redressed the balance with a coherent and professional collection. She has given a young feel to her increasingly important knits, cropped midriff short or elongated over leggings, slim or sunray pleat skirts. Shapely dresses in very grown up colours like lavender and navy were impeacably cut and a fashion lesson in craftsmanship.

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